Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Cherokee Myth - THE ORIGIN OF DISEASE & MEDICINE.

Cherokee Myth  
1585 North American Atlantic Coast Natives by John White (c1540 – c1593)

THE ORIGIN OF DISEASE AND MEDICINE.

In the old days quadrupeds, birds, fishes, & insects could all talk, & they & the human race lived together in peace & friendship. But as time went on the people increased so rapidly that their settlements spread over the whole earth & the poor animals found themselves beginning to be cramped for room. This was bad enough, but to add to their misfortunes man invented bows, knives, blowguns, spears, & hooks, & began to slaughter the larger animals, birds & fishes for the sake of their flesh or their skins, while the smaller creatures, such as the frogs & worms, were crushed & trodden upon without mercy, out of pure carelessness or contempt. In this state of affairs the animals resolved to consult upon measures for their common safety.

The bears were the first to meet in council in their townhouse in Kuwa´hĭ, the “Mulberry Place,” & the old White Bear chief presided. After each in turn had made complaint against the way in which man killed their friends, devoured their flesh & used their skins for his own adornment, it was unanimously decided to begin war at once against the human race. Some one asked what weapons man used to accomplish their destruction. “Bows & arrows, of course,” cried all the bears in chorus. “And what are they made of?” was the next question. “The bow of wood & the string of our own entrails,” replied one of the bears. It was then proposed that they make a bow & some arrows & see if they could not turn man’s weapons against himself. So one bear got a nice piece of locust wood & another sacrificed himself for the good of the rest in order to furnish a piece of his entrails for the string. But when everything was ready & the first bear stepped up to make the trial it was found that in letting the arrow fly after drawing back the bow, his long claws caught the string & spoiled the shot. This was annoying, but another suggested that he could overcome the difficulty by cutting his claws, which was accordingly done, & on a second trial it was found that the arrow went straight to the mark. But here the chief, the old White Bear, interposed & said that it was necessary that they should have long claws in order to be able to climb trees. “One of us has already died to furnish the bowstring, & if we now cut off our claws we shall all have to starve together. It is better to trust to the teeth & claws which nature has given us, for it is evident that man’s weapons were not intended for us.”

No one could suggest any better plan, so the old chief dismissed the council & the bears dispersed to their forest haunts without having concerted any means for preventing the increase of the human race. Had the result of the council been otherwise, we should now be at war with the bears, but as it is the hunter does not even ask the bear’s pardon when he kills one.

The deer next held a council under their chief, the Little Deer, & after some deliberation resolved to inflict rheumatism upon every hunter who should kill one of their number, unless he took care to ask their pardon for the offense. They sent notice of their decision to the nearest settlement of Indians & told them at the same time how to make propitiation when necessity forced them to kill one of the deer tribe. Now, whenever the hunter brings down a deer, the Little Deer, who is swift as the wind & can not be wounded, runs quickly up to the spot & bending over the blood stains asks the spirit of the deer if it has heard the prayer of the hunter for pardon. If the reply be “Yes” all is well & the Little Deer goes on his way, but if the reply be in the negative he follows on the trail of the hunter, guided by the drops of blood on the ground, until he arrives at the cabin in the settlement, when the Little Deer enters invisibly & strikes the neglectful hunter with rheumatism, so that he is rendered on the instant a helpless cripple. No hunter who has regard for his health ever fails to ask pardon of the deer for killing it, although some who have not learned the proper formula may attempt to turn aside the Little Deer from his pursuit by building a fire behind them in the trail.

Next came the fishes & reptiles, who had their own grievances against humanity. They held a joint council & determined to make their victims dream of snakes twining about them in slimy folds & blowing their fetid breath in their faces, or to make them dream of eating raw or decaying fish, so that they would lose appetite, sicken, & die. Thus it is that snake & fish dreams are accounted for.

Finally the birds, insects, & smaller animals came together for a like purpose, & the Grubworm presided over the deliberations. It was decided that each in turn should express an opinion & then vote on the question as to whether or not man should be deemed guilty. Seven votes were to be sufficient to condemn him. One after another denounced man’s cruelty & injustice toward the other animals & voted in favor of his death. The Frog (walâ´sĭ) spoke first & said: “We must do something to check the increase of the race or people will become so numerous that we shall be crowded from off the earth. See how man has kicked me about because I’m ugly, as he says, until my back is covered with sores;” & here he showed the spots on his skin. Next came the Bird (tsi´skwa; no particular species is indicated), who condemned man because “he burns my feet off,” alluding to the way in which the hunter barbecues birds by impaling them on a stick set over the fire, so that their feathers & tender feet are singed & burned. Others followed in the same strain. The Ground Squirrel alone ventured to say a word in behalf of man, who seldom hurt him because he was so small; but this so enraged the others that they fell upon the Ground Squirrel & tore him with their teeth & claws, & the stripes remain on his back to this day.

The assembly then began to devise & name various diseases, one after another, & had not their invention finally failed them not one of the human race would have been able to survive. The Grubworm in his place of honor hailed each new malady with delight, until at last they had reached the end of the list, when some one suggested that it be arranged so that menstruation should sometimes prove fatal to woman. On this he rose up in his place & cried: “Wata´n Thanks! I’m glad some of them will die, for they are getting so thick that they tread on me.” He fairly shook with joy at the thought, so that he fell over backward & could not get on his feet again, but had to wriggle off on his back, as the Grubworm has done ever since.

When the plants, who were friendly to man, heard what had been done by the animals, they determined to defeat their evil designs. Each tree, shrub, & herb, down, even to the grasses & mosses, agreed to furnish a remedy for some one of the diseases named, & each said: “I shall appear to help man when he calls upon me in his need.” Thus did medicine originate, & the plants, every one of which has its use if we only knew it, furnish the antidote to counteract the evil wrought by the revengeful animals. When the doctor is in doubt what treatment to apply for the relief of a patient, the spirit of the plant suggests to him the proper remedy.

Extracted from:  The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees.  Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1885-1886,  Government Printing Office, Washington, 1891.  Recorded by James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who lived for several years among the Cherokee. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Native American Thanks...

The Picture Collection of the New York Public Library Image ID: 806997

The Thanksgivings
Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer by Harriet Maxwell Converse


We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.

Harriet Maxwell Converse (1836-1903) was born Elmira, New York, into a family fascinated by Native cultures. Both her grandfather & her father were Indian traders in the Seneca Nation. At the age of 25 Harriet married Frank Converse, a musician known as "The Father of the Banjo."  The couple traveled throughout the U.S & Europe. While Frank played the banjo, Harriet developed her writing talents & became a published poet & regular contributor to national magazines.
Harriet Maxwell Converse (1836-1903).

By 1881, Harriet began to write about the Six Nations. She traveled to reservations in western New York as well as Canada, collecting cultural artifacts today in the collections of the State Museum at Albany. She also became a political advocate for the Six Nations.  The Seneca Nation recognized Harriet's efforts by adopting her into the Snipe Clan.  In 1891, Harriet Maxwell Converse (her Indian name was Ga-is-wa-noh: the Watcher) became the 1st white woman to be named chief of an Indian tribe.  Converse became chief of the Six Nations tribe at Tonawanda reservation in New York.  She had been adopted by the Seneca tribe 7 years earlier because of her efforts on behalf of the tribe.  She was invested with the responsibility of the welfare of her adopted people, & given the name "The Watcher."

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) paints a Funeral scaffold of a Sioux chief

Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) Funeral scaffold of a Sioux chief

The Sioux ( Dakota), are groups of Native American tribes & First Nations peoples in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or to any of the nation's many language dialects.

The Dakota are first recorded to have resided at the source of the Mississippi River & the Great Lakes during the seventeenth century.  They were dispersed west in 1659 due to warfare with the Iroquois. By 1700 the Dakota Sioux were living in Wisconsin & Minnesota, at this time they exterminated the Wicosawan, another Siouan people in 1710. A split of branch known as the Lakota had migrated to present-day South Dakota.  Late in the 17th century, the Dakota entered into an alliance with French merchants.  The French were trying to gain advantage in the struggle for the North American fur trade against the English, who had recently established the Hudson's Bay Company.

The first recorded encounter between the Sioux & the French occurred when Radisson & Groseilliers reached what is now Wisconsin during the winter of 1659–60. Later visiting French traders & missionaries included Claude-Jean Allouez, Daniel Greysolon Duluth, & Pierre-Charles Le Sueur who wintered with Dakota bands in early 1700.  In 1736 a group of Sioux killed Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye & twenty other men on an island in Lake of the Woods.  However, trade with the French continued until the French gave up North America in 1763.

The Pawnee Indians had a long tradition of living in present-day Nebraska.  Their first land cession to the United States took place in 1833 when they sold land south of the Platte River. The Massacre Canyon battlefield near Republican River is located within this area. Forty years & two land cessions later, the tribe lived in a small reservation on old Pawnee land, present-day Nance County. The Pawnees had kept a right to hunt buffalo on their vast, ancient range between the Loup, Platte & Republican rivers in Nebraska & south into northern Kansas, now territory of the United States. They had suffered continual attacks by the Lakota that increased violently in the early 1840s. The Lakota lived north of the Pawnee. In 1868 they had entered into a treaty with the United States & agreed to live in the Great Sioux Reservation in present-day South Dakota. By Article 11 they (also) received a right to hunt along the Republican, almost 200 miles south of the reservation.  Both the Pawnee & the Lakota complained regularly over attacks by the other tribe. An attempt to make peace in 1871 with the United States as intermediary came to nothing.

The Massacre Canyon battle took place in Nebraska on August 5, 1873 near the Republican River. It was one of the last hostilities between the Pawnee & the Lakota & the last battle/massacre between Great Plains Indians in North America.  The massacre occurred when a large Oglala/Brulé Sioux war party of over 1,500 warriors led by Two Strike, Little Wound, & Spotted Tail attacked a band of Pawnee during their summer buffalo hunt. In the ensuing rout more than 75–100 Pawnees were killed, men with mostly women & children, the victims suffering mutilation & some set on fire.

The Pawnee were traveling along the west bank of the canyon, which runs south to the Republican River, when they were attacked. "A census taken at the Pawnee Agency in September, according [to] Agent Burges  "71 Pawnee warriors were killed, & 102 women & children killed", the victims brutally mutilated & scalped & others even set on fire"  although Trail Agent John Williamson's account states 156 Pawnee died. It is likely the death toll would have been higher, for Williamson noted ". . . a company of United States cavalry emerge[d] from the timber. When the Sioux saw the soldiers approaching they beat a hasty retreat, although "Recently discovered military documents disproved the old theory" per the "Massacre Canyon Monument" article. This massacre is by some considered one of the factors that led to the Pawnees' decision to move to a reservation in Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma.  The Pawnee disagree.

By 1862, shortly after a failed crop the year before & a winter starvation, the federal payment was late. The local traders would not issue any more credit to the Santee & one trader, Andrew Myrick, went so far as to say, "If they're hungry, let them eat grass."  On August 17, 1862 the Dakota War began when a few Santee men murdered a white farmer & most of his family. They inspired further attacks on white settlements along the Minnesota River. The Santee attacked the trading post. Later, settlers found Myrick among the dead with his mouth stuffed full of grass.

On November 5, 1862 in Minnesota, in courts-martial, 303 Santee Sioux were found guilty of rape & murder of hundreds of American settlers. They were sentenced to be hanged. No attorneys or witnesses were allowed as a defense for the accused, & many were convicted in less than five minutes of court time with the judge.  President Abraham Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 284 of the warriors, while signing off on the hanging of 38 Santee men on December 26, 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota. It was the largest mass-execution in U.S. history, on US soil.

Afterwards, the US suspended treaty annuities to the Dakota for four years & awarded the money to the white victims & their families. The men remanded by order of President Lincoln were sent to a prison in Iowa, where more than half died.

During & after the revolt, many Santee & their kin fled Minnesota & Eastern Dakota to Canada, or settled in the James River Valley in a short-lived reservation before being forced to move to Crow Creek Reservation on the east bank of the Missouri. A few joined the Yanktonai & moved further west to join with the Lakota bands to continue their struggle against the United States military.

Others were able to remain in Minnesota & the east, in small reservations existing into the 21st century, including Sisseton-Wahpeton, Flandreau, & Devils Lake (Spirit Lake or Fort Totten) Reservations in the Dakotas. Some ended up in Nebraska, where the Santee Sioux Reservation today has a reservation on the south bank of the Missouri.

Those who fled to Canada now have descendants residing on nine small Dakota Reserves, five of which are located in Manitoba (Sioux Valley, Long Plain, Dakota Tipi, Birdtail Creek, & Oak Lake [Pipestone]) & the remaining four (Standing Buffalo, Moose Woods [White Cap], Round Plain [Wahpeton], & Wood Mountain) in Saskatchewan.

Red Cloud's War (also referred to as the Bozeman War) was an armed conflict between the Lakota & the United States Army in the Wyoming Territory & the Montana Territory from 1866 to 1868. The war was fought over control of the Powder River Country in north central Wyoming.

The war is named after Red Cloud, a prominent Sioux chief who led the war against the United States following encroachment into the area by the U.S. military. The war ended with the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Sioux victory in the war led to their temporarily preserving their control of the Powder River country.

The Great Sioux War of 1876, also known as the Black Hills War, was a series of battles & negotiations which occurred in 1876 & 1877 between the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, & the United States. The cause of the war was the desire of the U.S. government to obtain ownership of the Black Hills. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills, settlers began to encroach onto Native American lands, & the Sioux & Cheyenne refused to cede ownership to the U.S. Traditionally, the United States military & historians place the Lakota at the center of the story, especially given their numbers, but some Indians believe the Cheyenne were the primary target of the U.S. campaign.

The earliest engagement was the Battle of Powder River, & the final battle was the Wolf Mountain. Included are the Battle of the Rosebud, Battle of Warbonnet Creek, Battle of Slim Buttes, Battle of Cedar Creek, & the Dull Knife Fight.

Among the many battles & skirmishes of the war was the Battle of the Little Bighorn, often known as Custer's Last Stand, the most storied of the many encounters between the U.S. army & mounted Plains Indians. The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the Lakota & other Plains Indians as the Battle of the Greasy Grass & also commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand, was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, & Arapaho tribes & the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which resulted in the defeat of US forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. It took place on June 25–26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory.

The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, & Arapaho, who were led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse & Chief Gall, & had been inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The US 7th Cavalry, a force of 700 men, suffered a major defeat while under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (formerly a brevetted major general during the American Civil War). Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated & Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew & a brother-in-law. The total US casualty count included 268 dead & 55 severely wounded (six died later from their wounds), including four Crow Indian scouts & at least two Arikara Indian scouts. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument honors those who fought on both sides.

That Indian victory notwithstanding, the U.S. leveraged national resources to force the Indians to surrender, primarily by attacking & destroying their encampments & property. The Great Sioux War took place under the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant & Rutherford B. Hayes. The Agreement of 1877 (19 Stat. 254, enacted February 28, 1877) officially annexed Sioux land & permanently established Indian reservations.

The massacre at Wounded Knee Creek was the last major armed conflict between the Lakota & the United States. It was described as a "massacre" by General Nelson A. Miles in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

On December 29, 1890, five hundred troops of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, supported by four Hotchkiss guns (a lightweight artillery piece capable of rapid fire), surrounded an encampment of the Lakota bands of the Miniconjou & Hunkpapa with orders to escort them to the railroad for transport to Omaha, Nebraska.

By the time it was over, 25 troopers & more than 150 Lakota Sioux lay dead, including men, women, & children. It remains unknown which side was responsible for the first shot; some of the soldiers are believed to have been the victims of "friendly fire" because the shooting took place at point-blank range in chaotic conditions. Around 150 Lakota are believed to have fled the chaos, many of whom may have died from hypothermia.

From Europe to the Atlantic coast of America to the Pacific coast of America during the 17C-19C, settlers moved West encountering a variety of Indigenous Peoples on their journeys. Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) developed a remarkable talent for drawing & painting while studying with his uncle, painter & engraver Johann Jacob Meyer. After further studies in Paris, he joined his brother on a sketching trip through Germany in 1832 where he met Prince Maximilian zu Weid. Maximilian, known for his natural history research in the coastal forests of Brazil, was searching for a professional artist to accompany him on his expedition to North America. Bodmer signed a contract with Maximilian &, 3 weeks later, they set sail for America. From 1833-1834, the two traveled up the Missouri River, retracing the 1805 journey of Lewis & Clark. On the expedition, Bodmer depicted some of the same characters that George Caitlin had painted just months before. Bodmer was the last artist able to paint the Mandan Indians in North Dakota before the fatal 1837 smallpox epidemic that nearly obliterated the tribe. He also painted portraits of the Sioux, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, & other tribes, while Maximilian conducted studies & made notes on the botany & zoology of the areas. Before the end of the journey, Bodmer had completed 81 paintings, illustrating Maximillians expedition. Each elegant painting displayed extremely detailed & accurate accounts of Indian ceremonies & everyday life. In 1843, Maximilian's lithographs were published in Travels in the Interior of America.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Smithsonian & George Catlin's Obcessive Documentation of Native Americans

A shameless self-promoter, Catlin purchased this Blackfoot /Siksika medicine man's bearskin & wore it to enliven the presentation of his gallery. (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

George Catlin’s Obsession 
By Bruce Watson  Smithsonian Magazine December 2002

One day in 1805, a 9-year-old boy exploring the woods along the Susquehanna River in south-central New York came face-to-face with an Oneida Indian. The boy froze, terrified. Towering over him, the Indian lifted a hand in friendship. The boy never forgot the encounter or the man’s kindness. The experience may well have shaped George Catlin’s lifework. 

 ......Hundreds of paintings adorn the walls, accompanied by displays of artifacts—a buffalo...Catlin’s paintings & the items he collected have been exhibited together in the manner he displayed them (1837-1850) in salons along the Eastern Seaboard & in London, Paris & Brussels. headdress, arrows, beaded garments. At the center of it all is a lone white man—part showman, part artist—who devoted his life to preserving, in his words, “the looks & customs of the vanishing races of native man in America.”

Though not the first artist to paint American Indians, Catlin was the first to picture them so extensively in their own territories & one of the few to portray them as fellow human beings rather than savages. His more realistic approach grew out of his appreciation for a people who, he wrote, “had been invaded, their morals corrupted, their lands wrested from them, their customs changed, & therefore lost to the world.” Such empathy was uncommon in 1830, the year the federal Indian Removal Act forced Southeastern tribes to move to what is now Oklahoma along the disastrous “Trail of Tears.”

Catlin had little or no formal training as an artist, but he grew up hearing tales of Indians from settlers & from his own mother, who at age 7 had been abducted, along with her mother, by Iroquois during a raid along the Susquehanna in 1778. They were soon released unharmed, & Polly Catlin often told her son about the experience.

Despite a talent for drawing, Catlin (the fifth of 14 children) followed the importunings of his father, Putnam Catlin, & studied law. In 1820, he set up a practice near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he had been born in 1796 (though the family moved to a farm 40 miles away in New York when he was an infant). But he found himself sketching judges, juries & “culprits” in court, & after a few years he sold his law books & moved to Philadelphia to try his hand as an artist.

He earned commissions to paint the leading figures of the day, including Sam Houston & Dolley Madison, but struggled to find a larger purpose to his work. “My mind was continually reaching for some branch or enterprise of the art, on which to devote a whole lifetime of enthusiasm,” he wrote in his memoirs. He found it circa 1828, when a delegation of Indians stopped in Philadelphia en route to Washington, D.C. Captivated by “their classic beauty,” Catlin then began searching for Indian subjects. He felt that “civilization”—particularly whiskey & smallpox—was wiping them out, & he vowed that “nothing short of the loss of my life, shall prevent me from visiting their country, & of becoming their historian.” Although recently married to Clara Gregory, the daughter of a prominent Albany, New York, family, Catlin packed up his paints in 1830, left his new wife & headed west. (The Catlins, by all accounts, adored each other, & Catlin was constantly torn between devotion to his family, which in time would include four children, & his artistic ambitions.)

St. Louis was then the edge of the Western frontier, & Catlin wasn’t there long before he wrangled a meeting with the city’s most illustrious citizen, Gen. William Clark. Having already explored the Louisiana Purchase with Meriwether Lewis, Clark was then the government’s Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Western tribes. Catlin presented his early portraits to the general & asked for Clark’s assistance in making contact with Indians in the West. Clark was skeptical at first, but Catlin convinced him of the sincerity of his quest. That summer, Clark took Catlin some 400 miles up the Mississippi River to FortCrawford, where several tribes—the Sauk, Fox & Sioux among them—were having a council. Surrounded by gruff soldiers & somber Indians, whose customs were largely a mystery, Catlin took out his brushes & went to work. He would stay in the West six years, though he returned most winters to his family.

During those years, he painted 300 portraits & nearly 175 landscapes & ritual scenes. Back in New York City in 1837, he displayed them salon-style, stacked floor to ceiling, one above the other—row after row of faces identified by name & number... More than a century & a half later, there remains something startling & immediate about the faces. At first glance, they seem condemning, as if daring us to look at them without guilt. But after contemplating them awhile, they appear less forbidding. Catlin called his gallery a “collection of Nature’s dignitaries,” & dignity indeed makes certain individuals stand out. A stately Chief Kee-o-kuk of the Sauk & Fox proudly holds tomahawk, blanket & staff. La-dóo-ke-a (Buffalo Bull), a Pawnee warrior, poses commandingly in full ceremonial paint. Catlin’s landscapes are equally evocative, depicting virgin rivers & rolling hills as if from the air.

Throughout Catlin’s career, journalists tended to praise his work even as some art critics dismissed him as an “American primitive,” calling his artistry “deficient in drawing, perspective & finish.” More controversial was his attitude toward people most Americans then regarded as savages. Catlin denounced the term, calling it “an abuse of the word, & the people to whom it is applied.” He praised Indians as “honest, hospitable, faithful . . . ” & criticized the government & fur traders alike for their treatment of natives. Indian society, he wrote, “has become degraded & impoverished, & their character changed by civilized teaching, & their worst passions inflamed . . . by the abuses practiced amongst them.”

...And what did the men & women who posed for Catlin think of their portraits? Reactions to Catlin’s work varied from tribe to tribe. Sioux medicine men predicted dire consequences for those whose souls he captured on canvas, yet Blackfoot medicine men readily allowed themselves to be painted. The Mandan, awed by Catlin’s ability to render likenesses, called him Medicine White Man. Sometimes his portraits stirred up trouble. Once among the Hunkpapa Sioux on the Missouri River, he painted Chief Little Bear in profile. When the portrait was nearly finished, a rival saw it & taunted, “[The artist] knows you are but half a man, for he has painted but half of your face!” The chief ignored the affront, & when the portrait was done, he presented Catlin with a buckskin shirt decorated with porcupine quills. But the insult led to an intertribal war that claimed many lives. Some Sioux blamed Catlin & condemned him to death, but by then he had moved farther upriver.

In his six years on the prairie, Catlin survived debilitating fevers that killed his military escorts. (He later touted his travels in long-winded accounts published as travelogues.) Though most of his early work was undertaken within a few hundred miles of St. Louis, one journey took him to a place few white men had gone before. In the spring of 1832, he secured a berth on the steamboat Yellowstone, about to embark from St. Louis on a journey 2,000 miles up the Missouri River. Steaming into each Indian settlement, the Yellowstone fired its cannon, terrifying natives, who fell to the ground or sacrificed animals to appease their gods. Catlin was mesmerized by the “soulmelting scenery.” He watched great herds of buffalo, antelope & elk roaming “a vast country of green fields, where the men are all red.” In three months on the Upper Missouri, working with great speed, Catlin executed no fewer than 135 paintings, sketching figures & faces, leaving details to be finished later. In July, near what is now Bismarck, North Dakota, he became one of the few white men ever to observe the torturous fertility ritual of the Mandan tribe known as O-kee-pa, which required young men to be suspended from the top of the medicine lodge by ropes anchored to barbs skewered in their chests. When displayed five years later, Catlin’s paintings of the ceremony drew skepticism. “The scenes described by Catlin existed almost entirely in the fertile imagination of that gentleman,” a scholarly journal observed. Though Catlin was unable to corroborate his observations—smallpox had all but wiped out the Mandan not long after his visit—subsequent research confirmed his stark renderings.

In 1836, despite the vehement protests of Sioux elders, Catlin insisted on visiting a sacred, red-stone quarry in southwestern Minnesota that provided the Sioux with the bowls for their ceremonial pipes. No Indian would escort him, & fur traders, angry about his letters in newspapers condemning them for corrupting the Indians, also refused. So Catlin & a companion traveled 360 miles round-trip on horseback. The unique red pipestone he found there today bears the name catlinite. “Man feels here the thrilling sensation, the force of illimitable freedom,” Catlin wrote, “there is poetry in the very air of this place.”

Except for his run-in over the quarry, Catlin maintained excellent relations with his various hosts. They escorted him through hostile areas & invited him to feasts of dog meat, beaver tail & buffalo tongue. “No Indian ever betrayed me, struck me with a blow, or stole from me a shilling’s worth of my property. . . ,” he later wrote. By 1836, his last year in the West, Catlin had visited 48 tribes. He would spend the rest of his life trying to market his work, leading him to the brink of ruin.

On September 23, 1837, the New YorkCommercial Advertiser announced the opening of an exhibit featuring lectures by Catlin, Indian portraits, “as well as Splendid Costumes—Paintings of their villages—Dances—Buffalo Hunts—Religious Ceremonies, etc.” Admission at Clinton Hall in New York City was 50 cents, & crowds of people lined up to pay it. When the show closed after three months, the artist took it to cities along the East Coast. But after a year, attendance began to dwindle, & Catlin fell on hard times. In 1837, he tried to sell his gallery to the federal government, but Congress dawdled. So in November 1839, with Clara expecting their second child & promising to join him the following year, Catlin packed his gallery, including a buffalo-hide tepee & two live bears, & sailed for England.

In London, Brussels, & at the Louvre in Paris, he packed houses with his “Wild West” show. He hired local actors to whoop in feathers & war paint & pose in tableaux vivants. In time he was joined by several groups of Indians (21 Ojibwe & 14 Iowa) who were touring Europe with promoters. Such luminaries as George Sand, Victor Hugo & Charles Baudelaire admired Catlin’s artistry. But general audiences preferred the live Indians, especially after Catlin convinced the Ojibwe & the Iowa to reenact hunts, dances, even scalpings. In 1843, Catlin was presented to Queen Victoria in London, & two years later, to King Louis-Philippe in France. But renting halls, transporting eight tons of paintings & artifacts, & providing for his Indian entourage—as well as his family, which by 1844 included three daughters & a son—kept the painter perpetually in debt. In 1845, in Paris, Clara, his devoted wife of 17 years, contracted pneumonia & died. Then the Ojibwe got smallpox. Two died; the rest went back to the plains. The next year his 3-year-old son, George, succumbed to typhoid.

In 1848, Catlin & his daughters returned to London, where he tried to drum up interest in installing his gallery on a ship—a floating “Museum of Mankind”—that would visit seaports around the globe. But his dream came to nothing. He lectured on California’s gold rush & sold copies of his paintings, using the originals as collateral for loans. In 1852, his funds exhausted, the 56-year-old Catlin was thrown into a London debtor’s prison. His brother-in-law came to take Catlin’s young daughters back to America. The dejected artist later would write that he had “no other means on earth than my hands & my brush, & less than half a life, at best, before me.” He again offered to sell his gallery (which Senator Daniel Webster had called “more important to us than the ascertaining of the South Pole, or anything that can be discovered in the Dead Sea . . . ”) to the U.S. government. But Congress thought the price too steep, even when Catlin lowered it from $65,000 to $25,000. Finally, late that summer, Joseph Harrison, a wealthy Pennsylvania railroad tycoon for whom Catlin had secured a painting by the American historical artist Benjamin West, paid Catlin’s debts, acquired his gallery for $20,000 & shipped it from London to Philadelphia. It sat there in Harrison’s boiler factory, while Catlin—who had repaired to Paris with a handful of watercolors & a few copies of his originals that he had hidden from his creditors—set out to rebuild his life, & his gallery. From 1852 to 1860, he bounced between Europe, the Pacific Northwest & South & Central America painting Indians from the Amazon to Patagonia. Or did he? Some scholars, dubious because of the wildness of the accounts & the lack of documentation, doubt that he left Europe at all. Inany case, by 1870 the dogged artist had completed 300 paintings of South American Indians & had re-created from sketches some 300 copies of his original Indian Gallery portraits. “Now I am George Catlin again,” he wrote his brother just before returning to America in 1870. He exhibited his “Cartoon Gallery,” as he called the copies & his South American & other later works, in 1871 in New York City, but it did not draw crowds. The show, however, earned Catlin a powerful ally when it moved to the Smithsonian Institution later that year.

Although Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry thought Catlin’s paintings had “little value as works of art,” he needed them: a fire had just destroyed most of the Smithsonian’s collection of Indian paintings (works by John Mix Stanley & Charles Bird King). Henry offered Catlin both support & a home. For nine months, the artist, in his mid-70s, white-bearded & walking with a cane, lived in the SmithsonianCastle. In November 1872, Catlin left Washington to be with his daughters in New Jersey. He died there two months later at age 76. Among his final words were, “What will happen to my gallery?” Seven years after his death, Harrison’s widow gave the works acquired by her husband (some 450 of Catlin’s original paintings & enough buckskin & fur, war clubs, pipes, & more, to fill a third of a freight car) to the Smithsonian. The gallery was displayed there for seven years starting in 1883...

Friday, May 22, 2020

George Catlin (1796 –1872) A Sioux War Party

George Catlin (1796 –1872) A Sioux War Party

The Sioux ( Dakota), are groups of Native American tribes & First Nations peoples in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or to any of the nation's many language dialects.

The Dakota are first recorded to have resided at the source of the Mississippi River & the Great Lakes during the seventeenth century.  They were dispersed west in 1659 due to warfare with the Iroquois. By 1700 the Dakota Sioux were living in Wisconsin & Minnesota, at this time they exterminated the Wicosawan, another Siouan people in 1710. A split of branch known as the Lakota had migrated to present-day South Dakota.  Late in the 17th century, the Dakota entered into an alliance with French merchants.  The French were trying to gain advantage in the struggle for the North American fur trade against the English, who had recently established the Hudson's Bay Company.

The first recorded encounter between the Sioux & the French occurred when Radisson & Groseilliers reached what is now Wisconsin during the winter of 1659–60. Later visiting French traders & missionaries included Claude-Jean Allouez, Daniel Greysolon Duluth, & Pierre-Charles Le Sueur who wintered with Dakota bands in early 1700.  In 1736 a group of Sioux killed Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye & twenty other men on an island in Lake of the Woods.  However, trade with the French continued until the French gave up North America in 1763.

The Pawnee Indians had a long tradition of living in present-day Nebraska.  Their first land cession to the United States took place in 1833 when they sold land south of the Platte River. The Massacre Canyon battlefield near Republican River is located within this area. Forty years & two land cessions later, the tribe lived in a small reservation on old Pawnee land, present-day Nance County. The Pawnees had kept a right to hunt buffalo on their vast, ancient range between the Loup, Platte & Republican rivers in Nebraska & south into northern Kansas, now territory of the United States. They had suffered continual attacks by the Lakota that increased violently in the early 1840s. The Lakota lived north of the Pawnee. In 1868 they had entered into a treaty with the United States & agreed to live in the Great Sioux Reservation in present-day South Dakota. By Article 11 they (also) received a right to hunt along the Republican, almost 200 miles south of the reservation.  Both the Pawnee & the Lakota complained regularly over attacks by the other tribe. An attempt to make peace in 1871 with the United States as intermediary came to nothing.

The Massacre Canyon battle took place in Nebraska on August 5, 1873 near the Republican River. It was one of the last hostilities between the Pawnee & the Lakota & the last battle/massacre between Great Plains Indians in North America.  The massacre occurred when a large Oglala/Brulé Sioux war party of over 1,500 warriors led by Two Strike, Little Wound, & Spotted Tail attacked a band of Pawnee during their summer buffalo hunt. In the ensuing rout more than 75–100 Pawnees were killed, men with mostly women & children, the victims suffering mutilation & some set on fire.

The Pawnee were traveling along the west bank of the canyon, which runs south to the Republican River, when they were attacked. "A census taken at the Pawnee Agency in September, according [to] Agent Burges  "71 Pawnee warriors were killed, & 102 women & children killed", the victims brutally mutilated & scalped & others even set on fire"  although Trail Agent John Williamson's account states 156 Pawnee died. It is likely the death toll would have been higher, for Williamson noted ". . . a company of United States cavalry emerge[d] from the timber. When the Sioux saw the soldiers approaching they beat a hasty retreat, although "Recently discovered military documents disproved the old theory" per the "Massacre Canyon Monument" article. This massacre is by some considered one of the factors that led to the Pawnees' decision to move to a reservation in Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma.  The Pawnee disagree.

By 1862, shortly after a failed crop the year before & a winter starvation, the federal payment was late. The local traders would not issue any more credit to the Santee & one trader, Andrew Myrick, went so far as to say, "If they're hungry, let them eat grass."  On August 17, 1862 the Dakota War began when a few Santee men murdered a white farmer & most of his family. They inspired further attacks on white settlements along the Minnesota River. The Santee attacked the trading post. Later, settlers found Myrick among the dead with his mouth stuffed full of grass.

On November 5, 1862 in Minnesota, in courts-martial, 303 Santee Sioux were found guilty of rape & murder of hundreds of American settlers. They were sentenced to be hanged. No attorneys or witnesses were allowed as a defense for the accused, & many were convicted in less than five minutes of court time with the judge.  President Abraham Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 284 of the warriors, while signing off on the hanging of 38 Santee men on December 26, 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota. It was the largest mass-execution in U.S. history, on US soil.

Afterwards, the US suspended treaty annuities to the Dakota for four years & awarded the money to the white victims & their families. The men remanded by order of President Lincoln were sent to a prison in Iowa, where more than half died.

During & after the revolt, many Santee & their kin fled Minnesota & Eastern Dakota to Canada, or settled in the James River Valley in a short-lived reservation before being forced to move to Crow Creek Reservation on the east bank of the Missouri. A few joined the Yanktonai & moved further west to join with the Lakota bands to continue their struggle against the United States military.

Others were able to remain in Minnesota & the east, in small reservations existing into the 21st century, including Sisseton-Wahpeton, Flandreau, & Devils Lake (Spirit Lake or Fort Totten) Reservations in the Dakotas. Some ended up in Nebraska, where the Santee Sioux Reservation today has a reservation on the south bank of the Missouri.

Those who fled to Canada now have descendants residing on nine small Dakota Reserves, five of which are located in Manitoba (Sioux Valley, Long Plain, Dakota Tipi, Birdtail Creek, & Oak Lake [Pipestone]) & the remaining four (Standing Buffalo, Moose Woods [White Cap], Round Plain [Wahpeton], & Wood Mountain) in Saskatchewan.

Red Cloud's War (also referred to as the Bozeman War) was an armed conflict between the Lakota & the United States Army in the Wyoming Territory & the Montana Territory from 1866 to 1868. The war was fought over control of the Powder River Country in north central Wyoming.

The war is named after Red Cloud, a prominent Sioux chief who led the war against the United States following encroachment into the area by the U.S. military. The war ended with the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Sioux victory in the war led to their temporarily preserving their control of the Powder River country.

The Great Sioux War of 1876, also known as the Black Hills War, was a series of battles & negotiations which occurred in 1876 & 1877 between the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, & the United States. The cause of the war was the desire of the U.S. government to obtain ownership of the Black Hills. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills, settlers began to encroach onto Native American lands, & the Sioux & Cheyenne refused to cede ownership to the U.S. Traditionally, the United States military & historians place the Lakota at the center of the story, especially given their numbers, but some Indians believe the Cheyenne were the primary target of the U.S. campaign.

The earliest engagement was the Battle of Powder River, & the final battle was the Wolf Mountain. Included are the Battle of the Rosebud, Battle of Warbonnet Creek, Battle of Slim Buttes, Battle of Cedar Creek, & the Dull Knife Fight.

Among the many battles & skirmishes of the war was the Battle of the Little Bighorn, often known as Custer's Last Stand, the most storied of the many encounters between the U.S. army & mounted Plains Indians. The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the Lakota & other Plains Indians as the Battle of the Greasy Grass & also commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand, was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, & Arapaho tribes & the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which resulted in the defeat of US forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. It took place on June 25–26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory.

The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, & Arapaho, who were led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse & Chief Gall, & had been inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The US 7th Cavalry, a force of 700 men, suffered a major defeat while under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (formerly a brevetted major general during the American Civil War). Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated & Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew & a brother-in-law. The total US casualty count included 268 dead & 55 severely wounded (six died later from their wounds), including four Crow Indian scouts & at least two Arikara Indian scouts. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument honors those who fought on both sides.

That Indian victory notwithstanding, the U.S. leveraged national resources to force the Indians to surrender, primarily by attacking & destroying their encampments & property. The Great Sioux War took place under the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant & Rutherford B. Hayes. The Agreement of 1877 (19 Stat. 254, enacted February 28, 1877) officially annexed Sioux land & permanently established Indian reservations.

The massacre at Wounded Knee Creek was the last major armed conflict between the Lakota & the United States. It was described as a "massacre" by General Nelson A. Miles in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

On December 29, 1890, five hundred troops of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, supported by four Hotchkiss guns (a lightweight artillery piece capable of rapid fire), surrounded an encampment of the Lakota bands of the Miniconjou & Hunkpapa with orders to escort them to the railroad for transport to Omaha, Nebraska.

By the time it was over, 25 troopers & more than 150 Lakota Sioux lay dead, including men, women, & children. It remains unknown which side was responsible for the first shot; some of the soldiers are believed to have been the victims of "friendly fire" because the shooting took place at point-blank range in chaotic conditions. Around 150 Lakota are believed to have fled the chaos, many of whom may have died from hypothermia.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Face to Face: The Medicine Man & The Artist George Catlin

George Catlin, Mah-tó-he-ha, Old Bear, a Mandan Medicine Man, 1832, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum

George Caitlin wrote of the day he painted this Medicine Man, "At twelve o'clock, “having used the whole of the fore-part of the day at his toilette,” George Catlin wrote, Old Bear arrived at the artist’s lodge “bedaubed and streaked with paints of various colours, with bear's grease and charcoal, with medicine-pipes in his hands and foxes tails attached to his heels [and] with a train of his own profession, who seated themselves around him . . . He took his position in the middle of the room, waving his eagle calumets in each hand, and singing his medicine-song . . . looking me full in the face until I completed his picture, which I painted at full length.” The artist painted Old Bear at a Mandan village in 1832. (George Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 15, 1841; reprint 1973)

Monday, May 18, 2020

Brief Reading List for Native Americans & Medicinal Plants

See:
Duke JA. The green pharmacy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1997.
Foster S, Duke JA. Guide to medicinal plants: eastern & central N America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
Herrick JW. Iroquois medical botany. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995.
Moerman DE. Medicinal plants of North America. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 1986.
Reichard GA. Navaho religion: a study of symbolism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Thomson William A.R. Medicines from the earth: a guide to healing plants. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.
Tierra M. The way of herbs. New York: Pocket Books, 1990.
Vogel VJ. American Indian medicine. University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.