Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Indian History Case Study: Zuni

The Zuni are another people around at the beginning of Contact, but on the other end of the continent, down in the desert southwest. The Zuni represent one of the clearest cases of benevolent relations with Whites, having some early conflicts with the Spanish, but no conflicts at all with the United States, while deriving great benefit from alliances with Americans against hostile Indians. Today the Zuni also stand as representatives of the curious paradox that despite the growing American society around them supposedly having "stolen their lands", Indians are tremendously wealthy in land possession (averaging almost 54 acres per capita).

The Zuni's earliest contact with Euro-Americans was with the Spaniards. With the Spaniards, the narrative is truly best described as conquest, and the Zuni were on the periphery of the 16th century Spanish conquest of Mexico. Just to be clear, the Zuni did not really start out a people with a distinct identity, but were actually a collection of people who settled in the same area. It is part of our mistaken understanding of Indian society that they were easily divided into tribes with distinct geographical zones. In fact, the Zuni pueblos were settled by different clans, families, and tribes, from different locations, speaking different tongues. Speaking of them as one people is more of an outsiders convention than an insider's reality.

The Zuni people came to the attention of the Spaniards as early as 1534, in their search for the Cibola and the 7 Cities of Gold, a legend corresponding to the 7 modest Zuni pueblos. In 1540, the Spanish first stormed the walls and captured one of the pueblo villages. An occasional deadly scirmish between the Zuni and the Spaniards would occur as the Spanish attempted to excercise sovereignty over the people of the pueblos. In 1680 a general rebellion against the Spanish broke out, and the Spanish reasserted sovereignty in 1692, but the region was generally ignored, allowing the Indians to live in their traditional fashion.

The territory fell under the jurisdiction of the United States following the Mexican War of 1848, and by 1850 the Zuni signed the Pueblo Treaty of Agent James S. Calhoun recognizing their land claims and sovereignty. As early as 1851, Euro-Americans were attempting to broker peace treaties between the Navajos, Hopis and Zunis, emphasizing that the Navajos cease their attacks on the other two pueblo tribes.

The early 1860s saw the violence of the Navajo Wars, with the Zunis allied with the Euro-Americans in their attempt to stop Navajo violence. The Navajos agreed to end their violent attacks by the later 1860s (in return for their own land claims), although the Apaches continued raiding until the 1870s.

The 1870s saw the first Euro-American teachers among the Zuni peoples, as well as friendly relations with Mormon pioneers. 1877 saw the first portion of the Zuni reservation established by the executive order of President Rutherford Hayes. The reservation was later expanded 1935 and again in 1949. Beginning in the 1970s, the Zuni initiated lawsuits for lands not recognized by the US government, eventually settling the suits for $50 million dollars in 1990-1. Today the Zuni reservation encompasses 418304 acres, equaling over 723 square miles, with the main portion 150 miles west of Albuquerque on the western border of New Mexico (with a couple other land parcels in New Mexico and Arizona also owned by the Zuni tribe).

The Zuni were made famous in the early 1880s through the pioneering work of Frank H. Cushing, who lived among and was adopted by the tribe. Like the other pueblo tribes, the Zuni are observed by Americans as easy to get along with, being fairly quiet and friendly. Like many other Indians of the southwest, the Zuni hate Mexicans, although their most bitter traditional enemies are the Navaho.

"The population of Zuñi in 1680 was about 2,500, since which time it has steadily decreased, chiefly by reason of smallpox epidemics. Between 1788 and 1799 the population ranged, according to various estimates, from 1,617 to 2,716; in 1820 it apparently had dwindled to 1,597. In 1880 the population was 1,630; in 1910 it was 1,640." The tribal population was 7758 in the 2000 census.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Indian History Case study: Mohawks

The overall narrative is best described as European colonization and settlement, not conquest and genocide. Describing these events on a tribe by tribe basis is a large project, so I thought it would be fun to start with a tribe that has some personal meaning: the Mohawks. I say personal meaning because, according to family tradition, one of my great great great Irish-American granddaddies married a Mohawk lady.

The Mohawks were one of the tribes to encounter the original Euro-American settlers in the early 1600s along the northeastern seaboard. Even in those savage times, the Mohawk were known as insolent and warlike, and they waged perpetual war on the surrounding tribes, the Abnaki to their east, the Conestoga to their south, the Hurons to their northwest, and the Algonquians to their north. Around 1615, the Dutch contact began, which resulted in firearms being supplied to the Mohawk, which they used famously on their enemies.

The Mohawks were also at war with the Mohegan and other New England tribes, with only rare and short periods of peace. The Dutch, allies with the Mohegans, reported having their commanders being cooked and eaten by the Mohawks as early as 1626. The French also reported numerous occassions of Mohawks killing and eating their captives: "Finally, they roast their prisoners dead before a slow fire for some days and then eat them up. The common people eat the arms, buttocks, and trunk, but the chiefs eat the head and the heart."

Meanwhile, it is instructive to note, the Dutch were purchasing much land from the Mohegans throughout New York.

"The introduction of firearms by the Dutch among the Mohawk, who were among the first of their region to procure them, marked an important era in their history, for it enabled them and the cognate Iroquois tribes to subjugate the Delawares and Munsee, and thus to begin a career of conquest that carried their war parties to the Mississippi and to the shores of Hudson bay. "

"Front their position on the east frontier of the Iroquois confederation the Mohawk were among the most prominent of the Iroquoian tribes in the early Indian wars and in official negotiations with the colonies, so that their name was frequently used by the tribes of New England and by the whites as a synonym for the confederation. Owing to their position they also suffered much more than their confederates in some of the Indian and French wars. Their 7 villages of 1644 were reduced to 5 in 1677. At the beginning of the Revolution the Mohawk took the side of the British, and at its conclusion the larger portion of them, under Brant and Johnson, removed to Canada, where they have since resided on lands granted to them by the British government. In 1777 the Oneida expelled the remainder of the tribe and burned their villages."

"In 1650 the Mohawk had an estimated population of 5,000, which was probably more than their actual number; for 10 years later they were estimated at only 2,500. Thence forward they underwent a rapid decline, caused by their wars with the Mahican, Conestoga, and other tribes, and with the French, and also by the removal of a large part of the tribe to Caughnawaga and other mission villages. The later estimates of their population have been: 1,500 in 1677 (an alleged decrease of 3,500 in 27 years), 400 in 1736 (an alleged decrease of 1,100 in 36 years), 500 in 1741, 800 in 1765, 500 in 1778, 1,500 in 1783, and about 1,200 in 1851. These estimates are evidently little better than vague guesses. In 1884 they were on three reservations in Ontario: 965 at the Bay of Quinté near the east end of Lake Ontario, the settlement at Gibson, and the reserve of the Six Nations on Grand river. Besides these there are a few individuals scattered among the different Iroquois tribes in the United States. In 1906 the Bay of Quinté, settlement contained 1,320; there were 140 (including ''Algongnins") at Watha, the former Gibson band which was removed earlier from Oka; and the Six Nations included an indeterminate number."


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More on Utah Indian violence and division

Notice in the first diary entry by pioneer F.F. Keith, the division and constant in-fighting between Indian tribes, noticed by White settlers. Writing of his encounter with Pawnee along the Platte: "Tues May 21: left the bottom and traveled on the bluffs saw a number of the Pawnee Indians they are at war with the Sioux are friendly with us."

F.F. Keith again, noting the thievery and savagery of the Indian predators that was a constant source of anxiety to pioneer travelers:

"Sat Aug 10 have been so busy have not had time to note any thing till now. Night before last the Indians raised a stampede among our horses scatering them in every direction. We were all called out about 1 oclock everything was in confusion horses running, Indians yelling, but not an Indian to be seen. We got our horses together again after considerable difficulty. All safe. It is not very pleasant business being around in the night, as no man knows but the next moment he may have an arrow drove through him by an Indian lurking in the grass. Men are frequently found shot while upon guard with arrows...

Wed we took in a boy that had his horse stolen by the Indians and was destitute of provision by the name of Stanfield.

Mon. morning the Indians stole more horses from a train just below us and killed one man and scalped him. Their chief came riding near the camp when they fired upon him putting three balls through him before he fell. About 40 men then pursued them to the mountains but could do nothing with them as the horses of the Indians are fresh while the emigrants are nearly worn out".

diary source here

The most hostile Indian-White encounters occurred in the Great Basin region of Utah, with violent outbreaks from the 1850s to the early 1860s, culminating in the Pyramid Lake War in 1860 and the Bear River Massacre in 1863.

California Trail Experience: Helpful Indians

Contra the dominant theme today of White conquest and violence, Euro-American colonists cultivated friendly and beneficial relations with the Indians they came upon:

"The fear, excitement, frustration, tragedy, monotony, sense of accomplishment, and even joyful moments of these hopeful California-bound emigrants are found in their writings. Along with their descriptions of departing for and arriving in California, the diarists described disease, major landmarks, decisions about which route to take, company dissensions, their provisions or lack of them, condition of their stock and wagons, accidents, and countless other adventures. Hostile encounters with Indian tribes, a fear often expressed in journal entries, did not occur frequently. Actually, many encounters proved beneficial to the westbound emigrant, who often received assistance from the various tribes encountered on the trail."


Description of Utah Indians, circa 1851

Notice in the description below, the assumption of having to buy peace from the hostile Indians with lands and tribute moneys. This has always been the m.o. with Indians: self-defense, avoidance of hostility, all attempts at peaceful coexistence through raising the standards of the otherwise savage tribal peoples.

"But little is known of the present condition and numbers of the native tribes that are constantly roaming through this and the neighboring regions. The character of these wanderers, generally, is no better than that of the wildest Arabs or Hottentots. Attempts are in progress to treat with some of the more approachable among them; and, where they can be reduced to a state less inconsistent with the true objects of human existence by no other means, large bounties in lands, or tribute money, will doubtless be resorted to by the general government."

"Soon after, the ground was surveyed and laid out into streets and squares for a large city, and for protection against the Indians, a fort or enclosure was erected by means of houses made of logs and sun-dried bricks, connected with each other, and opening into a large square."

A Physical, Political & Economic Description of the Utah Territory and Salt Lake City. 1851