Sunday, October 28, 2012

Osceola, Seminole

Osceola was born in Creek Country in Georgia about 1803, his father was a British trader and his mother the daughter of Creek chief.  He was said to have had a European appearance because his grandfather was Scottish.  He was sometimes called Powell, which was his white step-father's name.  His mother took him to northern Florida when he was very young and he grew up to become a leader of the Seminoles.  He took the name Osceola from a black drink containing caffeine used in tribal ceremonies.

Osceola became a leader during the second Seminole war in 1835.  He was opposed to the Indians removal from their land and being sent west.  As a result of his opposition he was sent to prison.  After he was released he killed the Indian agent and began attacks on the Americans which began the warfare.  Osceola defeated force after force that was sent against him.  General Thomas Jessup asked Osceola to discuss a truce.  Under a flag of truce Jessup seized Osceola and had him imprisoned.  These treacheries, plus imprisonment, lead to his death in the Fort Moultrie South Carolina prison in 1838.

The original people of Florida included the Timucia, Apalachee and Calusa Indians.  They were absorbed by the Seminoles, who were mostly Lower Creeks from Georgia and Hitchiti who came to Florida in the early 18th century when it was Spanish territory.  They were joined by other refugee Indians and escaped slaves.

The Seminoles occupied land in northern Florida that was coveted by American settlers in Georgia.  This and the fact that they were known for harboring fugitive slaves became cause for dissension.  The U.S. was fighting the war of 1812 with the British.

Andrew Jackson was sent to seize the Florida territory from Spain and he destroyed several Indian settlements before capturing Pensacola in May 1818.  In 1819 Florida became a U.S. territory and colonists began moving in to northern Florida and forcing the Indians to the south where the regions were unsuitable to their agriculture.  

Andrew Jackson started a policy of Indian removal.  The Indians resistance resulted in the Seminole wars.  In 1823 the Indians ceded most to their tribal lands to the U.S. and in 1832 the treaty of “Paynes Land" bound them to move to territory west of the Mississippi.  

After the capture of Osceola in 1837, and the end of the 2nd Seminole war in 1842 many of the Indians were forced west to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).  After the third Seminole war another 250 were removed and a peace treaty was signed in 1935 with the remaining Indians.  In 1962 the Mikasuki acquired ownership of their lands in the Everglades.  The Florida Seminole have five reservations.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chief Joseph, Wallowa Nez Percé

"Chief Joseph"


The man who became a national celebrity with the name "Chief Joseph" was born in the Wallowa Valley in what is now northeastern Oregon in 1840.  He was given the name Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, or “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain”, but was widely known as Joseph, or Joseph the Younger, because is father had taken the Christian name Joseph when he was baptized at the Lapwai mission by Henry Spalding in 1838.

Joseph the Elder was one of the first Nez Percé converts to Christianity and an active supporter of the tribe's longstanding peace with whites.  In 1855 he even helped Washington's territorial governor set up a Nez Percé reservation that stretched from Oregon into Idaho.  But in 1863, following a gold rush into Nez Percé territory, the federal government took back almost six million acres of this land, restricting the Nez Percé to a reservation in Idaho that was only one tenth its prior size.  Feeling himself betrayed, Joseph the Elder denounced the United States, destroyed his American flag and his Bible, and refused to move his band from the Wallowa Valley or sign the treaty that would make the new reservation boundaries official.

When his father died in 1871, Joseph was elected to succeed him.  He inherited not only a name but a situation made increasingly volatile as white settlers continued to arrive in the Wallowa Valley.  Joseph staunchly resisted all efforts to force his band onto the small Idaho reservation, and in 1873 a federal order to remove white settlers and let his people remain in the Wallowa Valley made it appear that he might be successful.  But the federal government soon reversed itself, and in 1877 General Oliver Otis Howard threatened a cavalry attack to force Joseph's band and other hold-outs onto the reservation.  Believing military resistance futile, Joseph reluctantly led his people toward Idaho.

Unfortunately, they never got there.  About twenty young Nez Percé warriors, enraged at the loss of their homeland, staged a raid on nearby settlements and killed several whites.  Immediately, the army began to pursue Joseph's band and the others who had not moved onto the reservation.  Although he had opposed war, Joseph cast his lot with the war leaders.
What followed was one of the most brilliant military retreats in American history.  Even the unsympathetic General William Tecumseh Sherman could not help but be impressed with the 1,400 mile march, stating that "the Indians throughout displayed a courage and skill that elicited universal praise.  [they] fought with almost scientific skill, using advance and rear guards, skirmish lines, and field fortifications."  In over three months, the band of about 700, fewer than 200 of whom were warriors, fought 2,000 U.S. soldiers and Indian auxiliaries in four major battles and numerous skirmishes.

By the time he formally surrendered on October 5, 1877, Joseph was widely referred to in the American press as "the Red Napoleon".  It is unlikely, however, that he played as critical a role in the Nez Percé's military feat as his legend suggests.  He was never considered a war chief by his people, and even within the Wallowa band, it was Joseph's younger brother, Olikut, who led the warriors, while Joseph was responsible for guarding the camp.  It appears, in fact, that Joseph opposed the decision to flee into Montana and seek aid from the Crows and that other chiefs – “Looking Glass” and some who had been killed before the surrender -- were the true strategists of the campaign.  Nevertheless, Joseph's widely reprinted surrender speech has immortalized him as a military leader in American popular culture:

I am tired of fighting.  Our chiefs are killed.  Looking Glass is dead.  Toohoolhoolzote is dead.  The old men are all dead.  It is the young men who say, "Yes" or "No."  He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead.  It is cold, and we have no blankets.  The little children are freezing to death.  My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food.  No one knows where they are -- perhaps freezing to death.  I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find.  Maybe I shall find them among the dead.  Hear me, my chiefs!  I am tired.  My heart is sick and sad.  From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

Joseph's fame did him little good.  Although he had surrendered with the understanding that he would be allowed to return home, Joseph and his people were instead taken first to eastern Kansas and then to a reservation in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) where many of them died of epidemic diseases.  Although he was allowed to visit Washington, D.C. in 1879 to plead his case to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, it was not until 1885 that Joseph and the other refugees were returned to the Pacific Northwest Even then, half, including Joseph, were taken to a non-Nez Percé reservation in northern Washington, separated from the rest of their people in Idaho and their homeland in the Wallowa Valley.
In his last years, 

Joseph spoke eloquently against the injustice of United States policy toward his people and held out the hope that America's promise of freedom and equality might one day be fulfilled for Native Americans as well.  An indomitable voice of conscience for the West, he died in 1904, still in exile from his homeland, according to his doctor "of a broken heart".

modified slightly for blog presentation

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux

Sitting Bull joined his first war party at 14 and soon gained a reputation for bravery in battle. In 1868 the Sioux accepted peace with the U.S. government, but when gold was discovered in the Black Hills in the mid 1870's, a rush of white prospectors invaded Sioux lands.  Sitting Bull responded but could only win battles, not the war.  He was arrested and killed in 1890.
God made me an Indian
– Sitting Bull
Early Years
Arguably the most powerful and perhaps famous of all Native American chiefs, Sitting Bull was born in 1831 in what is now called South Dakota.
The son of an esteemed Sioux warrior named “Returns-Again”, Sitting Bull looked up to his father and desired to follow in his footsteps, but didn't show a particular talent for warfare.  At the age of 10, however, he killed his first buffalo.  Four years later, he fought honorably in a battle against a rival clan.  He was named Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, a Lakota name describing a bull buffalo sitting on its haunches.
Much of Sitting Bull's life was shaped by the struggles against an expanding American nation.  When Sitting Bull was young he was chosen as leader of the Strong Heart Society.  In June 1863 took up arms against the United States for the first time.  He fought American soldiers again the following year at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain.  In 1865 he led an attack on the newly built Fort Rice in what is now called North Dakota.  His skills as a warrior and the respect he'd earned as a leader of his people led him to become chief of the Lakota nation in 1868.
Defender of His People
Confrontation with American soldiers escalated in the mid 1870's after gold was discovered in the Black Hills, a sacred area to Native Americans that the American government had recognized following the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.
As white prospectors rushed into the Sioux lands, the American government tabled the treaty and declared war on any native tribes that prevented it from taking over the land.  When Sitting Bull refused to abide by these new conditions, the stage was set for confrontation.
Sitting Bull's defense of his land was rooted both in the history of his culture and in the fate he believed awaited his people.  At a Sun Dance Ceremony on the Little Bighorn River, where a large community of Native Americans had established a village, Sitting Bull danced for 36 consecutive hours.  He finished his performance by informing villagers that he had received a vision in which the American army was defeated.
In June 1876, just a few days later, the chief led a successful battle against American forces in the Battle of the Rosebud.  A week later he was engaged in battle again, this time against General George Armstrong Custer in the now famous Battle at Little Bighorn.  Sitting Bull led thousands of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors against Custer's undermanned force, wiping out the American general and his 200-plus men.
For the U.S. government the defeat was an embarrassment, and the Army doubled its efforts to wrest control of the territory.  To escape Sitting Bull led his people into Canada for four years.
Sitting Bull's Return
In 1881 Sitting Bull returned to the Dakota Territory, where he was held prisoner until 1883.  In 1885, after befriending Annie Oakley, he joined Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show.  Sitting Bull quickly grew tired of the performances and life on the road.  He was shocked by the poverty he saw in the cities, and coupled with the hatred that was directed toward him by some audience members, Sitting Bull decided to return to his people.  

"would rather die an Indian than live a white man," he famously said.

Final Years
Back home, in a cabin on the Grand River not far from where he'd been born, Sitting Bull lived his life without compromise.  He rejected Christianity and continued to honor his people's way of life.
In 1889 Native Americans began to take up the Ghost Dance, a ceremony aimed at ridding the land of white people and restore the Native American way of life.  Sitting Bull soon joined it.
Fearing the powerful chief's influence, authorities directed a group of Lakota police officers to arrest Sitting Bull.  On December 15, 1890, they entered his home and  dragged Sitting Bull out of his cabin.  A gunfight followed and the chief was shot in the head and killed.  He was laid to rest at Fort Yates in North Dakota.  In 1953, his remains were moved to Mobridge, South Dakota, where they remain today.
© 2012 A+E Networks.  All rights reserved.  Edited for this presentation.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Purpose

This blog is dedicated to Native American legends and the human beings they are about.  Regardless of tribe, nation, people or circumstance, an honest effort will be made to display the truths and beliefs of events and people regardless of where wrong doing or honor belong.

My perspective is that of researcher, without a "little dog" in the fight, except to display the legends and exploits of Native Americans, exemplary or despicable, so that anyone may draw their own conclusions from the records, evidence, testimony and commentary presented.