Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Indians and the Civil War

From the Pequot War forward, Alvin Josephy wrote in a 1979 article in The Indian Historian
Whites gave the Native Americans three options. The first was that they could stop being Indians and turn themselves into Whites. They would have their hair cut, wear White men’s clothes, become Christians, live in White men’s houses, become farmers or mechanics, and adopt the White men’s language, customs, ways of living, values, society, and culture. In other words, they would become assimilated and disappear as Indians. If they refused, they would have to be pushed away, westward to a safe distance, where they would have no contact with White society. They would continue as “wild” Indians, unconquered, but neither a physical or cultural threat to the Whites. If they refused to move or become assimilated, they had a third option: extermination.
For most of American history, Alvin says in several places, assimilation has been official policy and the mood of the country. And from the days of first European contact, early colonies, fur companies, and the “United” States, some Indian individuals have readily assimilated. But for most Indians, assimilation has not been easy—missionaries, Indian agents, boarding schools, beatings and berating for lingering signs of “Indianness,” have made for hard lives, but lives nevertheless. 

If I read Alvin’s Civil War in the West correctly, the War years marked a hiatus from assimilation. Removal and/or extermination of Western tribes became primary government policy and military and civilian practice. 

According to Josephy, the West was wrapped up in the Civil War. In the East, Northern and Southern politicians fought over roads west and homestead laws as they gauged political leanings of Western states and territories.  Westering emigrants—freed slaves, draft evaders, seekers of fortune and land—fought the Indians over land and each other over their Southern and Northern roots. And military men stationed in the West went East to be in the big War on one side or the other, or complained at being stationed far away from the big War. Maybe most importantly, North and South jockeyed for Western gold and prospectors ran roughshod over Indian lands before the War started and through its duration.

In the introduction to Civil War in the American West, Josephy says that 
…during the four years of the Civil War… more Indian tribes were destroyed by whites and more land was seized from them than in almost any comparable time in American History. Although some of the most heinous massacres of Indian peoples... accompanied this process, the warfare in various parts of the West was inconclusive, and continued on after 1865, when Regular troops… sought under Sherman, Sheridan, Custer and others to complete the conquest of those tribes that were still able to resist.
In 1862 Minnesota, treaties promised land, commodities, and annuities to the Indians, but settlers occupied the promised lands, annuities went to traders for supposed Indian debts, and agents and the governor skimmed the commodities. In desperation, the Minnesota Dakota (four bands of Sioux Indians) massacred scores of whites and were eventually chased out of the state and joined brethren in the Dakotas and Canada. Lincoln released many of those captured, but 38 Indians were hanged. The Sioux chapter ends in the post-War massacre at Wounded Knee in 1891.

In 1863 on Bear River in Idaho Territory, Colonel Patrick Conner directed the slaughter of 250 peaceful Northwestern Shoshonis. Chief Bear Hunter was tortured and finally killed with a red-hot bayonet thrust through his head, and Mormon guides described Indian women “used in the act of dying from their wounds.”

Sand Creek Massacre
In 1964, at Sand Creek in Colorado, Colonel John Chivington descended on a peaceful village of 550 Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho, and his Colorado cavalrymen bashed in babies’ heads and took scalps, skin, and genitals, which they later paraded in Denver.

“In California, posses of settlers combed the forests and mountains, shooting down every Indian they saw… [and] communities paid bounties for Indian scalps.”

And there was Kit Carson.

If I had to summarize the awful series of events, it would be a pattern of land grabs and destruction of hunting and gathering grounds, Indian starvation (in Nevada, 300 starving Pauites raided miners supply wagons, eating flour “raw from the sacks”), and then predation on settlers and emigrant trains; disgruntled military officers killing Indians when they couldn’t kill Confederates; gold rushes and keeping the overland routes open for gold and the prospectors, settlers, and adventurers who came relentlessly throughout the War; treaties, broken treaties, and corruption of public officials in their dealings with the Indians in the middle of it all; reprisals and retributions.

If Josephy is right, why don’t we know more about the Civil War in the West and the toll it took on Indians? Disinterest of Civil War historians in the West and Indians? Confusion or disinterest on the part of Indian historians about the Civil War? The overwhelming destruction of the War in the East, and the years of political and civil rights controversy that followed?

If Alvin is right, Indian affairs have again been shuffled to the bottom of the historical deck, and Indians have again been omitted from the main narrative of American History.

Please tell me if he’s wrong—or if I am reading him wrong.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Notes on Library holdings

Our volunteer cataloger, Shannon Maslach, is getting some help. Whitman college student Erik Anderson is our summer intern—and he is flying! We are concentrating on cataloging books from the Josephys, but sneaking in books from other sources that are important to Indian and Pacific Northwest history. There are hundreds  books still in boxes, but Erik is moving fast. And we are part of the SAGE network of libraries in Eastern Oregon, administered out of Eastern Oregon University, so you can go to http://catalog.sage.eou.edu/eg/opac/home?locg=1  to mark his progress and check our holdings.

Alvin Josephy subscribed to and collected many journals having to do with Western and Indian history and affairs. We are—slowly—processing them, putting each journal and our holdings on its own Excel spread sheet. But I thought people might like to have a general idea of what we are putting on the shelves.  You might also have recommendations as to which journals it will be important to “fill in” missing volumes, and which ones we should be subscribing to (knowing that we have a tight budget). 

One other note: it is sometimes obvious that Alvin collected a particular journal—e.g., The Colorado Magazine—as he worked on a particular book—in this case the Civil War in the West. There I found Alvin’s fine pencil highlights in articles by Harry Kelsey on the Sand Creek Massacre. As we move forward, I will be looking at all of those interesting individual journals—e.g. the ones from Canada having to do with the fur trade—and trying to capture particular issues addressed. 

So here is a first sort of our periodical holdings (we have some indexes, for OHQ and Amer Heritage):  
Alberta Historical Review—1956-59. Some
American Heritage—1957-2003. Most
American West—1962-89. Most
Arizona and the West—1963-86. Many
Artifacts—1972-78. Some
Audubon—1969-83. Most
The Beaver—1972-78. Most
California History—1965-81. Some
The Call Number, Library, U of Oregon—1959-69. Most
Century Magazine--1882-- vols 1-6
Chronicles of Oklahoma—1950-60. Some
Colorado Magazine—1962-68. Some
Fortitudine: Bulletin of the Marine Corps—1982-90. Most
Great Plains Journal—a few
Idaho Yesterdays—1957-81. Most
Journal of American History—1974-77. Some
Journal of Arizona History—1987-90. Most
Journal of the West—1964-96. Most
Kansas Historical Quarterly—1962-72. Most
Missouri Historical Bulletin—1954-80. Most
Montana: The Magazine of Western History—1953-2005. Most
Oregon Historical Quarterly – 1908—present.  Most
Quarterly: Northeastern Nevada Historical Society—1985-86
The Record: Friends of Washington State College Library—1956-65. Most
Western Historical Quarterly—1970-2005. Most
Western History Association Newsletter—1965-69. Most
Western Writers of America’s Roundup—1966-88. Most
The Westerners Brand Book (New York Posse of Westerners)—1954-72. Most

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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Nespelem Art Colony

Followers of the Nez Perce story and of the Colville Confederated Tribes, and students of 20th century Indian affairs in general, will have to have this book on your shelves—or at least close at hand. The book is Indian Summers: Washington State College and the Nespelem Art Colony, 1937-41. The author is Jeff Creighton, and it was published by WSU Press in 2000.

Instructors and students from Washington State College came to the Colville Reservation for five summers, mimicking art colonies and the “American Scene Movement” that was going on across the country.  They painted landscapes, and they painted portraits. Indians—mostly elders—sat for hours as models. The Indian models received small stipends, and some of the students boarded with Indian families. A brief search on the internet related the colony to other American art colonies—the most famous being Taos—and eventually to Indians producing art. But for now, without further research, I want to encourage you to look at the portraits and the photos that are captured in this book!

As far as I can tell, there were no Indian students, but the colony must certainly have had an effect on later Indian artists. And even if they only participated as models, it was white people—artists—valuing “Indianness.”  And this was another difficult time in Indian country. The whole nation was creeping out of the Depression, which hit Indian country especially hard. Turn of the century attempts at assimilation—Dawes Act and boarding schools—had placed huge pressures on Indian people, and the well-intentioned Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which reversed Dawes Act allotment policy and promised religious and cultural freedoms, was a complicated affair with new policies and procedures that tribes and Indian people had to come to terms with. And, of course, World War II is just around the corner.

I am reminded of Edward Sheriff Curtis’s valiant, driven attempt to capture Indians as they were before white intervention forty years before the Nespelem colony. In the Nespelem Colony, the artists capture Indians who had come through so much—and retained so much. In spite of the drive to assimilate, the outlawing of language and culture at boarding schools and all attempts at stamping out Indian religion and culture, sketches, photos, and paintings from Nespelem show Indians dancing, Indians in traditional regalia, Indians still being Indians.

Thanks to Mike Rosenbaum from La Grande for the gift of this book—and several other art books, featuring the work of Catlin, Bodmer, and others—to the Josephy Library. They are not cataloged yet, but our student intern will be on it this week, and in any case they are here for the viewing.

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