Showing posts with label native americans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label native americans. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Iroquois League-Doing America Before America Was Cool

Known among themselves as the Haudenosaunee,¹ the Iroquois League (or Confederacy) is the world's oldest participatory democracy. Located in what is today central New York state, the Haudenosaunee controlled vast swathes of woodland all the way into today's Ontario. A combination of six tribes, they banded together in mutual defense and adopted common policy in regards to other tribes and white settlers. Because of this cooperation, they were able to keep their territorial lands longer than any other confederacy in the region.

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The Haudenosaunee are known for having invented the sport
of Lacrosse, and for being multiple time world champions.
The Haudenosaunee is comprised of six individual tribes--the Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, and Tuscarora. Their individual languages are related, and most are mutually intelligible to the others. It is this shared language family which initially brought the Haudenosaunee together. Additionally, linguistic evidence suggests that the Haudenosaunee are immigrants to the New England area. It is thought that the original five tribes--all but the Tuscarora--emigrated from the southern United States², and it is definitely known that the Tuscarora emigrated from North Carolina.

Originally, these six tribes were separate people, and warred with each other the same way in which the confederation later warred with non-confederation people. There were frequent raids on rival tribes, and an 'eye for an eye' philosophy prevailed. If a member from one tribe was killed, the family of that person would kill a member of the tribe that killed their family member, starting a never ending cycle of bloodshed. Among the Haudenosaunee, this epoch is known as 'The Dark Times'.

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Map of Haudenosaunee lands
Enter Deganawida. Deganawida is a religious man, and has been told by the Great Spirit to make peace between the people. Problem was, Deganawida had a stutter, and needed a mouthpiece. To this end, he found Hiawatha. At the time, Hiawatha was a simple cannibal, doing his cannibal thing. However, one day while cooking his latest victim Hiawatha saw his reflection in his cooking pot, and realized that someone as beautiful as himself should not be eating people. While discarding of the corpse he no longer intended to eat, he met Deganawida, who named Hiawatha as his mouthpiece. Together Deganawida and Hiawatha set about uniting the five tribes--the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida.³

The Haudenosaunee confederacy was built upon a system of participatory democracy. Each tribe had one vote, and the chiefs of each clan,⁴ known as Sachems, helped each nation come to an agreement on how they would vote. The Confederacy established an inter-confederacy peace treaty, and a pact of mutual defense. Additionally, Confederacy members were able to move freely between the different nations. The Confederacy had very few laws, mostly focusing on foreign relations, but they immediately outlawed cannibalism. For any decision to be made on the behalf of the entire confederacy a unanimous vote had to be reached. Should complete agreement not be met, each tribe was free to proceed as they saw fit. This would eventually lead to the nations fighting on different sides during the American Revolution.

Together, the Haudenosaunee were a formidable foe. They regularly raided their Algonquin neighbors, and colonial settlements, gaining European goods despite having no formal trade agreements with white men. They also established a system of currency, based of of Wampum, and had a massive agricultural system, growing corn, beans, and squash.

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The Haudenosaunee lived in Longhouses--wooden dwellings
which housed multiple families. Longhouses could be anywhere
between 50 to 150 feet long
When it came to colonial clashes, the Haudenosaunee preferred to remain neutral. During the French and Indian War many of the Haudenosaunee refused to take sides. They attempted to do the same during the American Revolution, but were unable. The Haudenosaunee saw the wars between the colonists as civil wars that were none of their business, but the English insisted that the Haudenosaunee honor their treaty of mutual defense with the English.

This divided the tribes into rival factions. Due to pressure from the English, most of the tribes sided with the English, but some tribes, most notably the Oneida and Tuscarora, sided with the Americans. This division nearly killed the confederacy, as tribes began to raid the villages of confederacy members. Despite this, the confederacy remained intact, if fragile, at the end of the Revolution.⁵

The Confederacy's form of government would become a major influence on the creation of the United States Constitution. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were well acquainted with the Haudenosaunee, were inspired by the fact that each member nation had an equal say in the policy of the group.

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Haudenosaunee Flag
Today the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is as strong as ever. They are recognized as their own nation, and have sent delegates to the United Nations, and issue their own passports.⁶ The nations have banded together multiple times in mutual defense when development and industrial projects threaten native lands, and lobby together for the return of cultural artifacts and human remains.

¹Meaning 'People of the Longhouse', based on the longhouses that the Haudenosaunee lived in. The name 'Iroquois' is a francosized version of the Algonquin word 'Irinakhoiw'. 'Iroquois' roughly translated, means 'real adders'. Like many colonial names for Native Americans, this is a pejorative. In this article I will refer to this group of people by the name they chose form themselves--Haudenosaunee.
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Haudenosaunee passport
²This conclusion was reached by comparison to other Native American languages. the Haudenosaunee languages are very closely related to the Cherokee language--a nation which originated in the southern United States. Additionally, non Haudenosaunee tribes in the New York area speak languages from the Algonquin group. This difference suggests that the Haudenosaunee were once related to, or acquainted with the Cherokee.
³The canny reader may be wondering about the Tuscarora. The Tuscarora Nation was added to the Haudenosaunee confederacy in the early 1700s when they were driven out of North Carolina by English Colonists.
⁴A tribe is comprised of a group of clans. Clans are matrilinial, and are headed by the eldest woman in each clan. There were eight major clans in the confederation, and intermarriage inside a clan was discouraged.
⁵Following the Revolution the young American government placed sanctions on all members of the confederacy, including the ones that supported them against the English. This united the confederacy against the Americans as they were forced off their lands and onto reservations in New York and Canada.
⁶Though the Iroquois passport was largely recognized in the United States traveling on an Iroquois passport after the events of September 11, 2001 became largely impossible. Additionally, many nations do not recognize Iroquois passports, and refuse entry to holders if they do not also have an American or Canadian passport.

Iroquois Confederacy- American Indian Confederation
Iroquois League: The Ancient and Powerful Union of Six Nations
Iroquois Confederacy
The League of the Iroquois
The Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth
The Six Nations Confederacy During the American Revolution

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Damn, Girl-Aliquippa

Queen Aliquippa was an Iroquois¹ leader, and staunch British Loyalist during the French and Indian War. Not a lot about her personal life, or her life in general, is known, but what is known paints the picture of a pretty baddass lady who made French and British leaders pay her homage, and demanded respect from the man who would become America's most venerated leader.

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Washington visits Queen Aliquippa
Aliquippa was most likely born in the late 17th century, as she is known to have met William Penn, the 'founder' of Pennsylvania. She married a Seneca man, and had at least one child with him. After her husband died, Aliquippa became the leader of a band of Seneca, and established a settlement of four Seneca families.

It wasn't, and still isn't too unusual to see female leaders of Native American tribes. Women like Lozen and Wilma Mankiller are respected and revered by their individual nations. At the time, female leaders among the Iroquois were particularly common, because the male leaders kept dying in combat.

Now, a settlement of four families isn't necessarily that big, and it doesn't sound that important, but location is everything. Aliquippa settled her people near the convergences of three rivers--the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the Monongahela, an area that would later become the city of Pittsburgh. This area was particularly strategic for trading and warmongering, and was a way station for many bands of Iroquois people.

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Wax figure of Aliquippa at the Heinz
History Center in Pittsburgh
Over time, Aliquippa's settlement grew until she had a sizable number of warriors living under her authority. Aliquippa was, essentially, a sovereign, and she knew it. She expected to receive tribute from white leaders, and she did. In 1748 Conrad Weiser, the Pennsylvanian ambassador to the Native American tribes was passing through the area, and failed to stop in and say hello. Incensed, Aliquippa pointedly reminded him that he needed to come pay tribute to her and her people. Weiser wisely did so, and was generously received.

Unlike many Native American leaders at the time, Aliquippa was a staunch British royalist. Not only did she refuse to receive French envoys, but she also advised British forces in how to better man the frontier. Not that they listened to her. Aliquippa repeatedly told British leaders to build a fort around the Allegheny river, and promised that if they did so she and her people would go live there to help defend it. The British blew her off, and in 1754 the area was attacked and taken by French soldiers.

The most famous account of Aliquippa is of her meeting with a young Colonial nobody who would go on to become the first president of the United States. In 1752, on the orders of the Virginian governor, George Washington forayed down into the Ohio valley to politely tell the French soldiers to get the hell off the English Empire's lawn. He was on his way to Fort LaBouef when a messenger informed him that Queen Aliquippa was quite concerned that he hadn't visited her. Because he was a smart man, George turned his horse around, and went right back to Aliquippa's settlement.

This was a good choice on George's part. Not only did he get some excellent advice about a fort (which he then ignored), but he also received the support of Aliquippa's warriors, which would later come in handy when fighting the French.

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Iroquois Confederation Flag
Though relatively unknown, Aliquippa was a major influence on American history. It was her help that paved the way for the French and Indian War, which would be the making of the man who would lead the American Revolution. However, in addition to facilitating several wars, Aliquippa also helped her own people stay safe in a world that was rapidly changing for the Native Americans. Given the attitudes of white settlers towards Native Americans of the day, the respect most men had for Aliquippa gives the impression that she was a remarkable leader.

¹The canny will have realized and laughingly scoffed that the Iroquois are not a nation of Native Americans, but rather a confederacy of six nations--the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, and Tuscarora. I say Iroquois because Aliquippa's exact tribe is hotly debated. Most sources claim that she is Seneca, but a persuasive and loud minority claim her as Mohawk. Since her exact nationality is unknown, but her position in Iroquois leadership is known, I will refer to her as Iroquois in this article. If you want to read a nearly incomprehensible argument for all sides, go here.

Queen Aliquippa
Queen Aliquippa: Fact...or Myth? (Spoiler alert: she's not a myth)
Women's History Month: Political Leaders
Fort Necessity: Story of Queen Aliquippa
Between Two Worlds

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Damn, Girl-Lozen

Famed warrior, medicine woman, and military strategist, Lozen was dubbed 'the shield of her people' by her brother, Chief Victorio. Lozen helped her brother fight against the United States and Mexican governments, and helped her band of Apache escape from the inhospitable reservations they were forced onto. Her skills at stealing horses, and her ability to sense where her enemies were is legendary, and to this day she is honored as one of the fiercest and bravest women in Apache history.

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Lozen was born in the late 1840s, somewhere in the American Southwest. She belonged to the Chihende band, and around age twelve answered the call to become a medicine woman. In addition to healing, Lozen felt drawn to being a warrior. Instead of learning the traditional female tasks, she learned how to fight, and, by all reports, was quite good at it.

It should be noted that 'Lozen' is probably not Lozen's actual name. 'Lozen' is an Apache title given to someone who is good at stealing horses. Many Apache of the era didn't give out their given names, because they felt that the use of their given names would diminish their spiritual power.

It's the 1870s, and Native American-United States Federal Government relations are predictably hostile. The United States has all this new land they stole won from Mexico that they're trying to settle and mine, and the Apache (as well as other tribes) are in the way. In a totally fair and ethical move, the United States Government decided that it would be a reasonable solution to round up the Native Americans, and sequester them on the pieces of land that nobody else wanted. The Native Americans were, unsurprisingly, not too keen on that idea, and conflicts between tribes and the US Government were breaking out all over the country.

The Chihende band was no different. They had been forced onto the San Carlos reservation in Arizona, and there wasn't enough food or resources. So in 1877 Chief Victorio, Lozen's brother, defied the US Government, led his band off of the reservation, and headed back towards their traditional lands near Ojo Caliente.

They were pursued relentlessly by US troops, and the band was on the run for about two years. While on the run, Lozen was one of the chief strategists for her band. Victorio referred to her as his 'right hand', and she was responsible for Apache success in several skirmishes.

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Lozen's brother, Victorio
Strategy wasn't Lozen's only gift. She was also able to tell what direction their attackers would come from. She would go onto the plain, and pray to Ussen, the Apache Creator God. She would follow the sun, and when her arms would tingle, and her veins darken she could tell in what direction their enemies were. She was able to warn her band of many attacks this way, and Victorio credited her and her talents as being directly responsible for keeping their people safe.

In 1879, Victorio and the warriors of the Chihende were killed by Mexican forces near Chihuahua. Lozen rode from the Mescalero reservation to hunt for survivors. There were almost none. Lozen joined the rest of her band, and went back to San Carlos, the reservation they had escaped from two years prior.

In 1881, Lozen and the Chihende left San Carlos for Mexico. While there, they joined up with Geronimo, Naiche, Juh, and Fun. A year later, Lozen and Geronimo's warriors led a raid on San Carlos that freed nearly 600 Apache. They hid in the Sierra Madre mountains, raiding the surrounding areas. They gradually moved north towards San Carlos, and they were free for about four years, until the Apache were forced into unconditional surrender in 1886. Lozen, Geronimo, and Naiche were sent off to Florida as prisoners of war, and Lozen died in an Alabama prison a few years later.

Lozen: An Intelligent and Brave Apache Warrior Woman
The Story of Lozen
Lozen: Apache Warrior Woman
Apache Women in History
Mescalero Apache Tribe

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Annexation of Hawaii Was a Bit of a Dick Move

Hawaii, the 50th state, is a prime example of the US Imperialism that supposedly doesn't exist. Queen Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, was essentially overthrown by a group of US marines, and the state was annexed to the US to provide a ship fueling station, despite vehement protests from the majority of islanders.

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Iolani Palace, built by King Kalakaua as part of his revival
of Hawaiian nationalism.
Hawaii was doing its Hawaii thing in 1778 when Captain James Cook 'discovered' it. The islands were made up of a tribal culture, with many chieftains or 'kings'. They welcomed Cook with open arms, and, surprisingly enough, he didn't embark upon a spree of mass slaughter. In fact, there was no slaughter at all, excepting the slaughter that came from European microbes.

Microbes weren't the only thing that came to Hawaii from Europe. European ideals also became quite popular. Churches, land ownership, and a unified state followed not long after the Europeans. Unfortunately, American and European businessman came as well.

Fast forward a few decades, and sugar exportation is a key part of the Hawaiian economy. Hawaiian natives had been wary of the sugar trade from the start, hearing that it would lead to annexation. They weren't paranoid. White sugar exporters were worried about native resistance, and in 1887, the 'Bayonet Treaty' was forced upon King Kalakaua.

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Queen Lili'uokalani
The Bayonet Treaty is thus named because it was forced upon King Kalakaua at gunpoint. A group of white businessmen, backed by US marines, were growing concerned about the King's attempts to revitalize the culture and power of Native Hawaiians. Their official reason was that they were concerned by the king's spending. This treaty stripped Kalakaua of all executive power, and replaced his cabinet with white businessmen. It also disenfranchised Native voters, essentially leaving Hawaii under the control of the sugar exporters.

Kalakaua died in 1891, and his sister, Lili'uokalani became queen. Lili'uokalani made the white buisnessmen even more nervous than her brother, because she had every intention of reforming the 'constitution' forced on Hawaii by the haole, and restoring Hawaiian home rule. Worried about their wallets, the businessmen staged a bloodless coup in 1893 and formed a revolutionary government, stating that US annexation would be the best thing for Hawaiian economy.

John Stevens, the US ambassador to Hawaii, declared the islands to be a US protectorate. Of course, he hadn't consulted anyone in Washington about this. President Benjamin Harrison signed the treaty of annexation, but Grover Cleveland came into office before it could be passed by the Senate.

Grover Cleveland wasn't too pleased by the goings on in Hawaii. President Cleveland wasn't here for imperialism, and he rescinded the treaty, and put Stevens under investigation. He ordered a dissolution of the revolutionary government, and ordered that Lili'uokalani be restored to the throne immediately.

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Sanford Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii
In a truly mature act Stevens and Sanford Dole, the president of the revolutionary government, stated that since the US refused to annex Hawaii, the US wasn't in charge of them, so they declared Hawaii a republic, and went on doing as they pleased.

Meanwhile, Native Hawaiians were petitioning the US government to do something, and Queen Lili'uokalani was placed under house arrest. This continued until 1897, when William McKinley became president of the United States. McKinley was less squeamish about imperialism than his predecessor, and he was also getting into the Spanish-American war. Add in a fear of a Japanese invasion, and the need for a pacific boat-fueling station, and McKinley signed the treaty. On July 7, 1898, Hawaii was formerly annexed to the United States.

There are very few instances where the US Government has betrayed the ideals upon which it was founded as grossly as it did in Hawaii. Not only did United States military forces carry out aggressive actions against a peaceful nation in hopes of conquest, but standard taxation was later imposed upon the islands, despite the lack of legislative representation. Anyone who has ever even looked at the history of the US knows that the original 13 colonies rebelled against the English for that very reason. Yet when the shoe was on the other foot, nobody cared.

The Annexation of Hawaii-History of the House of Representatives
Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii
Annexation of Hawaii, 1898
The 1897 Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii
Hawaii Government and Society
The Annexation of Hawaii-Digital History
Annexing Hawaii: The Real Story

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Documentary Review- The Polar Sea

Something you may not know about me is that I am in love with the arctic. I think it's beautiful, and completely improbably that people manage to survive there. And for someone who starts complaining when the temperature drops below 73 degrees Fahrenheit, I want to go there a whole lot. So when I saw this documentary on Netflix, naturally I watched most of it in a day.

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"The Polar Sea" chronicles the adventures of Richard Tegner and various companions as he sails through the Northwest Passage. It chronicles his journey as an 'arctic hitchhiker' from Reykjavik Iceland to Dutch Harbor, USA.

For those of you who are unaware, the Northwest Passage is a sea route that stretches from Baffin Bay to the Aleutian Islands. It weaves its way through the many islands and ice floes of Canada's northern territories: Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon. The Northwest Passage is frozen for most of the year, and when it's not frozen it has some of the most treacherous waters in the world.

Tegner, originally from Sweden, was persuaded by a friend to undertake the journey. An inexperienced sailor, Tegner departed with his friend on the Dax, a small sailboat. Sailing from Iceland, the Dax broke down around Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Tegner's friends returned to Sweden, while Tegner decided to stick it out, and hitch a ride through the passage.

Image result for northwest passageAt first, I was really worried for this dude, because hitchhiking is known to be notoriously unreliable below the arctic circle, and I would think that it would be even more so above, but Tegner made it work, hitching a ride first with a Russian cruise ship, then with a Swiss catamaran, which, I take, is a type of boat.

(It is a type of boat, and that particular catamaran was the first boat of its kind to sail the Northwest Passage, sailed by the youngest sailors to make the journey)

Along the way they stopped at multiple Inuit communities and research stations. One of the biggest focuses of this documentary, or really, the main focus, was how global warming has changed the arctic.

It's climate change that made Tegner's journey possible. The ice in the passage has started melting earlier, and freezing later every year. This has had a bad impact on the Inuit who live in the arctic regions. While this does open up streams of ecotourism to boost the Inuit economy, it is driving the local wildlife from the region. As the Inuit have traditionally relied on hunting to survive, this is something of a problem.

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Narwhal are real?? And they live in the arctic?
Additionally, erosion is threatening Inuit communities. The ice melting leaves their communities vulnerable to the explosive autumn storms. The documentary focused on the town of Kivalina in Alaska, which experienced extreme flooding in 2004, but a quick google search turns up dozens of other towns with the same plight.

If you've ever doubted that climate is changing, this is a good show to watch. If you've ever wondered about Inuit culture, and the history of the Inuit in the arctic, this is a great show to watch. If you just really like the arctic, this is a good show to watch. It can be a bit of a bear to get through, but it's well worth it.

If you want to learn more about the show, and more about Tegner's arctic experience, you can visit their website here.