Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On entering the tent he gave me his left hand, and I gave him my right hand . . .

David Thompson
Meeting Kootanne Appee, Piikani War Chief

One afternoon in early January, there was a stir in the camp; and soon after we had the war song of victory sung by the young men one of whom entered the tent and spoke to the old man for a few minutes.  After he went out the old man informed me that a large war party which had been absent for more than two moons had arrived at the frontier camp, and part of them would be here the morrow that they had seen no enemy but the Black People (the name they give to the Spaniards) from whom they had taken a great many horses and mules.  I enquired if any battle had been fought; he smirked and said "No, they never fight.  They always run away."  I was at a loss what to think on so brave a people as the Spaniards running away, and when some of the horses and mules were brought to us[,] I examined them but not the least trace of blood or any injury from weapons could be seen.  A few days after[,] Kootanne Appee paid a visit to the old man [Saukamappee].  On entering the tent he gave me his left hand, and I gave him my right  hand, upon which he looked at me and smiled as much as to say a contest would not be equal; at his going  away the [same] took place.  He passed about half an hour conversing on the late campaign and went away.  No ceremony took place between them:  their behavior was as if they had always lived in the same tent.  The old man recommended me to his protection which he promised.  He [Kootanne Appee] was apparently about forty years of age and his height between six feet two to four inches, more formed for activity than strength yet well formed for either; his face a full oval, high forehead and nose somewhat aquiline; his large black eyes, and countenance, were open, frank but somewhat stern; he was a noble specimen of an Indian warrior of the great plains.  The old man told me he first gained his now high reputation by conducting the retreats of the war parties of his people when pressed on by superior numbers.  Before he became head warrior, when obliged to retreat, each Chief with his party shifted for themselves and great distress often happened.  This he prevented by his speeches and conduct.  His plan was to keep together round him a band of bold and resolute men with which he guarded the rear; and on perceiving the enemy becoming confident and not sufficiently cautious, to lay an ambuscade, let some of the foremost pass, attack them in the rear; it was an onset of a very few minutes and in the confusion and dismay march off and join his people who stood ready to protect them.  This checked the advance of the enemy and gave safety to the retreating party, and has thus gained the confidence of the people.  On meeting the enemy he places his people according to the number of guns they have[,] separating them along his post so that between each gun they should have the same number of archers.  The great plains on which these encounters take place are too open for an ambuscade except by laying down in undulating grounds.  The old man now remarked to me that as we proceed on[,] we should see a great many Indians who had never seen a white man, as very few of them went to the trading houses.  If one of our people offers you his left hand, give him your left hand, for the right hand is no mark of friendship.  This hand wields the spear, draws the Bow and the trigger of the gun; it is the hand of death.  The left hand is next to the heart and speaks the truth and friendship, it holds the shield of protection and is the hand of life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Math: Not the only requirement in Evolutionary Biology

“If you can’t stand algebra, keep out of evolutionary biology” – John Maynard Smith. [And Lior Pachter]

For quite some time now, I’ve been watching the steady stream of papers in evolutionary biology where the “math” was correctly formulated, but other problems, often quite fundamental and obvious, lead to published statements which are erroneous, misleading or grossly exaggerated, and harmful.

Take, for instance, this statement published yesterday in the New York Times: "The agricultural revolution was one of the most profound events in human history, leading to the rise of modern civilization."

Really?  Let's see.  Here we have the assumption that modern civilization is linked only to the Neolithic, in other words, the domestication of crops and animals.  In the journalist Carl Zimmer's very next sentence, he goes on to discuss the Neolithic of Europe and Anatolia, leaving most readers with the impression that modernity is entirely a European phenomena, and something that developed only in the last 9,000 years.  The paper looks at a few traits like height, skin color, and a few alleles contributing to actual medical traits like immune system function, fat metabolism and lactose tolerance.  Never mind that we already know that immune system function, fat metabolism and lactose tolerance can be moderated by different alleles, not just the ones that this paper found in European and Anatolian populations.

So, the article and the paper, propped up by statistics, subliminally asserts that these alleles support the notion of a revolutionary advancement in human evolution, only in Europeans, and only coming from "Anatolian farmers", when that is not what is supported at all. 

Human populations are adapting all the time to their environments, and most evolutionary biologists agree that modernity is at least 60,000 to approximately 200,000 years old, not to mention the various problems of defining what, exactly, modernity consists of.

We don't even know if it was "Anatolian" farmers who were the source of some of these alleles, since farmers from the Balkans and Italy, for example, were not even sampled in this paper.

Zimmer even has Rasmus Nielsen, geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, chime in, supporting this shoddy, misleading paper:  “For decades we’ve been trying to figure out what happened in the past,” . . . “And now we have a time machine.” 

Wow . . . "a time machine" . . . no over emphasis there.

This is just par for the course, part of the Eurocentric jabberwocky that has become the Pablum of evolutionary biology.  Never mind that it is harmful to almost everyone, except Europeans, and especially harmful to many aboriginal people, who are often wrongly inferred to be not modern.

These and other fundamental errors are set up using statistical methods which most people cannot understand.  So they may suspect that something is wrong with these assertions, but because the assertions are made in part with mathematical and technical jargon, the vast majority of people will not be able to fully dissect or critique what is wrong.

This goes on all the time in publications in evolutionary biology.

Increasingly, I’m of the opinion that almost the entire field suffers from a quite severe Eurocentric bias, as well as gender bias.

Yet, these unsupportable “conclusions” soon turn up in arguments in the popular press,  in the  influential New York Times, and at the highest levels of government and corporations, to support often hard to detect arguments supporting race and gender discrimination.

It doesn’t help that the field seems to have a tremendous problem policing academics of major research institutes who often collude, blog and harass people online under pseudonyms. Hey, some even blog and harass using their own name. You only need to look at blogs such as the WestHunter blog , a favorite hang out for anonymous evolutionary biologist bitch sessions, often targeted against women and minorities, to see just how biased and broken are the standards of academic "professionalism" in this field:

"Education makes women less feminine, and thus less hot."

"Eh, you don’t have to marry an MBA to do that, and if she doesn’t have an MBA she is much less likely to be a self-centered, career-obsessed shrike."

"Professional women have low fertility, way below replacement: look it up. It’s not a secret. If you believe in high heritability of smarts – and you should, because it is true – that pattern is bound to have bad effects in the long run. Bad effects on the economy, too."

Oh, and what about the Eurogenes blog, another stealth blog of evolutionary biology haters and nutjobs in Academia.  "Oh, Davidski, could you add such and such population and run stats so I can see how absolutely brilliant and evolved I am, compared to everyone else?"

Nope, weakness in math is not by any means the only problem of evolutionary biologists. I’d say far more serious is a gross inability to implement basic standards of ethics and safeguards against bias (and gross negligence.)

Friday, November 20, 2015

"At length, the Rocky Mountains came in sight like shining white clouds"

David Thompson
Meeting the Peeagans [Piikani] for the first time, Bow River

At length, the Rocky Mountains came in sight like shining white clouds in the horizon but we doubted what our guide said, but as we proceeded they rose in height, their immense masses of snow appeared above the clouds and formed an impassible barrier, even to the Eagle . . .  A few miles beyond the Bow River about a dozen Peeagans met us; some of their scouts had seen us but could not say who [we] were;  they were well mounted and armed with Bows and quivers of arrows.  They gave us a hearty welcome, told us to camp where they met us, and could soon bring us good cow meat, and next morning show us to the camp.  Awhile after sunset they brought us two horse-loads of fat cow meat, we were hungry, and sat up part of the night roasting and eating as it was a long month since we had a good meal.

Two of them passed the night with us and were as anxious for news as any people could be, it was on affairs more or less connected with the tribe to which they belonged, the situation and numbers of the tribes of other Indians; whether at peace or at war, or any malady among them.  Early the next morning the rest of the party came and conducted us to their camp, where we arrived about noon.  All the elderly men came and gave us their left hand and said they were thankful we had come, as they were in want of ammunition and tobacco.  We separated ourselves two by two to three different tents where the most respectable men lived.  William Flett and myself were lodged in the tent of an old man [Saukamappee, Young Man, Cree born, Piegan Chief] whose hair was grey with age, his countenance grave but mild and open; he was full six feet in height, erect and of a frame that shewed strength and activity.  When we related the scarcity of the Bison and Deer they were pleased at it and said it would be to them a plentiful winter.  Their argument was; the Bison and Deer have passed the latter part of the summer and fall of the leaves upon the Missisouri, and have made the ground bare of grass and can no longer live there; they must come to us for the grass to live on in our country (the Bow River) and to the northward to the Kisiskatchewan where the snow is beginning to be on the ground.  The winter proved that they reasoned right for by the beginning of December, the herds of bulls which always preceded the herds of cows began to pass us for the northward; and shortly after the Stags and small herds of Doe red Deer followed by Wolves and Foxes.  After a few days the old man spoke to me in the Nahathaway language and asked me  if I understood it and how long since I had left my own country.  I answered that this is my fourth winter, and the Nahathaways are the people we trade with, and I speak the tongue sufficiently for common purposes.  Upon which, with a smile, he said "I am not a Peeagan of these plains.  I am a Nahathaway of the Pasquiau River." [Pasquia River] (a River that joins the Kisiskatchwean about fifty miles below Cumberland House) "that is my native country and of my fathers for many many winters.  I should have forgotten my mother's tongue were it not that some of my father's people come among us to buy horses and aid us in war."  I told him I knew the country, had wintered near it and hunted Geese and Ducks in the Rivers he mentioned.  He said "it is many winters since I last saw the ground where my parents lie.  I came here as a young man and my name is still the same I received (Sark a map pee, young man) as you know my country you can name the old men that now live there."  I named three old men, but he knew nothing of them.  I enquired if the Nahathaways did not give him news of his native country; he replied, they knew nothing of it and enquired what people were hunting there.  I informed him that the sons of those he left there hunted on the north bank of the River, many days march above it, that the lowest of them were on the west side of Eagle Hills and that his country was now hunted upon by the Indians whom in his time were eastward of Lake Winnipeg.  He remained silent for some time and then said, "What a stranger I now find myself in the land of my fathers."  Although erect and somewhat active, and in full possession of his faculties, yet from the events he related and upon comparing them with the accounts of the French writers on the furr trade of Canada, he must have been near ninety years of age, or more, for his relation of affairs went back to near the year one thousand seven hundred and this was now the year 1787.  (Note Between three and four years after this he died of old age.)  He was fond of conversation in his native tongue, and recounting the events of his life, the number and positions of the different tribes of Indians, how they were allied and the battles they had fought to gain the country of the Bow River (a distance in the direct line of about 800 miles in the direction of S54W).

About every evening for the time of four months I sat and listened to the old man without being in the least tired, they were blended with the habits, customs and manners, politics and religion such as it was, anecdotes of Indian chiefs, and the means of their gaining influence in war and peace that I always found something to interest me.  Upon the dreadful malady of the Small Pox whose ravages had ceased only a few years he did not wish to speak.  He said it was brought by a war party of their people who had attached a small party of the Snake [Shoshone] Indians that had it and it spread from tent to tent and camp to camp.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

UW Ph.D. candidates working to include indigenous voices in genomic research

Megan Herndon 
The Daily of the University of Washington
November 16, 2015

A long history of distrust has kept genomic research out of indigenous communities, but UW Ph.D. candidates Kate West and Keolu Fox are working to change that.

“There’s a long history in tribal communities of ‘helicopter research,’ researchers coming in, taking data, leaving, and never really being concerned about whether or not their research is helpful to the community,” said Wylie Burke, principal investigator at the UW Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality.

Fox and West recently spoke on a panel called “Engaging Indigenous Peoples in Genetics” at the meeting for American Society for Human Genetics in Baltimore, where they discussed how genomic research can be performed better through Community Based Participatory Research, which sees these communities as partners and works toward goals that will benefit them.

“It’s doing research with communities, not just in communities,” West said. “There’s a history of harm, so we are at a place where researchers need to rebuild trust because the research enterprise as a whole has really failed a lot of communities.”

West, currently pursuing her Ph.D. in public health genetics, works at the Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality, and has been involved in research with Native Alaskan communities for nearly 10 years. She said the root of distrust among indigenous people toward genetic research stems from many instances of outside researchers doing genomic studies within indigenous communities, but misusing data and not conducting studies that actually aim to help the communities.

One textbook example of this misconduct is the Havasupai case, where researchers told the tribe they were gathering their tribe’s genetic information to investigate their high rates of type II diabetes.  Without the tribe’s consent, the researchers also used those samples to investigate topics that were offensive to the tribe, such as inbreeding and schizophrenia.

“I think they set back any potential for a positive relationship between indigenous people and Westerners decades,” Fox said. “There are health care disparities that need to be addressed, but we need to work with indigenous people and make them partners, not guinea pigs.”

Fox, a Native Hawaiian working toward his Ph.D. in genome sciences, stressed the importance of including native voices in research.

He expressed the need for systemic change, comparing students of majority populations to those from minority backgrounds. He said often times when finding students to participate in research, principal investigators (PIs) will choose the students who have strong backgrounds and lots of research experience already.

These PIs don’t have to put as much time into shaping students who have had access to previous research opportunities as they might with students with a less traditional scientific education.

“Our institutions are only rewarding one problem solving style and that does a disservice to science as a whole,” Fox said. “Indigenous kids think about science totally differently, the questions we ask are different, and the potential for cornering a new niche within science is way higher. By empowering … minority students, I think the potential benefit down the road is a lot higher.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The complete mitogenome of a 500-year-old Inca child mummy

Friday, November 13, 2015

Peter Fidler's Journals - December 31th, 1792 - Oldman River, Livingstone Gap, Racehorse Creek and Naapi's Playground, Alberta

Southwest Alberta showing the position of Fidler, 25 miles north of Chief Mountain (high- lighted by red marker).  He notes a mountain 25 miles to the south:  "a high cliff on the Eastern edge of the Rocky Mountain", "Nin nase tok que ".

Chief Mountain viewed from the north (courtesy Linda JP)


Journal of Peter Fidler, December 31, 1792

At 7 AM we resumed our Journey, went SSW 6 miles & set a high cliff on the Eastern edge of the Rocky Mountain, S43 dgrees E, about 25 miles off, called by these Indians Nin nase tok que or the King & by the Southern Indians the Governor of the Mountain, being the highest known place they know off, it Inclines to the East, having a lean that way towards the top its elevation above the level of its base I suppose is not less than 4000 feet. This I estimate, with the comparison of a place that I afterwards measured, which does not appear near so high as the King.

Then went SWbS 3 miles & came to the New pew ooch ke tay cots river  [Naapi's River or Oldman River] about 20 yards wide, good current & pretty deep, betwixt the rapids which are pretty frequent, with steep rocky sides in places, Went up along the river on the north side W 1 1/4 mile & arrived close at the Eastern edge of the Mountain. [Thunder Mountain, Alberta]

Here the Cottonahew chief [Kutenai, Kutenawa, Kootenai chief] met us alone & saluted us in his manner all with a kiss. We then crossed over the river to the South side, as it was not possible any farther on the North on account of the high hills & woods. When we crossed over the river, which was not froze over, we found 12 Cottonahew Men sitting on the Ground where we arrived at 11 AM.

All our Indians & the
Cottonahews formed themselves into a circle and sat down & smoaked together 3/4 of an hour, when we set off all together to their Tents which was upon the Bank of this river a little way within the Mountain.

At the side of the river at the entrance into the Mountain very high, steep perpendicular gap.  [Livingstone Gap].  Went along the South side of the river within the Mountain WSW1/2 mile & took Sextant reading. Then continued our way close along the bank of the river which is very rocky but a narrow bare pass Betwixt the water & the high perpendicular rocks of the Mountain, S 1/3 of a Mile.

A place here called Naw peu ooch eta cots from whence this river Derives its name.

It is a place where Indians formerly assembled here to play at a particular Game with by rolling a small hoop of 4 Inches diameter & darting an Arrow out of the hand after it & those that put the arrow within the hoop while rolling along is reckoned to have gamed.

This is on a fine level grass plain, very little bigger than the enclosed space. One side is within 10 yards of the river & the direction of this curiosity is directly one North & South. All those pieces that compose the outer & inner parts are small stones set close together about the bigness of a persons fist above the ground, & they are so close set & neatly put together that it appears one entire ledge of stones.

There are 11 piles of stones, loosly piled up at regular distances along the out sides, about 14 Inches in Diameter & about the same height. These I imagine to have been places for the Older men to sit upon to see fair play on both side & to be the umpires of the Game. Here follows a sketch of the place:

On my enquiring concerning the origin of this spot, the Indians [said that a white haired old man] came from the South many ages ago, & built this for the Indians to Play at, that is different nations whom he wished to meet here annually & bury all anamosities betwixt the different Tribes, by assembling here & playing together. They also say that this same person made Buffalo, on purpose for the Indians. They describe him as a very old white headed man . . .  ["A white headed man" is the Blackfoot phase for an old man with white hair.]

Then go along the river as before, W1/2 mile, and arrive at 7 Cotton ahew [Kutenai] Tents, which are of a smaller size than our Indian’s Tents [Blackfoot tents] but made & pitched in the same manner.

The Indians began to barter for horses as soon as we arrived & soon bought all the Cottonahews [Kutenai] had to show, for a mere trifle, some only giving an old Hatchet, some an old Kettle, &c. &c. Several of our Indians returned Back in the Evening to their own Tents & the remainder stays here until tomorrow.

After smoaking a Pipe with the Cottonahews, I went away privately up the river to examine & measure the altitude of the Mountain in this place. Had the Indians have known they would some of them have accompanied me & hindered me from making the remarks I wished.

Went up the river West 1/4 mile above the Tents, when this river divides into 2 branches, one running from the NNW 2 miles up that reach in sight, & the Southern branch SwbW 1 1/4 mile. [Racehorse Creek] Where the rivers part pretty large pine & poplars & 2 new Beaver houses, also on the South side a large spring of excellent water spouts up from under the perpendicular rocks.

That water in these rivers is very clear & appears at times to rise above 18 feet perpendicular as I could find by small pieces of driftwood lying upon the branches of Pine trees that height above the level of the river. This South West branch of the river is the one the Cottenahew Indians [Kutenai] come along from the West side of the Mountain, the Head of which by their account is about 2 of their days journey in these difficult parts which is about 14 miles from the Western edge of the Mountain.

There is no way of passing over these Mountains in these Latitudes, except along rivers & here it is attended with great hardships & danger. These Indians slept 5 nights from the Western to this place which as I could find from the Indians is about 40 miles a SWbS Course. They say that it is nearly of an equal breadth from the report of different Indians who have crossed over it in different places.

I climbed up a gentle ascent, this making an angle of more than 60 degrees with the horizon, and after much fatigue I got to the top in 2 1/2 hours time, from which an extensive view may be seen into the Country to the Eastward, but to the Westward the high Mountain hides the eye from seeing to any considerable distance all in that direction.

There was only a few places with in the eyes extent that is higher than the place I stood on. Here the Mountain stands upon a level base, but to the N West toward the Head of the Bad [Bow] river & the Devils Head, the mountain is upon an uneven foundation, the eastern parts dip & the Western rising gradually above one another in the interior of the Mountain.

(Part included in journal but not here.)

On the top of the Mountain I found a deal of sheep Dung but saw none of these Animals, altho’ they are very plentiful all thro the Mountain, & never leave it to visit the Plains more than a mile or 2 from the Mountain. There are also Goats here, of a small black sharp pointed horn like a young bull calf. There are also several other animals here in the Mountain that the Indians describe, but from their description from want of knowing a sufficiency of their language, I was unable to judge what sort of animal they mean.

(Part included in journal but not here.)

Slept in the Cott ahew tents [Kutenai tents] where I returned after my ramble at dusk in the evening.

Our Indians [Piegans] had missed me soon after I went away, & they sought me everywhere they thought to have found me, never thinking I would undertake the great trouble and fatigue of ascending to the summit of the Mountain. They even suspected that the Cottonahews [Kutenai] had some of them killed me slyly & had I had any accident, they would have fallen on the innocent Cottanahews & killed them all.

I traded from these Indians 2 Drest Sheep Skins, very light & supple, 1 Wolf Skin, ill dressed & 2 Beaver Skins, which was in the same predicament, part of the flesh still adhereing to the Skin. The Hair of the Beaver was short & of a dirty brown colour.

After being in the Tent some little time, the Chief Man [Kutenai Chief] filled a pipe & smoked to me & several Muddy river Indians, after lighting the Pipe he made a speech in his own tongue which I did not comprehend one word. He then made several signs with his pipe stem, when he took 4 good hearty wiffs & gave it to me.

I was according to the customs I had seen amongst other Indians smoaking away at my ease, but after the 4th wiff he took the Pipe from me & made me understand by signs that 4 was the number upon extraordinary occasions, making Peace, meeting friends & strangers, as was the case at present.

When the Pipe was out he filled another, all of his Tobacco of their own Growing, & gave to me & made me understand that I should light it & make the same ceremonies with the pipe as we did in our own country, but I made several curious motions with it that they could not comprehend or myself either, however as I kept my gravity, tho’ with great difficulty during the ceremony, & then took 3 hearty whiffs, & delivered it to the next in rotation, when every one gave a great ho, three times, & these people appeared to be highly pleased at my dexterity with the Pipe.

These people [Kutenai] have a Tent for each wife, whom they visit occasionally. The reason they assign for this singular custom is that too many wives together never agree, which is good reasoning, This Man had 4. He was about 40 years of age, and of a smaller stature. I was the first European they had ever seen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Peter Fidler's Journals - December 29th, 1792 - Porcupine Hills, Alberta

Porcupine Hills (foreground), Southwest Alberta, Rocky Mountains looking south (background)
Peter Fidler
December, 29, 1792

 ...At 1 1/2 PM, several of our Young Men arrived here, with 25 Good horses, they have been stealing from the Snake Indians [Shoshone], notwithstanding the Peace that was made betwixt them this Summer. These Men say that a few Tents of Cottonahew Indians [Kutenaxa, Kutenai] are at the Naw pew ooch e tay cots river (Old Man) [Naapi's River], wishing our Indians to visit them with Goods, to barter for Horses.

A peace betwixt these 2 Tribes was also made this Summer. After the Young Men arrived almost every person was making a collection of different useful articles to go to trade Horses from the Cottonahews [Kutenai, Kutenai] — such as old Kettles, Hatchets, Cloth, Beads, Knives, Tobacco, &c. &c.

At 4 1/4 AM 50 Men well armed with both Guns & Bows & Arrows set off to Trade with the above Indians, & I & John Ward accompanied them on purpose to see these Indians, who has never seen a European before. Our old Chief also accompanied us. I took also a few articles of Trading Goods to make a little present to the Cottonhew Chief [Kutenai, Kutenai], & for Trading any curiosity.

I wished to have traded a Horse from them, but our chance for that is very much against us, as the Indians always prefer trading with one another before they do Europeans. Besides we well know that our Indians would take them by force as we are 3 to one & well armed.

Generally of the Men went on foot expecting to trade horses to ride back, a few elderly men rode as also me & John Ward. We went SbW 9 miles & crossed a small river about 15 yards wide, pretty good current but shoal, running EbS (Willow Creek).

Nearly, then SbW 3 miles, when the Chief, John Ward, & about 20 men returned back to their Tents. The Chief used every method in his power, except force, to persuade me to return, as he said that the road was very bad — also a great distance & perhaps the Cottonahews [Kutenawa] might hurt me.

There was the Good old man's advice, as his only motive for returning was that we should not run any risk while under his care; however, I strongly insisted in going forward to see the country & the Indians., & when he found that he could not pursuade me the good old man shed tears when we parted but he laid very great stress upon them that accompanied me never to let me go out of their sight.

30 of us pursued our Journey forward & John Ward, the Chief and 20 men returned back to the Tents. At 9 3/4 PM, went SSW 8 miles & crossed a small Creek & went along deep vallies with very steep high hills (Porcupine Hills) on each side of the road, but well covered with small pine, firr, asp, &c.

Then SSW 8 & one of our Men shot a Bull at 3 1/2 AM on the 31st, being nearly full moon, & very clear & light. We remained here 2 1/2 hours, roasting a little of the Bull & took a small nap of sleep.

Fresh Gales at SW, rather cloudy, evening pretty clear, night, sharp frost, & altho the moon shone bright, the deep vallies & high hills close on each side us covered with woods, made it bad walking & riding in the night.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Structured World of the Niitsitapi: The Landscape as Historical Archive among Hunter-Gatherers of the Northern Plains

The Structured World of the Niitsitapi: The Landscape as Historical Archive among Hunter-Gatherers of the Northern Plains
Gerald A. Oetelaar, D. Joy Oetelaar
Structured Worlds: The Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherer Thought and Action
Aubrey Cannon, editor

The northernmost peak represented on Old Swan’s (Aka-omahkayii’s) map is named O mock cow wat che mooks as sin, or Swan’s Bill. This important landmark was first described by Peter Fidler (1991:22) on Thursday, November 29, 1792 as a remarkably high cliff, even though the peak fails to attain the altitudes of the neighbouring summits. However, when seen from the plains, Swan’s Bill has a unique shape and this aspect, more than its height, makes it a distinctive landmark. The name for this peak is very descriptive, but the image conveyed by the moniker can only be understood when the feature is seen from the right perspective and at the right time of year. In this case, the name of the peak probably describes the appearance of the landmark during the winter months, precisely the time of year many Niitsitapi groups are camped in the sheltered valleys of the adjoining Foothills. At this time, the snow-covered lower slopes of the mountains are white while the steep sides of this distinctive peak are black (Figure 5.3). Seen at this time of year, O mock cow wat che mooks as sin is reminiscent of a trumpeter swan in a characteristic pose with its peak pointing toward the sky.

The congruence between the name of the landmark and the name of the cartographer is also consistent with the cartographic conventions of Indigenous groups. Unlike the Western cartographic tradition where landmarks are named after important people, the Indigenous strategy is to name people after the local landmarks (Pentland 1975). Thus, Old Swan and his relatives were Siksika who may well have established their winter camps in the shadow of Swan’s Bill [Mountain]. More importantly, the groups residing in the vicinity of such landmarks retain this identifier, even upon the death of a particular leader. Significantly, the son of Old Swan assumed the same name after the death of his father in 1794 (Binnema 1996:13), presumably reflecting the important link between social groups and specific wintering grounds within the Niitsitapi homeland (see also Tacon 1994).

Of all the peaks along this section of the Front Range, O mock cow wat che mooks as sun [Swan's Bill] was selected not only for its distinctive shape, but also its relationship to an important mountain pass (Oetelaar and Meyer 2006). On George M. Dawson’s 1884 “Map of the Bow and Belly Rivers,” an important east-west trail extends along the Bow River from Blackfoot Crossing to the Rocky Mountains. If one extends this trail westward, the terminus lines up with Swan’s Bill. The easiest trail into the mountains in the vicinity of Swan’s Bill extends up the Ghost River by Lake Minnewanka to the Bow River at Cascade Mountain and thus avoids the low lying terrain in the vicinity of Lac des Arcs. In 1858, James Hector recognized this pass as the one likely used by Sir George Simpson in 1841, and described it as “the only route by which we could hope to get further into the mountains with dogs, as everywhere here the country is covered with dense forest . . .” (Palliser 1863:121). Thus, Swan’s Bill also represents an important landmark for Plains groups traveling toward and into the Rocky Mountains to obtain specific resources and to trade with groups living on the west side of the main range. Judging from the results of recent archaeological research on the shores of Lake Minnewanka (Landals 1998, 1999), movement along this route appears to have considerable antiquity.

A second important mountain peak depicted on Old Swan’s map is identified as Ninaistakis, or the Chief. Once again, the name is an apt description for this distinctive peak, which, when seen from the Plains, appears to be set ahead of the neighbouring peaks much like a chief leading his people (Figure 5.4). Ninaistakis is recognized as one of the most sacred landmarks in the Niitsitapi homeland and, as noted below, is associated with Thunder. In a discussion of Native religious activities, Reeves (1994) identifies Ninaistakis (Chief Mountain) as a conspicuous landmark and place of spiritual power for the Niitsitapi. The religious significance of Chief Mountain is evident from its inclusion in origin myths, from the sheer number of vision quest structures located on its flanks and the numerous offerings which, through to the present, cover trees near its base (see, for example, Clark 1966; Palliser 1859:32; Schultz 2002:201-209, 220-226; Wissler and Duvall 1995 [1908]:19, 23-24). Significantly, this mountain peak also identifies the location of a major pass through the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains in northern Montana (Oetelaar 2001).

Although not represented on this map, a third significant peak occurs along this section of the Rocky Mountains which Piskaan Monroe pointed out to Robertson-Ross in 1872. On September 28, the party camped just north of the Old Man’s River, “in full sight of the ‘Crow’s Nest,’ a large mountain so called by the Blackfeet and noted in Palliser’s map” (Robertson-Ross 1961:20). This peak occurs within the Crow’s Nest Pass in the vicinity of Coleman, Alberta. Ironically, there is no consensus on either the name or the origin of the name for Crow’s Nest Pass or Crow’s Nest Mountain (ma-sto-eeas), though there is no lack of discussion on the topic. (see, for example, Geographic Board of Canada 1928:39-40; Cousins 1981:14-16). That there is such debate, in our estimation, reflects the failure of proponents to understand the Niitsitapi perspectives of the landscape. As noted by numerous researchers, Indigenous names for landmarks are very descriptive (e.g. Basso 1990, 1996a, 1996b; Cruikshank 1990), but the images conveyed can only be understood when one views the feature from a particular spot on the landscape. To understand the name of Crow’s Nest, it is necessary to view the mountain range from a trail which approaches the gap into the Front Rnages from the southeast. When viewed from this perspective, Crow’s Nest Mountain projects well above the neighbouring peaks and resembles a crow or raven sitting in its nest (Figure 5.5).  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mapping The Marias: The Interface Of Native And Scientific Cartographies

Barbara Belyea
Great Plains Quarterly
(Link) pdf

Preconceptions and Ways of Seeing

But so insistent an intrusion as the arc of "Clark's River" remains exceptional in Clark's cartography. Similarly, there were moments such as the pause at the Missouri/Marias junction when Lewis and Clark were driven to suspect the insufficiency of their own understanding, but such moments did not last. "Actual observations" were used to fill in blanks, not to revise conventional images. It is difficult to appreciate just how wide a gap there must have been between the Native people's way of seeing water- and landforms, and the explorers' insistence on their own standard geographical patterns. Like Fidler and Lewis, like Arrowsmith, like Allen and Moulton, we tend to assume that our perception of geographic patterns is a direct understanding of natural phenomena - that we are accurately seeing what is there. A hint of this bias comes from explorers' tendency to rename geographical features, and historians' acceptance of these names as the "real" ones. Lewis identified the "River which scolds at all others" with the river he had named for its "peculiar whiteness"; according to Allen, this was "the Milk River of reality."[54] We need to remember that Lewis and Clark came west laden with scientific baggage, the chief elements of which were not their instruments but their preconceptions: their "logical and theoretical constructions," to use Allen's phrase again. We have inherited this way of seeing, as demonstrated by our scientifically correct topographical maps and geographical information systems. But the Native cartographers that Fidler engaged were under no constraint to depict the upper Missouri as a watershed. Instead their maps show the Missouri as a web of equal streams, a series of fords, a multiplicity of access routes to the mountains. The logic of the captains' choice at the Marias occasioned the expedition's long detour past the Missouri's great falls to its three forks, across Lemhi Pass, and north along the Bitterroot trail. Yet shorter, easier routes could have been found by following well-worn Native trails to the buffalo. The captains' reliance on scientific geography actually slowed their progress, and for good reason: although they had great faith in details of Native "information" gained at Fort Mandan, they were less curious about the patterns of Native geographical knowledge.

A more "remarkable act of the mind" than that of Lewis and Clark is left for us to accomplish: to realize that river shapes and "connection with other rivers" are not limited to the watershed pattern we unthinkingly accept.  This is very hard to do, since our vocabulary of rivers (source, branch, mainstream, affluent, tributary, watershed) reflects the hegemonic model of empirical science. We do not have appropriate words to describe or explain what is traced on the maps Fidler and Clark solicited. But we can at least acknowledge that Native maps were not simply "rude drawings," as Moulton calls them - sketchy, approximate, crude designs that European and American explorers felt obliged to revise, pulverize into "data" and insert into their own "correct" geography.[55]  The captains' dilemma at the Missouri/Marias junction was the dilemma of all exploration, and especially of frontier cartography:  the coexistence of two cultural verities - that of the Native inhabitants, and the explorers' own. In the end, one kind of knowledge could not be integrated, rationalized, reduced to the other, despite the partial inclusion of details learned from Native informants on scientific maps that the explorers carried with them. Lewis suspected Fidler's "varacity" when the periphery of Arrowsmith's map became his own center of interest. The captains were intent on replacing both Native knowledge and "erroneous" constructions with their own "actual observations," according to the progression outlined by Allen. But as we have seen, their mapping simply continued the patchwork compilation that had produced the Arrowsmith 1802 update and Clark's own Fort Mandan map. On his return Clark continued the same process of combining his own surveys with reports from Native informants and traders, selected and rationalized to conform with scientifically acceptable ideas and patterns. His great map of the West, drawn in 1810, was engraved by Samuel Lewis and published in 1814 with the Biddle/Allen text.  Arrowsmith was to extend the process by one more stage when he selectively copied information from the Samuel Lewis map onto his next update of the Map Exhibiting all the New Discoveries.

With Arrowsmith's 1814 update, the process of scientific enquiry that had prompted the Lewis and Clark expedition came full circle. As he had Fidler's maps, Arrowsmith gave Clark's work the imprimatur of scientific authority and made it available for yet further correction in the field. In their journals Fidler, Lewis, and Clark expressed a qualified awareness of and confidence in Native knowledge; on their maps, whatever the Native visitors to Fort Mandan had said about the Missouri upstream, whatever they had drawn, pointed to, and named was transformed out of recognition or rejected in favor of a "correct" scientific view. At best we can reconstruct this cultural frontier as a tentative, fragmented, one-sided account of the explorers' attempt to assimilate this knowledge into their own image of the West. The other voice of the dialogue is missing, and that absence is our loss.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Indian Maps in the Hudson's Bay Archives: A Comparison of Five Area Maps Recorded by Peter Fidler, 1801-1802

Map of Aka-Omahkayii (Old Swan), Blackfoot Chief, 1801, showing the Pacific Northwest, The Upper Missouri River, The Columbia River, The Fraser River, The Bow River, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, as recorded by Peter Fidler

Judith Hudson Beattie
Archivaria 21 (Winter 1985-86)

From the beginning, the success of the Hudson's Bay Company's fur trade depended on close cooperation with native North Americans. In fact, simply to survive in the unfamiliar conditions around Hudson Bay required an adaptation to Indian ways. To venture inland meant dependence on Indian and Inuit knowledge. Henry Kelsey may have been the first company employee to travel inland to the prairies, but he was successful only because he was accepted as a member of an Indian travelling party. Samuel Hearne met with frustration and failure until Matonabee guided him to the Coppermine River. Given the company's reliance on native knowledge of geography, it is not surprising that the Hudson's Bay Company Archives preserves an unusually large number of maps either drawn by Indians or of Indian origin which constitute a major source for study of native maps and mapping techniques.

D. Wayne Moodie has described native mapmaking as a "widespread and well developed art," with the maps "usually drawn on the ground or in the snow" and "sketched from memory."' There are some thirty maps attributed entirely to Indian mapmakers, some recorded in more than one version, and a great many more maps in the archives executed by company servants but incorporating significant geographic areas and routes based entirely on Indian information. This may not seem to involve a large number of maps, but as a proportion of the Indian maps surviving, or at least identified to date, it is considerable. Malcolm Lewis, a geographer who has scoured the major North American repositories over the last decade in search of maps of Indian origin, has gleaned references to only several hundred items for the entire continent. Certainly if we restrict our area of interest to Western Canada, the majority of the surviving lndian maps are found in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba (HBCA, PAM).

Over two-thirds of the Indian maps in the company archives were recorded by Peter Fidler, who served as postmaster and surveyor for the company from 1788 until his death in 1822. From 1801 to 1810, when all his copies of Indian maps were drafted, he was exploring, mapping, and establishing posts on the inland waterways draining into Hudson Bay. He collected maps from Indians with various tribal affiliations and different hunting and travelling experiences. Some he knew well and others he simply passed on the trail, but all contributed to his knowledge about the location of the richest fur sources and the alternative routes into these areas.

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