Monday, May 30, 2016

Treaty Oration Speech of Chief Si'ahl (Seattle), 1854

Chief Si'ahl (Seattle) (photographer unknown)

(The first transcribed version of the speech by Chief Si'ahl (Seattle) appeared in the Seattle Sunday Star on Oct. 29, 1887, in a column by Dr. Henry A. Smith who was a witness to the original speech in 1854.)

The speech:

"Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return. His people are many. They are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. The great, and I presume -- good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably. This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive country.

"There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.

"Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and paint their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better.

"Our good father in Washington--for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north--our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward -- the Haidas and Tsimshians -- will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son. But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.

"To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors -- the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.

"Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.

"Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun. However, your proposition seems fair and I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of dense darkness.

"It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.

"A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.

"We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children. Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.

"Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds."

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Ihkitsikammiksi (The Seven Stars) as told by Irene Day Rider
Blackfoot Digital Library

Story of the Seven Stars, told by Irene Day Rider, dramatized by Faye Heavy Shields, Dr. Lena Russell, Julius Delaney, James Medicine Crane, Tyler Swag, Jarrid Richards and Marley Heavy Shields. The story was originally recorded in 2007 at Red Crow College as part of the Legends Project and broadcast on CBC Radio One.

Ritualistic Archaeo-astronomy: The Rock Art of India

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Social memory inscribed in rock art: Bear Restoration Complex in Pleistocene-Holocene Transition Siberia and North America

Wind (Big Horn) River (Boysen Reservoir) petroglyphs

Lynda D. McNeil
L’art pléistocène dans le monde / Pleistocene art of the world / Arte pleistoceno en el mundo
September 2010
(Link) pdf

Blog comment on this paper:  I am reluctantly putting this paper on my blog.  I do agree with the author that there is a connection between Siberian and Legend Rock (Wyoming) petroglyphs.  However, the paper focuses on the notion of a Bear Restoration Complex and under emphasizes the obvious swan-elk-hunter/birdman theme evident in the Wind (Big Horn) River (Boysen Reservoir) petroglyphs and its probable connection with star constellations on the Milky Way/Path of Birds/Path of Souls/Path of Wolves.  The paper is also problematic in the suggestion of a simplistic one-directional migration from Siberia to North America at the Late Pleistocene/Holocene transition.  In fact, most Native Americans from North America object to this simplistic theory.  An increasing body of evidence shows that the ancestors of Native Americans reached the Americas before and during the last Ice Age, and that there continued to be travel back and forth between North America and Siberia until the flooding of Beringia.  In any case, the comparison between Siberian and Wyoming Rock Art is fascinating.

The paper (introduction):

"Using a poststructural practice approach to rock art interpretation,1 this paper seeks to reconstruct an understanding of the social and cognitive processes involved in the transmission of an ancient Angara rock art style from central Siberia to North America. As I argued in a previous paper (McNeil 2005), Tungusic Manchu-speaking Evenki in Siberia produced rock art at ceremonial sites and inscribed images (Connerton 1989) intended to communicate a regional Bear Restoration Complex and bear-human ancestry religious beliefs. The ancestral Evenki clans’ shared practical and discursive knowledge (Bourdieu 1977; Giddens 1987, 1984) was grounded in hunter-gatherer lifeways, bolstered by bear restoration cycle beliefs and ritual practices. A similar style with probable connections to this ideology appears to have been replicated in North America (Wyoming) during the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition (PHT) or Early Holocene."

"Both Siberian and Wyoming (USA) rock art data sets are based upon a combination of personal observation in the field and published photographs. The Siberian data set for this analysis is based upon personal field observation of rock art on the Middle Yenisey River (Minusinsk Basin) in the Soviet Republic of Khakassia, Siberia (July to August 2002), in addition to over one hundred published photographs from the following Middle Yenisey rock art sites: Oglakhty I-II, Tepsej I-II, Ust’-Tuba II-III, and Shalabolino (Francfort & Sher 1995; Martynov 1991; Pyatkin 1998; Pyatkin & Martynov 1985; Sher et al. 1994). The Wyoming data set is based upon field observation of the Archaic Hunting style rock art at Legend Rock and of photographs taken by archaeologist Richard Wheeler in 1950 of the relevant rock art panel (48FR99) at the Boysen Reservoir site prior to the panel’s inundation."

"The paper addresses the following research question: what social and cognitive processes could account for the reproduction of PHT Siberian Angara rock art style and bear restoration themes in North American (Wyoming)? Based upon a theory of structuration and materiality (idea-embodying style), I argue that the rock art’s emplacement and inscription both in central Siberian (Middle Yenisey) and in Wyoming (Wind River/Big Horn Basins) functioned to preserve and transmit collective social memories integral to the Bear Restoration Complex (cosmology, beliefs, and ritual practices) and their bear-human ancestry and identity."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wapiti Migration, Montana


    Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park (Link)

Karagem Valley: A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai

      Old style deer image of Karagem Valley, Altai.

Karagem Valley:  A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai
(Link) pdf

"In this paper I would like to present a piece of Altaic prehistory which has left its traces in the rocks of the wild landscape of the southern Siberian Mountains.

"The starting point will be a rock art location in the Karagem valley. Its carvings and possible meaning will be studied in detail. Next I am trying to discuss the place from a landscape perspective. This study is a result from the expedition “Altai 2003”, organized by the University of Tomáš Baťa in Zlín (Department of Palaeoecology), which took place in June and July 2003. The rock art investigation was just one of several tasks of the expedition, since the main focus was rather ecological, botanical and geological investigation of the south Altai region.

1. Geographical context

"Altai, the highest mountain range in Siberia, extends over the territory of four states: Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. Its elevation reaches up to 4000 m (the highest point being Belukha at 4506 m). The mountain area can be divided into vast steppes, alpine meadows, tundra and areas with glaciers. The south-eastern regions are appropriate for year-round cattle pasturing, because of a thin snow cover (BOKOVENKO 1995). Climatic conditions are sharply continental and demanding for human survival, even today.

2. A brief outline of Altaic prehistory and history

"The Altai seems to be a unique chronicle of the past. Several cultures and ethnic groups have engraved their specific “signature” here during the past in the form of graveyards, rock carvings, but also in the present day traditional craft and magical perception of the world. This extraordinary landscape, cruel and amazing, has also formed the people, leaving traces in their mentality, and, in my opinion, an extremely high “energetic potential” of it. Scythic culture has influenced the distant peoples in Europe (TALBOT RICE 1957, 178–196).

"The very first evidence of human presence in the Altai area coincides with the Stone Age. Several rock carvings of Palaeolithic age were found for instance on the Ukok Plateau – at a location called Kalgutinskij rudnik (MOLODOV 1997, 39). During the Neolithic period, certain relations to the area surrounding Lake Baikal and the Angara River seem to have emerged, which is suggested by carvings of female elks in Altai. It became the most characteristic animal in the rock art of the region (OKLADNIKOV 1966; KŠICA 1973, 145; JACOBSON 1993, 91).

(read more) pdf

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Ballad of Crowfoot (Issapóómahksika)

The Ballad of Crowfoot by Willie Dunn, National Film Board of Canada

Distribution of Cervus Canadensis (Wapiti)

Light green:  Former recent distribution
Dark green:  Current distribution
Beringian Ice Age distribution not shown

(Link) wiki

"Modern subspecies are descended from elk that once inhabited Beringia, a steppe region between Asia and North America that connected the two continents during the Pleistocene. Beringia provided a migratory route for numerous mammal species, including brown bear, camel, horse, caribou, and moose, as well as humans.[58] As the Pleistocene came to an end, ocean levels began to rise; elk migrated southwards into Asia and North America. In North America they adapted to almost all ecosystems except for tundra, true deserts, and the gulf coast of the U.S. The elk of southern Siberia and central Asia were once more widespread but today are restricted to the mountain ranges west of Lake Baikal including the Sayan and Altai Mountains of Mongolia and the Tianshan region that borders Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and China's Xinjiang Province.[59] The habitat of Siberian elk in Asia is similar to that of the Rocky Mountain subspecies in North America."

"Throughout their range, they live in forest and in forest edge habitat, similar to other deer species. In mountainous regions, they often dwell at higher elevations in summer, migrating down slope for winter. The highly adaptable elk also inhabit semi-deserts in North America, such as the Great Basin. Manchurian and Alashan wapiti are primarily forest dwellers and their smaller antler size is a likely adaptation to a forest environment."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Faunal record identifies Bering isthmus conditions as constraint to end-Pleistocene migration to the New World

Meirav Meiri, Adrian M. Lister, Matthew J. Collins, Noreen Tuross, Ted Goebel, Simon Blockley, Grant D. Zazula, Nienke van Doorn, R. Dale Guthrie, Gennady G. Boeskorov, Gennady F. Baryshnikov, Andrei Sher, Ian Barnes
Proceedings of the Royal Society B:  Biological Sciences
11 December 2013

Figure 2:  Map showing approximate locations of ancient Cervus remains sampled in this study. Colours correspond to geographical locations: purple, North America; blue, northeast Siberia; green, central Asia; red, east China; black, samples that did not yield DNA.

Blog comment:  the paper concludes that Cervus canadensis (wapiti) entered North America from Siberia/Beringia in large numbers approximately 15 thousand years ago.  However, I would note that the paper does not sample ancient DNA from any part of North America for wapiti that would have been south of Last Glacial Maximum glaciers.  It therefore does not seem clear to me as to how the paper came to the conclusion that wapiti in North American today are mostly from Siberian/Beringian wapiti introduced since the last ice age.

Divergence Times for Native American vs Siberian Populations

Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans
Raghavan et al.
July 21, 2015

Supplemental Data Section S7. Timing early Native American migrations (present-day samples) 
Method I: diCal (Demographic Inference using Composite Approximate Likelihood) Analysis 
Method: “Paul and Song (158) developed a principled approach based on the Wright-Fisher diffusion process with recombination to derive improved CSDs directly from the underlying population genetics model.”

Figure S15, shows that all Amerindians (including Athabascan speakers) split from Siberian groups, in this case Koryaks and Nivkhs, approximately 20,000 years ago (with the earliest divergence occurring at approximately 26,000 years ago, and the most recent possible limit on the split occurring approximately 16,000 years ago.) This method suggests a soft split between Siberian and Amerindian groups, starting approximately 26,000 years ago, and continuing over a long time frame of approximately 10,000 years.  The split is statistically complete at approximately 16,000 years ago.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dene-Yeniseic in Past and Future Perspective

Edward J. Vajda

This is a great paper on Vajda's development of the Dene-Yeniseic language connection, and also more generally on current challenges and schools of thought within linguistics.  If you are interested in Trans-Beringian language connections, or more generally on the development of methods to look at language connections in deep time (with divergence of potentially greater than 10,000 years), this paper is an engaging and thought provoking read.