Wednesday, July 29, 2015

“The Elks Are Our Horses”: Animals and Domestication in the New France Borderlands

Benjamin Breen
Journal of Early American History 3 (2013) 181–206 

"When the Ottawa chief warned that “the French will do with us what they do with their cattle”, he explicitly linked animal husbandry to human captivity. In doing so, he drew upon a deep-seated association between the two concepts so fundamental that it was embedded in the structure of his language. In Ottawa, as in other Algonquian and Iroquoian tongues, the words for “tamed creature/pet” and “captive/slave” were linked."

"To ally with the French, the chief argued, was to willingly become an animal in their service – and the state of being a tame animal shaded into native conceptions of human bondage. In protesting this specific alliance, the Ottawa chief was thus also rejecting one of the most fundamental structuring principles of European society: a hierarchical social order that regarded mas-tery over domesticated animals as integral to improvement, commerce, and “civility”."

European and Native Conceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship.

"The Ottawa chief and his audience inhabited a world that was in many ways both physically and symbolically centered on animals. Although most Algonquians and Iroquoians practiced extensive agriculture, harsh winters necessitated a substantial seasonal reliance upon game hunting. Animal products not only supplied food, but also furnished critical materials for clothing, housing, and tools. The most prominent creatures inhabiting the North American woods (such as turtles, elk, eagles, lynxes, and bears) also played an important role in mythology as sentient beings with complex motivations and powers.  Materials from such “other-than-human persons” were central to Native American religiosity and to the closely related realms of medicine and bodily practice."

"Perhaps the most important symbolic role of animals was as markers of individual and group identities. Among the Anishinaabeg (a culture group including the Ottawa and the Ojibwe), Heidi Bohaker has identified 108 discrete pictorial identities used by native signatories in treaties and petitions throughout the colonial period, the vast majority of which were animals. In a 1701 treaty, for instance, 30 out of 38 different indigenous nations repre-sented themselves with animal pictographs ranging from bears, eagles, and foxes to beavers, cranes, frogs, turtles, and catfish. John Tanner, an Ojibwe captive at the end of the eighteenth century, likewise described an animal-based symbolic writing that “was in common use among the Indians” as a method of communicating information about oneself and close kin."

"The sense of divine order that informed these conceptions of the animal-human relationship was exemplified by the Algonquian concept of manitou, described by Daniel Richter as “the impersonal force that permeated the world, observable in anything marvelous, beautiful, or dangerous”. Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region typically viewed their sub-sistence hunting as a part of this balanced cosmos, and strove to keep things in order by propitiating the manitous of the animals they killed. These ‘boss spirits’ or ‘keepers of the game’ figured in dreams, stories, and myths as beautiful, manitou-infused versions of the animals they represented."

Fig. 1. The North American interior circa 1700, with places, cities and indig-enous cultural groups mentioned in the text labeled. Note that there were several sites named ‘Kaskaskia’ in the Mississippi region – the Kaskaskia labeled here refers to the settlement (sometimes called ‘Old Kaskaskia’) that existed along the banks of the Illinois River in the 1670s and 1680s. Map by the author.

"In his travels with the Sieur Dulhut from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi, the missionary Louis Hennepin observed that the people he encountered uniformly “believe that several kinds of Animals have a rea-sonable Soul” capable of “com[ing] back into the World to see how they treat their Bodies, and give notice accordingly to the rest of the Beasts both dead and living”. Although Hennepin and other French travelers held such beliefs in contempt, Europeans also envisioned animals as co-existing with humans according to a universal cosmic order. These beliefs had an Old Testament pedigree which established humans as the most exalted mortals on the “great chain of being”: the rest of the world’s creatures existed for and because of them, and it was the duty of man to shape nature to his will. In common with other early modern Christians, French travellers in the New World thus believed that man’s “divinely ordained role was to change and control [nature] by his arts and his technology”. On the ground, these generalized views acquired a distinctly Baroque French favor. In his recent work on animals and the “civilizing process” in absolutist France, Peter Sahlins has argued that the symbolic meanings of animals in elite French culture changed markedly during the seventeenth century. Whereas sixteenth-century nobles prized bloody animal combat and exotic beasts, by the 1660s, Louis XIV and his court had adopted a “language of the animal world” in which well-ordered, tamed menageries became “a living metaphor of royal authority and aristocratic civility”"

"These evolving attitudes toward animals shaped the foreign policies of Colbert and other leaders who sought to domesticate, tame and "Frenchify" (franchiser) a "wild" landscape."

"However, Colbert’s objectives were frequently counterbalanced by what François-Xavier Charlevoix called the “libertine habits” of young fur traders in the interior, who he blamed for “the Arts being neglected” and “many good Lands left uncultivated”. Fur traders were hostile to both the Jesuits and the French government, since any attempt to force native peoples into permanent settlements would necessarily disrupt existing commercial networks built upon territorial ranging. Long-distance trade in animal pelts and hides across the North American interior had a deep Pre-Columbian history, but by the seventeenth century this trade had also tapped into a globalized mercantile system that offered an alternative, mobile, hunting-based model for French commercial expansion. Conflicts about francization of societies on the outer edge of French imperial control were thus, at the largest level, part of a debate about the nature of commerce and society itself: was it possible to be “civilized” yet unsettled? Could land usage patterns based around hunting form the basis for a successful commercial society? The language of animals played an important role in these debates: the missionary survey of sixteenth-century exotic animal combat (including the famous battle between a rhinoceros and elephant at the behest of King Manuel I of Portugal in 1515), Jacques Marquette was expressing a common sentiment when he likened the inhabitants of the Illinois country to “lost sheep, that must be sought for among the thickets and woods” in order to be civilized. The goal of la francization was thus to transform both American landscapes and the humans and animals who inhabited them into not only societal, but also ecological and environmental analogs of France. Indians were to find fixed habitations, to cease to “keep things in common”, and to adopt Old World patterns of resource management, husbandry, and agriculture. One of the first steps toward achieving these goals was the abandonment of long-held attitudes toward animals and the embrace of European models of animal possession."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

French student finds tooth dating back 560,000 years

Valentin Loescher, left, holding the tooth, and Camille Jacquey were working together on the dig. Photograph: Denis Dainat/EPA

Tooth unearthed by 20-year-old volunteer hailed as major discovery by paleoanthropologist overseeing dig at Arago cave near Tautavel.

Angelique Chrisafis, Agence-France Press and The Guardian
July 28th, 2014

Friday, July 24, 2015

Who Owns The Ancient One?

Kim TallBear
BuzzFeed Contributor

In 1996, a Washington college student trying to sneak into a hydroplane race on the Columbia River — and drinking a Busch Light — stumbled upon one of the most ancient, most complete skeletons ever discovered. Last month, genomics experts announced in Nature that the 8,500-year-old skeleton — known among scientists as the Kennewick man — is most closely related to today’s Native Americans.

To the local tribes in Washington State, the new addition to the family tree came as no surprise. Since the remains were discovered, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have claimed that the Kennewick Man, whom they call the Ancient One, is their ancestor. The Ancient One’s skeleton, they argue, should be returned to them for reburial, in accordance with the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Other scientists disagreed. Some speculated that there aren’t sufficiently local genetic samples to link the Ancient One to living tribes. In 2004, a judge ruled that the Ancient One failed NAGPRA’s cultural affiliation requirement: A “shared group identity” must be traced from skeleton to present-day members of the tribe though geography, kinship, language, folklore, and more.

It’s hard to prove one’s cultural affiliation with a 9,000-year-old skeleton. But proving one’s genetic affiliation has its own complications. New research methods appear to provide the evidence necessary to validate Native-Americans’ ancestry. But by using science to legitimize their claims, Native Americans risk ceding control of their tribal identity to research institutions and their interests.

And indigenous people have good reasons not to trust them. Mainstream science’s treatment of Native-Americans’ DNA is troubled and sometimes exploitative. It clashes with indigenous conceptions of identity and it echoes science’s long history of using the remains of people of color to prop up the notion that race is biological, reinforcing its oppressive function.

As a result, the longstanding tension between scientists and indigenous people came to a new and subtle head in the fight for the Kennewick Man. The Colville Tribe’s jurisdiction may be challenged by scientists, or NAGPRA regulators will rule in the tribe’s favor. In any case: The power of white people and white entities to delineate and police Native-American identity will continue unabated.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 (Review)

Review of The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7
McGill-Queen's University Press

There are several historical accounts of the Treaty 7 agreement between the government and prairie First Nations but none from the perspective of the aboriginal people involved. In spite of their perceived silence, however, the elders of each nation involved have maintained an oral history of events, passing on from generation to generation many stories about the circumstances surrounding Treaty 7 and the subsequent administration of the agreement. The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 gathers the "collective memory" of the elders about Treaty 7 to provide unique insights into a crucial historical event and the complex ways of the aboriginal people.

The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 is based on the testimony of over 80 elders from the five First Nations involved in Treaty 7 - the Bloods, Peigans, Siksika, Stoney, and Tsuu T'ina. Their recollections highlight the grave misconceptions and misrepresentations between the two sides, due in part to inadequate interpretation and/or deliberate attempts to mislead. The elders consistently report that the treaty as they understood it was a peace treaty, not a surrender of land, and that they had agreed to "share" the land with the white newcomers in exchange for resources to establish new economies - education, medical assistance, and annuity payments.

The book provides both a historical overview of Treaty 7 and an analysis of the literature on treaties generally and Treaty 7 specifically. It makes clear that different agendas, different languages, and different world views affected each side's interpretation of events.

This review of the events and interpretations surrounding Treaty 7 takes place at a time when aboriginal and indigenous peoples all over the world are re-evaluating their relationships with imperial powers. It was undertaken in good faith in hopes that it will begin a dialogue that can alter the dominant discourse of Euro-Canadian society, which has been so damaging to aboriginal people.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mékaisto (Red Crow)

Mékaisto (Red Crow) in 1895
Biography of Mékaisto
Hugh A. Dempsey
MÉKAISTO (Red Crow, also known as Captured the Gun Inside, Lately Gone, Sitting White Buffalo, and John Mikahestow), Blood [Kainai] Indian warrior and chief, farmer; b. c. 1830 at the confluence of the St Mary and Oldman rivers (Alberta), son of Kyiyo-siksinum (Black Bear) and Handsome Woman; d. 28 Aug. 1900 on the Blood [Kainai] Indian Reserve (Alberta).
Red Crow was born to a long line of chiefs in the Blood [Kainai] tribe of the Blackfoot confederacy, including his grandfather Stoo-kya-tosi (Two Suns), leader of the Mamyowi (Fish Eaters band) at the time of Red Crow’s birth, his uncle Seen From Afar [Peenaquim*] who succeeded Two Suns, and his father Black Bear. In his early teens Red Crow began to go to war and during his lifetime established an impressive war record of 33 raids against Crow, Plains Cree, Assiniboin, Shoshoni, and Nez Percé camps, killing five enemies. He also likely participated in an attack organized in April 1865 by his father-in-law Calf Shirt [Onistah-sokaksin*] against American settlers on the Missouri River, which sparked the Blackfoot war that lasted until 1870. Late in life Red Crow was able to boast, “I was never struck by an enemy in my life, with bullet, arrow, axe, spear or knife.”
Leadership of the Fish Eaters band was assumed by Red Crow’s father when Seen From Afar died of smallpox in 1869 during an epidemic that decimated the Bloods and other tribes in the Blackfoot confederacy. Only a few weeks later he too succumbed to smallpox, and the band chose Red Crow as their new chief. During these years American traders were flooding Blackfoot country on both sides of the international boundary with whisky. The discord and bloodshed that resulted had tragic repercussions in Red Crow’s own life. He killed his brother Kit Fox during a drinking bout, slew two drunken Indians who attacked him, and saw his principal wife, Ohkipiksew (Water Bird), killed by a stray bullet during one of these quarrels. The shock of these troubles turned him from a reckless warrior into a strong but conservative leader.
Because of the troubles Red Crow was pleased to see the arrival of the North-West Mounted Police. In November 1874 he met with NWMP assistant commissioner James Farquharson Macleod and three years later the bond of friendship and trust that quickly formed between the two men played a part in Red Crow’s participation as a signatory of Treaty No.7, with Crowfoot [Isapo-muxika*] and other native leaders of present-day southern Alberta. An astute politician, Red Crow then centralized the control of several bands and became the leading head chief of the Bloods.
The depletion of the northern buffalo herd was accelerated in this period by American hunters in the Montana Territory who slaughtered tens of thousands of animals for their hides. During the winter of 1879–80 Red Crow accepted the awful truth: the buffalo had been destroyed and the Bloods would need to start a new life. In September 1880 he selected the site of the Blood reserve, on the Belly River near the mouth of the Waterton River. While other chiefs, such as Natose-Onista (Medicine Calf or Button Chief) and Crowfoot, clung desperately to their old ways despite dwindling buffalo herds, horse thieves, and whisky traders, Red Crow realized that the traditional nomadic life-style was ending, and by November he had settled into log shanties on the new reserve with his following of 62 families.
Red Crow and his family began growing vegetables and grain in small garden plots, and by 1884 their 582-acre farm was the largest on the reserve. In 1890 Red Crow’s eldest son, Nina-kisoom (Chief Moon), purchased a used mower and began competing with white men for haying contracts with the Indian Department, local ranchers, and the NWMP. In 1894 cattle ranching was introduced; Red Crow and an adopted son, Makoyi-Opistoki*, each exchanged some of their prized horses for 15 head of cattle, while another relative took 10. By 1900 Red Crow’s herd had grown to more than 100 and the cattle population for the reserve had risen to 2,000.
The transition to reserve life for the Bloods had not been without difficulty. In 1883 a government economy drive directed by Lawrence Vankoughnet, the deputy superintendent general of Indian affairs, resulted in reductions in rations on the Blood reserve and staff cuts among the government employees serving the reserve. The following year bacon, a meat unknown to the Bloods, was substituted for freshly killed beef in the Indians’ rations. Only after demonstrations of discontent by Red Crow and other Blood chiefs, notably White Calf [Onista’poka], and a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Edgar Dewdney* in Regina was the order to issue bacon withdrawn. Red Crow was a dynamic leader who maintained control over the Bloods during a period in which other Indians were often caught killing cattle from nearby ranches to supplement government rations. Through the warrior police and his actions as magistrate, he resolved problems on the reserve, but in doing so he frequently became embroiled in controversy with the Indian agents who tried to place all authority in the hands of the government.
At the outbreak of the North-West rebellion in 1885, government authorities feared that the Bloods might join the Métis and Cree insurgents [see Louis Riel*; Pītikwahanapiwīyin*]. Red Crow, however, had always considered both the Cree and the Métis to be enemies and adamantly rejected any suggestion of participation. In 1886 he and Crowfoot were members of a delegation of Blackfoot chiefs taken on a tour of eastern Canada as an expression of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald’s thanks for their loyalty. Red Crow visited the Mohawk Institute (Woodland Indian Cultural Centre) near Brantford, Ont., and was so impressed with the progress of Indian students there that he returned to the Blood reserve a strong proponent of education for his people. He supported Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic missionaries in their efforts to provide schooling, and in later years he sent an adopted son, Astohkomi (Shot Close, Frank Red Crow), to St Joseph’s Industrial School at Dunbow, south of Calgary.
Although he favoured Catholics because their mission house was in his camp, Red Crow preferred to remain with his native religion. The last years of his life were spent battling with Indian agent James Wilson for religious freedom on the reserve. He resisted Wilson’s attempts to halt medicine pipe dances and succeeded in having the Sun Dance restored in 1900 after Wilson’s suppression of that ceremony since 1895. Interestingly enough in December 1896 Red Crow had been baptized a Catholic and legally married in the church to his youngest wife, Singing Before (Frances Ikaenikiakew), despite the fact that he had a personal household which included three other wives. According to Wilson, Red Crow did so at his young bride’s insistence; she wanted a legal marriage so that her son, Shot Close, would inherit the estate. A few weeks after the 1900 Sun Dance, Red Crow died quietly on the banks of the Belly River while gathering in his horses.
A warrior at heart, Red Crow had not accepted dependence upon the government and had encouraged farming, ranching, and education as means for his people to become self-sufficient. He instilled within the Bloods an independence and pride which made them subservient to no one, not even the white man. His position of leadership among the Bloods was taken by Makoyi-Opistoki and remained within the family until 1980.
                                                                                Hugh A. Dempsey
A detailed bibliography is given in H. A. Dempsey, Red Crow, warrior chief (Saskatoon, 1980).

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Iinnii Initiative: The Return of the Buffalo

Iinnii Initiative
(Link) pdf

Vision Statement

Hundreds of generations of Blackfoot have come and gone on the northwestern plains since before and after the melting of the glaciers that covered the northern part of North America.  For all of those generations IINNIIWA has been our relative. IINNIIWA is part of us and we, Sokitapiwa, are part of IINNIIIYA culturally, materially, and spiritually. Our ongoing relationship is so close that we have stories of common consanguinity. IINNIIWA is so close to us that IINNIIWA is the essence of our life and life-ways. We, members of Sokitapiwa, calling ourselves the Buffalo People, hereby declare our intention to revitalize our relationship with IINNIIWA by welcoming IINNIIWA home to again live among us as Creator intended. It is our intention to realize the presence of IINNIIWA among us by doing everything within our means so that we will again live together, to nurture each other culturally and spiritually. It is our intention to provide a space and a safe environment for IINNIIWA so that together we can again nurture our land, our holy plants, and our animal relatives so that we can both realize the Buffalo Ways for our future generations.