Posts Tagged ‘Native Americans’

It’s Native American Heritage Month: Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

Dakota Access Pipeline Native American protest site, on Highway 1806 near Cannonball, North Dakota.

Dakota Access Pipeline Native American protest site, on Highway 1806 near Cannonball, North Dakota, August 15th, 2016. (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

It is Native American Heritage Month.

What does this mean? How do we commemorate? I’ve seen signs in schools announcing this yearly celebration, and I’ve perused displays in libraries. I’ve noted local museums’ native-themed exhibits. Classrooms may spend time learning about the history of Native Americans. Young students may take part in creating a native-themed craft; older students may be tasked with researching an eminent Native American or the history of a Native American tribe. Adults may seek out drum circles, powwows, native chanting experiences, and herbal medicine discussions.

This year, perhaps above all else, we can honor Native American Heritage Month by learning about and discussing the current protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.

The tribes of the Great Sioux Nation, at the center of this controversy, came together at Standing Rock to oppose the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which would cut across the land of the Standing Rock Sioux and possibly threaten their water supply. Other Native American tribes and many of non-native descent joined in the protests. Large-scale demonstrations began a few months ago, in August, when activists blocked the pipeline’s construction sites at Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The protests have grown and have become increasingly violent. But the opposition remains strong.  In a September press release, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman David Archambault II stated that the pipeline will “destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts.”

The Dakota Access pipeline, approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, would tap into the Bakken Formation, an oil deposit that spans five U.S. states and into Canada. It could provide more than 7 billion barrels of oil to the United States, reducing the country’s reliance on foreign oil. Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based natural gas and propane company, claims that the pipeline would help the states that are impacted, providing up to 12,000 construction jobs and bringing more than $150 million in revenue.

As Americans, it is important that we acknowledge the events and people at Standing Rock. As researchers, teachers, and students, it is also important that we explore both sides of the issue. SIRS Knowledge Source and its Leading Issues feature, which includes such topics as Keystone Pipeline and Indigenous Peoples, explores the controversy.

For further research…

Check out this timeline of events prior to and since the first physical collision of interests in August.

Get an overview of the viewpoints of proponents and opponents.

Consider the implications of those who are funding the pipeline.

Read about the history the land of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Visit SIRS Knowledge Source’s and SIRS Discoverer’s Native American Heritage Month’s Spotlight features.

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: National Native American Heritage Month

Each November, the United States celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month by honoring Native Americans and their diverse cultures, contributions and achievements. Many achievements and influences can be found in art, music, literature, agriculture, spirituality, and medicine. National American Indian Heritage Month has been a significant national celebration since 1990. This yearly commemoration honors Native Americans’ accomplishments and their role in the development of American culture and society, while recognizing the evolution of the Native American experience and emphasizing the importance of preserving Native traditions and heritage. Visit the November SIRS Discoverer Spotlight and join us in commemorating the cultures and recognizing the hardships of Native Americans. Young researchers can read about Crazy Horse as a child; discover the history of the Sioux tribe; explore the wonders of totem poles, and much more.

Edward S. Curtis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Other topics to research can include:

Who Was Crazy Horse?

For a man like the great Oglala Lakota warrior Tashunkeh Witko, the man most people know as Crazy Horse, it seemed like an undignified way to die. On September 5th, 1877, four months after he and other Oglala leaders came to Fort Robinson at the Red Cloud Agency to surrender and negotiate a peaceful ending to the fighting, and just a year after the battle at the Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse was dead. While being arrested he was stabbed in the back by a soldier with a bayonet just outside a jail cell. How could this have happened to a man who rode fearlessly through a hail of arrows and gunfire in order to give his war parties time to regather themselves, a man who selflessly rescued fellow warriors from certain death on the battlefield? The U.S. Army called the stabbing an accident. Relatives, friends, and fellow tribe members of Crazy Horse thought differently.

Crazy Horse was born sometime around 1842 near Rapid Creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota to parents from two different Sioux tribes, his mother, Rattling Blanket Woman, a Miniconjou, and his father, Crazy Horse, an Oglala holy man. After Crazy Horse was born his mother began calling him Curly for his naturally light-colored, curly hair. When he was about twelve years old Curly witnessed the shooting of their great Lakota chief Conquering Bear by U.S. Army soldiers led Lieutenant John Grattan. The ensuing skirmish eventually left 29 U.S. Army soldiers dead, including Grattan, and later became known as the Grattan Massacre and the beginning of the Sioux Wars. As Curly grew into a young man, seeing that he was destined for great things, his father relinquished his own name to his son after the young warrior had revealed the vision he had of bullets and arrows vanishing in thin air before they struck him. His father took the name Worm, and with his new name, Curly had become a third generation Crazy Horse after his father and grandfather.

As tales of Crazy Horse’s heroics during battle grew, he quickly became a leader among his people who they willingly followed and trusted. But he was different from most Oglalas. He was shy, modest, never drew attention to himself, and many times seemed alone in his thoughts. Some considered him aloof. Unlike most Oglala warriors, informed by his vision, he almost never took scalps. He wore little or no face paint, never wore a war bonnet, and was content with wearing only one head feather. He did not dance and no one ever saw him sing, both activities that Lakotans loved. He never married his true love, Black Buffalo Woman. Her husband, No Water, shot Crazy Horse in the face when he found the two together in a tipi during a buffalo hunt. The shot glanced off the side of his face and left a permanent scar.

These are just some of the things we know about Crazy Horse, but much about his life remains vague at best. Only those who were close to him knew much of anything. Two of the most important resources that can give a researcher unique insights into the life of Crazy Horse come from two books, Mari Sandoz’s “Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas,” and John Neihardt’sBlack Elk Speaks.”

Growing up on the panhandle of present day Nebraska in the early 1900s, Mari Sandoz lived among the Oglala who often encamped near the Sandoz homestead. She befriended relatives and friends of Crazy Horse like He Dog, Short Bull, and Black Elk. Using her knowledge of the Lakota language, she artfully wove her tale of Crazy Horse by integrating the Lakota’s superb transcendental imagery into plain English. John Neihardt, an American poet and ethnographer, interviewed Black Elk, a Lakota medicine man and cousin of Crazy Horse. In “Black Elk Speaks,” through the translation of Black Elk’s son Ben Black Elk, Neihardt narrated Black Elk’s own stories and his visions as a medicine man, but also related many stories about Crazy Horse the warrior and leader of the Oglala Lakota.

eLibrary can also give you a step up in your research of the life of Crazy Horse. There are resources on the Plains Indians tribes, such as the Sioux and Cheyenne, and the Great Sioux Wars from the 1850s to the 1890s (including the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Battle of the Rosebud). Below are those resources and more related to Crazy Horse and his people.

Research Topics:
* Battle of the Little Bighorn
* Battle of the Rosebud
* Crazy Horse
* Sioux Indians
* Sioux Wars

Magazine Articles:
* How Little Bighorn Was Won
* Lakotas Feared Fighters of the Plains
* Tragedy at Red Cloud Agency: The Surrender, Confinement, and Death of Crazy Horse
* ‘We Belong to the North’: The Flights of the Northern Indians From the White River Agencies, 1877-1878
* What Did Crazy Horse Look Like?

Book Articles:
* Crazy Horse (Tasunke Witko)
* Sioux
* Plains War

Prelude to Little Bighorn: Battle of the Rosebud

In the end, it may not have mattered for Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. On June 16, 1876, 30 miles southeast of, and eight days before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Brigadier General George Crook and his column crossed over the Tongue River, a river that Crazy Horse warned Crook not to cross. They were en route to Rosebud Creek where he suspected that Sitting Bull and his village were encamped. At Rosebud Creek, Crook and his men encountered and fought to a stalemate Crazy Horse and his Sioux/Cheyenne confederacy. Afterwards, instead of marching northward to join Custer at the Little Bighorn, Crook’s troops retired to their Goose Creek encampment. Could Crook and his troops have made the difference at the Battle of the Little Bighorn? Could they have turned the corner of that battle and won the day for Custer and his men? And just what were these battles, which were part of the larger Sioux Wars, all about, anyway?

In 1868, the U.S. government signed a treaty (Sioux Treaty of 1868) which acknowledged that the Indians owned approximately 125,000 square miles of land from the Black Hills in western South Dakota down to northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. These lands were the historic buffalo hunting grounds of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and other Plains Indians. In the treaty, the government promised protection against any encroachment by the white settlers of the United States. But after gold was found in the Black Hills by an expedition led by Custer in 1874 miners began flooding the region with no regard to the treaty. The government decided to renegotiate the treaty, but the Sioux and Cheyenne would have none of it. The Sioux had heard these promises before. When they refused to renegotiate, the U.S. Army was given orders to force them onto an even smaller reservation.

Fast forward to June 17, 1876. Crook was given orders to engage the Indians at Rosebud Creek, and then move north to join the convergent forces of General Alfred Terry (with Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer), and Colonel John Gibbon to force the Indians onto a reservation. Crook believed wrongly that Sitting Bull’s village was camped out on the Rosebud, and he had orders to engage and destroy it. If he had come three days earlier, he would have encountered the village where they had engaged in a Sun Dance, and where it was reported that Sitting Bull had a vision of “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky.” Instead, they encountered Crazy Horse and a smaller, but still large band of Sioux and Cheyenne. The battle lasted for six hours. When the fighting was over, it was at best a Pyrrhic victory for Crook and his men; they retained the ground on which they fought, but they had to retreat back to their encampment at Goose Creek near present-day Sheridan, Wyoming to tend to their wounded and give rest to a battle-worn column. Crook claimed victory but military historians now view the battle as a victory for Crazy Horse and his men, and a prelude to the triumph at Little Bighorn a week later. Could Crook and his men have tipped the scales at Little Bighorn had they not retreated to Goose Creek after the battle on Rosebud Creek? Of the three federal forces, Crook’s was the largest with over 1,000 men. But would it have made a difference?

You can explore this question and more in eLibrary. Research topics such as the Great Sioux Wars, including Battle of the Rosebud and Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the United States Westward expansion, which contributed to the disputes in the Plains and the Black Hills. There are ProQuest Research Topics on Battle of the Rosebud, Crazy Horse, and General George Crook, as well as a host of other topics and resources associated with the battle listed below.

Research Topics:

Battle of the Little Bighorn
Battle of the Rosebud
Crazy Horse
George Armstrong Custer
George Crook
Sioux Wars
Sitting Bull

Related Browse Topics:

American Expansionism
Great Sioux War/Black Hills War

Native American History

Remembering the Trail of Tears

By Wesley Fryer from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA (Cherokee Heritage Museum) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The heritage of Native Americans is brimming with spirituality, art, innovation, and communion with nature.

Many tribes populated North America, living in harmony with the land and its offerings. We honor the beauty and spirit of native peoples, and their many contributions, each November as we celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

But Native American history during the past few centuries is rife with violence, sadness, and desolation. It is important that we learn about the many difficult events of the past while honoring what was lost—and taken—from the people who lived on this land for centuries before Europeans arrived.

Let’s look at one devastating piece of history: The Trail of Tears.

In 1829, lots of gold was found in Georgia mines, bringing the gold rush to that area and immensely increasing its value to land speculators. One year later, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. It was a title quite befitting, as it laid out the government’s intentions of removing Native Americans from their homelands. The act authorized the president, who was Andrew Jackson at that time, to negotiate with tribes and force them west.

Unfortunately for the Cherokee, the land in Georgia that was home to the gold rush was also home to their tribe. They lived in communities of huts and log-cabin homes that they built on the land. They grew corn, squash, and other crops. They traded goods and services and had created a formal system of writing.

In other words, the Cherokee were rooted to this land and did not want to leave.

Eight years after the signing of the Indian Removal Act, soldiers were sent to forcibly remove the Cherokee from the land. It was not a benevolent outcome: homes were destroyed, possessions were stolen, and tribe members were arrested. Some died in makeshift “jails” and military outposts. The devastating end to the attack was the forced move of the Cherokee from their land to Oklahoma.

The Cherokee were sent in separate groups to walk 900 miles west to their new home. The journey was not an easy one. They were confronted with difficult weather, rivers to cross, and mountains to traverse. Little food was available in the inhospitable conditions. Sickness and starvation turned to death and despair on this trail to Oklahoma…on this Trail of Tears.

Of the nearly 21,000 Cherokee who left Georgia and walked the Trail of Tears, only 16,000 survived. They banded together in their new land and created the Cherokee Nation. About 1,000 Cherokee escaped the forced removal and formed the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the Georgia and North Carolina mountains.

Here at ProQuest, we honor Native Americans and their cultures and histories each November during Native American Heritage Month. Articles, websites, and photographs profile Native Americans and their tribes, or provide insight into contemporary and historical Native American issues and events, in this month’s SKS and Discoverer Spotlights of the Month.

Kateri Tekakwitha, First Native American Saint

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Kateri Tekakwitha Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Kateri, the daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Catholic Algonquin woman, was born in 1656 just northwest of Albany, New York, in the heart of the Iroquois Confederacy. She was orphaned at the age of four when smallpox wiped out her family and most of her village. The disease also left Kateri blinded and disfigured. She converted to Catholicism at the age of 20 and was baptized in honor of Saint Catherine of Siena. She moved to Kahnawake, a Mohawk settlement south of Montreal where the Jesuits had a mission. Kateri died at the young age of 24, and minutes after her death, witnesses say her smallpox scars vanished, and she appeared radiant and beautiful. She is buried at a shrine on Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada.

Kateri Tekakwitha (1690)

Image of St. Kateri Tekakwitha [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Tekakwitha was canonized on October 21, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI. Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” she is the patron saint of the environment and ecology. During the ceremony, Benedict said: “Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in North America. May God bless the first nations.”

Some traditional Mohawks treated the naming of the first Native American saint with skepticism and feared that the Catholic Church was using it to shore up its image and marginalize traditional spiritual practices. They saw the story of Tekakwitha as yet another reminder of colonial atrocities and religious oppression. But many Mohawks downplayed any controversy and joined Catholics who see Kateri as a uniting figure and hope her elevation to sainthood might help heal old wounds.

Kateri Tekakwitha’s Feast Day is July 14.

Related Topics & Resources:

Juan Diego & Our Lady of Guadalupe (Research Topic)

Encyclopedia of North American Indians (Reference Book)

Catholics in America (Book)

Native American Religion (Book)

National Catholic Reporter (Magazine)

eLibrary Basic Search

Topic Search for Native American History

Topic Search for Native Peoples of Canada

Topic Search for Individual Saints

Battle of the Little Bighorn


Sometime in early June of 1876 members of the Lakota and Cheyenne tribe met at a Sun Dance at Rosebud Creek in Montana where Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotanka), a holy man and chief of the Lakota tribe (Teton Sioux), collapsed into a trance and had a vision. There he met White Buffalo Calf Woman, a guardian spirit of the Lakota, who told him that there would be a great battle fought against the white man and that he and his tribe would be victorious. Approximately three weeks later, on June 25th, and a week after the Battle of the Rosebud, the Lakota-Northern CheyenneArapaho alliance decisively defeated Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Calvary at Little Bighorn, in what was probably the worst defeat by the U.S. Army by the Plains Indians.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, or as the Lakota refer to it, the Battle of Greasy Grass, clearly stands in history as one of the great metaphors for lost causes, considering the numbers of Indian warriors the 7th Calvary ran into that day. The 7th, which encompassed 12 companies with a total of just over 600 men, engaged an estimated 3,000 warriors. To this day, the engagement continues to beg the question of why Custer, with overwhelming odds against him, was set on attacking the huge Plains Indians alliance. What were his motives? Was it shear arrogance and over-confidence? Was it a strategic error? What would cause Custer to go into battle that would eventually not only take his own life, but that of two of his brothers, a brother-in-law, and a nephew?

You can explore these questions and more by searching eLibrary’s resources below, beginning with the history of conflict between the U.S. government and Plains Indians, the background that set the battle in motion, the numerous broken treaties, and the resistance of the Plains Indians being moved onto increasingly smaller reservations.

Related Research Topics:

Battle of Little Bighorn
Crazy Horse
George Armstrong Custer
Manifest Destiny
Sioux Indians
Sioux Wars
Sitting Bull


American History (Magazine)
Encyclopedia of North American Indians (Reference Book)
Military History (Magazine)
U.S. History (Anthology)
Wild West (Magazine)
Wounded Knee (Book)

Browse Topics in eLibrary:

19th Century Native American History
Battle of the Little Bighorn
Gilded Age
Native American History
Native American Leaders
Native Americans
U.S. Military Leaders
Westward Expansion

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the First Indigenous American Saint

Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe Research Topic

Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe Research Topic screencap via Proquest eLibrary

As Catholic tradition has it, on December 9, 1531 the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to Indian peasant Juan Diego on a hill near Mexico City. She asked that a church be built on the hill in her honor to bring comfort to the people. Upon hearing the story, a skeptical Spanish archbishop told Juan Diego to ask Mary for a sign of her presence. Mary pointed him toward roses growing in a place where only cacti were normally found, and when Juan Diego returned with the flowers gathered in his cloak, Mary arranged them and told him return to the archbishop. When Juan Diego dumped the flowers to the floor before the archbishop, it was discovered that they had left an image of Mary on his cloak.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City houses what is purported to be the actual fabric and image (known as the tilma) described in the story above. The tilma is visited by millions of pilgrims every year, and the image is the most popular religious image in Mexico. The popularity of the story and the relic have persisted despite skepticism, including questions about whether Juan Diego even existed, and in 2002 Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego as the first indigenous American saint. Juan Diego’s feast day is December 9 and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12. Previously having been a largely Latin American tradition, observation of the Guadalupe holiday is spreading north to the U.S. and elsewhere.

Whether Juan Diego’s tilma is the result of a miracle or a fabrication, its influence has been large, spurring millions of conversions to Catholicism and helping shape Mexican identity.

For information on Our Lady of Guadalupe, related topics and just about anything else, search in eLibrary, follow the links in the text above and see the resources below:

Research Topics:

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Roman Catholicism, Virgin Mary

Subject browse sections (Click on underlined words to widen or narrow the scope and click on “View Results” to see eLibrary resources. Items with stars next to them will display Research Topic pages.):

Religion, Christianity

SKS Spotlight of the Month: National American Indian Heritage Month

Before Europeans arrived on North American soil, Native Americans had lived and prospered on the rich, diverse land for thousands of years. By the time colonization programs began in the late 16th century, disease brought by explorers and colonists had devastated Native American tribes along the eastern coast. Many died.

Native Americans at a Powwow <br /> by U.S.D.A./Larry Rana, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Native Americans at a Powwow
by U.S.D.A./Larry Rana, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

As history shows us, European colonization and settlement continued across the United States as wars ravaged tribes and destroyed relationships between the natives and newcomers. It is a history fraught with violence and emotion.

In the mid 19th-century–a mere 164 years ago–the federal government took action to promote peace between Native American tribes and European settlers. The Indian Appropriations Act created Indian reservations in the region of Oklahoma, an effort that instigated anger, erupting in more battles and wars.

The Indian New Deal of 1934 provided additional rights to native tribes and allowed and encouraged these tribes to govern themselves. Some compensation programs paid reparations for lost lands and broken tribes, but not all of these programs were successful. Throughout the 20th century, Native American activist groups struggled for rights and causes significant to their people.

In the 21st century, Native Americans are revered for their beautiful cultures and remembered for their harmonious connection with the land and nature. But issues facing native peoples and tribes remain unsettled. Many people feel strongly that the deep wounds afflicted on these populations are not healed. Economic, emotional, and social difficulties continue to plague Native American tribes living on Indian reservations. Hot-button issues persist in mainstream American culture, such as the controversy surrounding the Redskins and their team name and mascot.

This November, be sure to celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month. Engage your students in the incredibly important history of Native Americans. Introduce them to significant native people of the past, such as Red Cloud, Squanto, Crazy Horse, and Sacajawea. Teach them about the ways and cultures of tribes, such as Cherokee, Cree, and Iroquois. Help foster in your students a love and appreciation for Native American art and customs. Join SKS and its November SKS Spotlight of the Month in emphasizing the significance of the great heritage and complicated history of Native Americans.

The History of Thanksgiving

While it is almost certain that the “original” Thanksgiving meal was not like the annual feast we are accustomed to, it was, in a sense, a “traditional” meal…traditional for the Native Americans at the time.

The First Thanksgiving

In 1621, the Plymouth Plantation held a 3-day celebration after a successful growing season. According to records, the harvest feast was attended by 53 Pilgrims and about 90 American Indians, including Squanto, a Patuxent Indian, and Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoags. Squanto served as interpreter and taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn. Massasoit donated food stores to the Plymouth colony during their first, harsh winter. Turkey may have been on the menu, but most likely the feast consisted of other roasted fowl, deer, shellfish, corn, beans, squash and possibly pumpkin and cranberries (though cranberry sauce is unlikely because the Pilgrims had probably run out of sugar, and no pumpkin pie because they had no butter or wheat flour).

For almost 200 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. The first National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress in 1777 during the Revolutionary War.

On October 3, 1863, in the wake of the Union victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26th. Lincoln’s successors followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving, but Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with tradition in 1939, declaring Thanksgiving Day to be on the 4th Thursday in November instead of the last Thursday. FDR changed the date to accommodate retailers who feared that having Thanksgiving at such a late date might have a negative impact on Christmas sales during the Great Depression.  This change was officially passed into law by Congress in 1941.

Norman Rockwell's The Thanksgiving Picture (Freedom from Want)