For Museums, State/National Parks, Heritage Sites, Powwows, Cultural Centers & Schools
Opportunities for Inclusive History
Native history is American history, and there exists so many opportunities to include the Indigenous experience when discussing major historical events in the classroom. Remember Native Peoples have a continuing, paralleling, and interweaving story… If it happened here historically, Indian Peoples were participating in or being affected by it.
---- American Democracy
(This section is currently being edited... Please check back.)
--- Chattel Slavery
When covering slavery in America, bring up the fact that Native Peoples from North America were also enslaved (chattel slavery). Thousands of Native men, women, and children were captured by conquest or stolen from their homes (by either enemy Natives or Europeans), then traded/sold off and enslaved in local colonies (English, French, Spanish) or shipped from North America to Caribbean areas, many forced to work in plantations. Like enslaved Africans, they too were often physical and sexually abused by their owners, or the owners’ friends and family. Likely many enslaved Native and African persons, living and working together, forged relationships/unions that produced children, however Anglo-Americans did at times try to encourage animosity between the groups, seeing them both inferior and fearing a united revolt (later some Native communities also condemned Native and African sexual relationships in attempt to keep race and tribal citizenship separate). In some cases Native women were made “wives” to their European owners (particularly in early southeastern French colonies). At least one enslaved “wife” (and likely more like her) was promised emancipation and monies for education upon the death of her husband-owner, though she saw only limited freedom and no inherence as it was confiscated by the court. Children of enslaved Native women and European owners were often enslaved themselves, though not all (particularly if an owner thought himself a true husband and father, legitimizing paternity). And when French and Spanish governments moved to outlaw Indian slavery, it was rarely enforced. Chattel slavery in European colonies, like chattel slavery in the American South, depended on a racial hierarchy - the belief of “racial superiority” that made it easy to take advantage of Black and Brown Peoples. Like enslaved Africans, enslaved Natives were used, abused, and disposed of (1,2). (See The Civil War (below) for info about Native American slave owners.)
(1) See book “Native American Adoption, Captivity, and Slavery in Changing Contexts” edited by Max Carocci and Stephanie Pratt.
(2) See book “Indian Slavery in Colonial Times, Within the Present Limits of the United States (1913)” by Almon Wheeler Lauber.
The 1839 Mormon War
Covering Mormon history, Missouri history, or the 1839 Mormon War?… At the same time the Missouri militia was engaged in expelling Mormons from their state (1), a group of Potawatomi were being forcefully removed from their homelands in northern Indiana, and passing through Missouri themselves on a trek that would be remembered as “The Trail of Death” (2). Did you know the Missouri militia requested the Potawatomi to take up arms against the Mormons, to help drive the Mormons from their residents/camps? According to Benjamin Marie Petit who kept a diary while trekking westward with the Potawatomi: “…the next day we heard artillery and rifle shots. We saw armed troops coming to formation from every direction… We passed quietly through this theater of fanatic battles, although at our arrival a message had come asking that the Indians join the troops who were attacking the Mormons (3).” Yes, the militia asked Native Americans being expelled from their homelands by military force to join in forcibly expelling another people from their homes. Ironic, right? (Ask your students why this request seems ironic.) And possibly offensive to the Potawatomi who “wisely rejected” the militia’s request. This is a great example of how historic events didn’t happen in a vacuum… how many people’s histories cross and interweave with others - all histories being part of the greater American experience.
(1) Missouri Executive Order 44 (Mormon Extermination Order), See original document Extermination Order (and Rescission Order): https://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/findingaids/miscMormonRecords/eo
(2) The Potawatomi Trail of Death, not to be confused with The Trail of Tears.
(3) See “The Trail of Death; Letters of Benjamin Marie Petit” in Indiana Historical Society Publications Vol. 14, pg. 104: https://archive.org/details/trailofdeathlett141peti/page/104/mode/2up
The Civil War
Native Soldiers: When discussing the Civil War, don’t leave out Native participation as soldiers. Introduce your students to Company K, 1st Michigan Sharpshooters - the largest all Indian regiment (comprised of mostly Anishinaabe men). And speak about the Menominees, Ho-Chunks, Chippewas/Ojibways, Stockbridge-Munsees and other Native Americans from Wisconsin who joined the Union too. They saw combat, field hospitals, prisoner camps, and death. Some made it home to their families, and continued racism. It’s worth noting that these men signed up to serve their states and country as non-citizens (Native Americans didn’t gain citizenship until 1924) in the face of racism leveled at them by fellow residents, written up in local papers as less civilized, “poor” and “ignorant (1).” Far from “ignorant,” Ely S. Parker, a Seneca man from New York, went from a chief engineer to lieutenant colonel and secretary to Commander Grant before helping to draft the surrender documents that would be signed by General Lee (2). Brigadier-General Stand Watie (Cherokee), the only Native American Confederate general was also the last general to surrender (3). Indeed, as Native persons volunteered for the Union army, Native persons also freely enlisted to serve the Confederate army. And others didn’t have a choice, particularly those the Confederacy saw as African (mixed African-Native American descent from the East Coast)… these persons and communities were tapped for slave labor. Wanting to attract the support of Native Americans from Indian Territory (Mid-West), the Confederate government moved to not only incorporate certain Native Nations into the Confederacy, but to also extend them representation in the Confederate Congress - a representation Indigenous Peoples lacked with the United States government. Many Natives backed the Confederacy being largely suspicious of the United States given their past treatment - a unique perspective to sovereign Indigenous Nations forced to negotiate with the US. As “brother against brother” has come to express the experience of Anglo-Americans in the Civil War, it too expresses the rift Native Americans experienced as they supported one side or the other, often with their lives. At some battles, it was same tribe against tribe… like Cherokee against Cherokee (1). As of 2019, Native Americans have continued to have the highest volunteer service/military involvement rate of any ethnicity (per population) in the US (4).
Native Slave Owners: At some point Native Americans’ traditional practices of kinship slavery (captive-adoption) and servitude shifted to the racial-based chattel slavery brand brought to shore by their European neighbors. The reason(s) why can only be theorized. Some believe it may have been (in part) in attempt for Indigenous Peoples to save themselves, assimilating as the US government wanted them to. Many adopted Anglo practices like formal schooling, Christianity, and European-style agriculture (vs native-style agriculture),… and owning African-American slaves was yet another indicator of “being civilized” in Euro-American society. Or maybe it was just an organic shift from captive-taking to chattel slavery as time and Anglo influences went on, not unlike warrior parties to soldier companies. Attitudes varied from tribe to tribe, from Native person to Native person. Some Southeastern Nations were predominantly pro-African slavery, with thousands of African-Americans enslaved by a small percentage of Native Americans, while others were more divided or against chattel slavery. There’s so much more to the story: elite classes of slave-owning Native Americans, slave revolts, expulsion of Freedmen from Indian Territory, granting tribal citizenship to slave persons following the Emancipation Proclamation, and Freedmen controversies (5).
(1) See book “American Indians and the Civil War” Official National Park Service Handbook.
(2) See book “The Life of General Ely S. Parker” by Arthur Parker.
(3) See “Watie’s Regiment (First Regiment of the Cherokee Mounted Volunteers)” Oklahoma Historical Society: https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entryname=WATIE%27S%20REGIMENT
(4) See online article “American Indian Veterans Have Highest Record of Military Service” by National Indian Council on Aging, Inc.: https://www.nicoa.org/american-indian-veterans-have-highest-record-of-military-service/
(5) To explore more on this topic, start with Wikipedia pages on Native American Slave Ownership: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_slave_ownership#Cherokee , and The 1842 Slave Revolt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1842_Slave_Revolt_in_the_Cherokee_Nation , and the Cherokee Freedmen Controversy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_freedmen_controversy
Women’s Suffrage & the Early Women’s Rights Movement
In their quest for equal rights, many women’s rights activists were inspired by the statuses and rights Native women enjoyed in their own communities. To understand why, we need only look at the legal and social culture these activists found themselves a part of… Historian Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner summed it up neatly when she wrote: “Under the European-inspired laws that were adopted by each state after the revolution, a single woman might be economically independent, owning property and earning her living but upon her uttering the marriage vows, she lost control of her property and her earnings. She also gave away all rights to children she would bear. They became the “property” of the father who could give them away or grant custody to someone other than the mother in the event of his death. With the words, “I do,” a woman literally gave away her legal identity. The woman lost her name, her right to control her own body, and to live where she chose. A married woman could not make any contracts, sue or be sued; she was dead in the eyes of the law. Further, wife-beating was not against the law, nor was marital rape.” (1) It was this prevailing belief among Western-descended Americans that women were, as fact, designed to be subordinate to men (whether by nature or by deity). This assumption influenced early Americans (including government officials) in their stance against women voting. However this supposed universal “truth” wasn’t universally supported as there were, in fact, women who did have representation in their governments. Having ties to upstate New York - the ancestral territory of the Iroquois Confederacy - suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898), and Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) were in usual contact with Haudenosaunee communities. The Haudenosaunee Constitution (“The Great Law of Peace”) guaranteed their women citizens representation in Haudenosaunee government - a representative democracy predating the United States. Haudenosaunee women played an integral role in the government (and they still do). Women’s Councils convened to render opinions and decisions concerning local, national and international affairs, while Clan Matrons held the authority to install chiefs - to nominate or put forth (“raise up”) a Chief, and if need be, initiate an impeachment (“knock his horns off”) should he perform his office in an unsatisfactory manner. (2) A large part of a Haudenosaunee woman’s authority was derived from her matrilineage: her clan membership and her inheritance, all gained through her maternal lineage. Hence all children were born/adopted into their mother’s clan, not the father’s. Moreover, Haudenosaunee women enjoyed rights and protections often discouraged by or reserved only for White men in the United States, like the authority to dissolve disagreeable marriages or own property as a married individuals (including buildings, livestock, and land). Though it was often customary for Indigenous husbands and wives to keep and control their properties separately in many tribes, such a concept was slow to follow among their American neighbors of foreign ancestry…The state of Mississippi, in their legal quest for the “emancipation of married women,” had passed the first married woman’s property law in the Nation (1839), which was notably associated with the Chickasaw Peoples. (3) And particularly of interest to women’s rights activists were the Indigenous societies that honored married women as fully human persons with the right to live free of abuse. Should marital violence occur, offenders could expect to be brought to justice by the victim’s family within the framework of community-approved policing customs (which is to say much was settled between the immediate families or clans of those involved in the offense). For this reason, anthropologist and activist Alice Fletcher (1838-1923) “was concerned about what would happen to Indian women when they became [US] citizens, lost their rights and were treated with the same legal disrespect as white women,…” (4) US citizenship would not only strip Native women of their traditional rights to property and to their children, but would also legalized martial rape and wife battering of a “proper harshness” (the threshold between acceptable battery and criminal battery in the context of marriage was pretty subjective in its legal determination). ------
(1) Quote from “The Root of Oppression is the Loss of Memory: The Iroquois and the Early Feminist Vision” by Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D., 1988. In “Iroquois Women: An Anthology.” edited by W.G. Spittal, 1990.
(2) See “The Constitution of the Five Nations or The Iroquois Book of the Great Law” by Arthur C. Parker, originally published in 1916.
(3) See “Proceedings of the Mississippi Bar Association. At It’s Sixth Annual Meeting Held January 6th 1891.”
(4) Quote from “Sisters in Spirit: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Early American Feminists.” by Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D., 2001.
The Progressive Era and Urban Development
(This section is currently being edited... Please check back.)
--- The New Deal
(This section is currently being edited... Please check back.)
---- World War II
The history of the Allies and American troops in WWII cannot be told in full without acknowledging Native American code talkers... those Indigenous soldiers who used their Native languages to send coded messages between troops. Though famous for their work in WWII, Native code talkers got their start in WWI… “Stationed in France in 1918, Choctaw Indians from the 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Division, became the first Code Talkers (1).” Hands down the Navajo are the most famous code talkers that served in WWII, for whom the US Marine Corps created a formal Code Talking School, but they weren’t the only tribal soldiers or the only Native language used in the field. Others hailed from the aforementioned Choctaw Nation, as well as Cherokee, Meskwaki, Mohawk, Hopi and other tribes. Students should understand code talker history context: US troops were benefiting from Native languages while US residential Indian schools were condemning them. “The irony of being asked to use their Native languages to fight on behalf of America was not lost on code talkers, many of whom had been forced to attend government or religious-run boarding schools that tried to assimilate Native peoples and would punish students for speaking in their traditional language (2).” And sadly their recognition in playing such a pivotal role in the victory for the Allies, victory for American troops, came much too slowly, with Navajo code talkers receiving metals in 2001, and others (from other tribal backgrounds) receiving recognition in the many years after. Check out NMAI’s Native Knowledge 360: Code Talkers, a student-teacher friendly resource, at https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/code-talkers/introduction/ …And if your students are learning about the WAC, it’s worth mentioning Native American women served too. See https://americanindian.si.edu/static/why-we-serve/topics/native-women-and-world-war-2/
(1) “Code Talkers” in American Indian Records in the National Archive, https://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/military/code-talkers.html
(2) “American Indian Code Talkers.” The National WWII Museum, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/american-indian-code-talkers
Absolutely No Copying Photos or Images on This Site. Do Not Reproduce and Sell Any Images On This Website. Do Not Copy and Post WIEP Photos or Illustrations On Any Blogs or Websites Without Permissions. The Photos That Appear on This Site are Our Property or Used Specifically With Special Permissions ONLY for Our Site; Permissions of the Photographers of the Photos, and/or the Event's Permissions at Which They Were Taken, and/or Those Who Appear in the Photos. We Have No Authority to Extend Their Permissions To Others.