A History of ‘Manifest Destiny’ in the United States

This was a widely held imperialist belief in the 19th-century that American settlers were destined to expand across North America. The Oregon Country The spirit of “Manifest Destiny” pervaded the United States during the Age of Reform—the decades prior to the Civil War. John L. O’Sullivan, editor of the influential United States Magazine and Democratic[…]

Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act of 1830

Jackson’s goals put the government in conflict with the more than 125,000 Native Americans who still lived east of the Mississippi. Native Americans and the New Republic From the time the first colonies were settled in America, relations between the Native American Indians and white settlers ranged from respected friends to hated enemies. Into the[…]

The ‘Red Power Movement’: Native Americans and Civil Rights in the 1960s

Events during the movement included the Occupation of Alcatraz, the Trail of Broken Treaties, the Occupation of Wounded Knee. Introduction The Red Power movement was a social movement led by Native American youth to demand self-determination for Native Americans in the United States. Organizations that were part of Red Power Movement included American Indian Movement[…]

A History of the Lumbee Tribe and Political Protest in North Carolina

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina has a long history of struggle, protest, and resistance to white supremacy and its social effects. Introduction It may not have seemed unusual when a protest in support of Black lives and against police brutality moved through the town of Pembroke, North Carolina, in late June and faced off[…]

Prehistoric and Ancient Native American Tools and Technology in Iowa

Exploring archery technology, the production of bone tools and ground stone tools, flintknapping, and prehistoric pottery. By Tim WeitzelHistoric Preservation Specialist Overview Paleoindian At the end of the last Ice Age, Iowa had a cool, wet climate and widespread coniferous forests. Paleoindian peoples (11,000_8500 BC) lived in small, highly mobile bands and hunted large game animals. Their tools[…]

Indigenous Artists Use Technology to Tell Stories about Their Ancestral Lands

The stories of four groups of Indigenous artists using technology and art to tell their communities’ stories. By Demi Guo Introduction Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun does not use email or text. In the Coastal Salish communities from which he hails, he has been known as a painter and a dancer since the 1980s. Yet, he has[…]

Roanoke Colony: First Contact to Disappearance, 1585-1590

Doomed to failure, this early colonial project lacked adequate planning and logistical support. Introduction The Roanoke Colony was England’s first colony in North America, located in what is today North Carolina, USA. Established in 1585 CE, abandoned and then resettled in 1587 CE, the colonists had little regard for their new environment and were soon in[…]

Rivers Held a Spiritual Place in the Lives of the Cherokee

Water appeared at the very beginning of Cherokee cosmology. When anthropologist James Mooney published the first of his influential studies of Native American culture in 1888, “Myths of the Cherokee,” he was struck by the centrality of water in the Cherokee world. Mooney had spent a season living with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians[…]

An Overview of the Powhatan Chiefdom in 17th-Century Virginia

Accounts of Powhatan authority hint that a complex set of dynamics shaped the Powhatan political realm. Introduction With its remarkably rich ethnohistoric and archaeological records, the Chesapeake region offers much to those interested in understanding the culture histories of Native societies. The written accounts produced by European sources during the early years of the colonial[…]

Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend

The most famous event of Pocahontas’ life, her rescue of Captain John Smith, did not happen the way he wrote it. By Sarah J. Stebbins Introduction Not much is known about this memorable woman. What we do know was written by others, as none of her thoughts or feelings were ever recorded. Specifically, her story[…]

Underestimating the Enemy: St. Clair’s Defeat at the Battle of Wabash River

President George Washington forced St. Clair to resign his post and Congress initiated its first investigation of the executive branch. Introduction He was so obsessed with not dividing his troops that he did not send out scouts, instead marching forward without reconnaissance. With no scouts out, St. Clair was completely unaware of the force of[…]

The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad on Native Americans

The Transcontinental Railroad facilitated the colonization of western territories by encouraging new settlements on Indigenous lands. The Transcontinental Railroad was completed 150 years ago, in 1869. In 1800s America, some saw the railroad as a symbol of modernity and national progress. For others, however, the Transcontinental Railroad undermined the sovereignty of Native nations and threatened[…]

Sarah Winnemucca: Paiute “Princess” Who Spoke Out in the 19th Century

She was an outspoken critic of harsh treatment of the Paiute in the American West. For the first few years of her life, Sarah Winnemucca, who was born around 1844, did not know that she was American. Born Thocmetony (Shell Flower) among the Numa (known among whites as the Northern Paiute or “digger” Indians), she[…]

Medicine Wheel: ‘Sacred Hoops’ of Indigenous Americans

The hoop is symbolic of “the never-ending circle of life.” Introduction Medicine wheels, or sacred hoops, are stone structures built by certain Indigenous peoples of the Americas apparently for astronomical, ritual, healing, and teaching purposes. They were constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground. Most medicine wheels resemble a wagon wheel,[…]

American Indian Culture of the West

Many different groups of American Indians with distinct cultures inhabited the western region of North America. Geographic and Temporal Setting: The Diverse West The West of United States, extending from the top corner of Washington, through California and into parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho, was home to a diverse array of Native American[…]

A Brief History of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

Some indigenous peoples of the Americas supported agriculturally advanced societies for thousands of years. Introduction The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas, their descendants, and many ethnic groups who identify with those peoples. They are often also referred to as “Native Americans” or “American Indians,” although such terms are[…]

Native American Archaeology in the Nation’s Capital

At the time Europeans first began exploring the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River region, three Native confederacies had come to power. By Cecily Hilleary During his time in the White House, Former President Gerald Ford decided to build an outdoor swimming pool. National Park Service archaeologists examined the site of the dig, which is standard[…]

The Ancestral Puebloan Site at Wupatki

The U.S. National Park Service has overseen the site’s ruins since it was first registered in 1924 CE by the US President Calvin Coolidge. Introduction Wupatki or Wupatki National Monument is an Ancestral Puebloan site that contains over 800 ancient ruins. It is situated in the north-central region of the US state of Arizona and is[…]

Native Cultures of Ancient Southwest North America

An interview with Professor Steven Lekson of the University of Colorado Boulder on the ancient cultures of Oasisamerica. Pre-Columbian civilizations of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico include the Hohokam who occupied the US state of Arizona, the Anasazi or Ancestral Pueblo Peoples who resided in the Four Corners Region, and the Mogollon who[…]

What Calvin Coolidge Didn’t Understand About Native Americans

Though he was adopted by the Lakota Nation, he clung to a paternalistic mindset. During the summer of 1927, Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, was formally adopted into the Lakota nation. The ceremonies took place in Deadwood, South Dakota, with the prominent Sicangu Lakota activist and teacher Chauncy Yellow Robe presiding. Yellow[…]

Thomas Harriot and the Lost North Carolina Algonquian Language

Harriot had the right temperament for his diplomatic role – he was open, curious, and notably non-judgmental. Thomas Harriot was the English contemporary and peer of Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, although he’s unknown to most people. That’s because his busy and dramatic life meant that he never got around to publishing his mathematical and[…]

Psalms and Silence: The Soundtrack of John Williams’s Captivity, 1704-1706

Williams’s captivity narrative reinforces what we already know about religious life in colonial North America: mutual distrust pitted French Catholics against English Protestants. It is December 5, 1706, and John Williams, a minister of the frontier town of Deerfield, has not been among so many godly Christians in nearly two years. Cotton Mather’s usual 1,500-member[…]

The Native Americans Who Assisted the Underground Railroad

Native American assistance to freedom seekers crossing through the Midwest has largely been erased from Underground Railroad studies. In an interview conducted in 2002, the late Helen Hornbeck Tanner, an influential historian of the Native American experience in the Midwest best known for her magisterial Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History (1987), reflected on the considerable record[…]

Art of Conflict: Portraying Native Americans, 1850–1900

How did U.S. and Native American artists portray Indian peoples of the West in the late nineteenth century? Introduction Images of American Indians became widely popular with American and European audiences in the mid-nineteenth century. From watercolor and pencil sketches, to oil paintings, prints, and photographs, visual representations of Indian peoples were increasingly in demand[…]

Native Americans in an Age of Empire and Revolution, 1750-1783

The late eighteenth century was marked by imperial competition, as European powers vied for control of land and resources around the globe. Introduction All North America was Indian country prior to European settlement in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The conventional narrative holds that indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a wave of European[…]

Ancient Native American Paintings of Other-Worldly Beings on Canyon Rock Walls

Deep in the Colorado Plateau, there are paintings from an ancient people. Of the thousands of Native American rock art panels in the Southwest, none are older than the Barrier Canyon pictographs found throughout the Colorado Plateau. Concentrated along rivers, especially the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers, some may have been painted 9,000[…]

Contemporary Native American Architecture

The variety of native traditions, available materials, and architectural expertise has given the continent new and culturally sensitive architectural forms during the last two generations. Design and Heritage You are a member of one of the midwestern nations of Native Americans. Your ancestors had no permanent architecture because they were nomadic hunter-gatherers (see photo below).[…]

Brilliant Visions: Peyote among the Aesthetes

Used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas for millennia, it was only in the last decade of the 19th century that the powerful effects of mescaline began to be systematically explored by curious non-indigenous Americans and Europeans. This looks at one such pioneer, Havelock Ellis, who along with his small circle of fellow artists[…]

The First Americans

What we think we know about the arrival of Homo sapiens on this continent. In the 1970s, college students in archaeology such as myself learned that the first human beings to arrive in North America had come over a land bridge from Asia and Siberia approximately 13,000 to 13,500 years ago. These people, the first North Americans,[…]

The Greatest Native American Intellectual You’ve Never Heard Of

The short life and long legacy of the 19th-century reformer William Apess. On April 1, 1839, a New York City medical examiner performed an autopsy on a man at a boardinghouse in a working-class neighborhood of lower Manhattan. He had performed scores of such examinations each month, but this one was especially significant though he[…]