“Soon, moreover, I was told, ‘This is your little ax,’ when a little ax was brought. I was glad. 'This is your wood-strap,’ I was told. My mother and I would go out to cut wood; and I carried the little wood that I had cut on my back. She would strap them for me. She instructed me how to tie them up. Soon I began to go a little ways off by myself to cut wood.

"And when I was eleven years old I likewise continually watched her as she would make bags. 'Well you try to make one,’ she said to me. She braided up one little bag for me. She instructed me how to make it. Sure enough, I nearly learned how to make it, but I made it very badly. I was again told 'You make another.’ It was somewhat larger. And soon I knew how to make it very well… She would be very proud after I had learned to make anything. 'There, you will make things for yourself after you care for yourself. That is why I constrain you to make anything, not to treat you meanly. I let you do things so that you may make something. If you happen to know how to make everything when you no longer see me, you will not have a hard time in any way.’”

Autobiography of a Fox Woman (1925)

Today we’re combining Women’s History Wednesday with Native American Heritage Month to feature these images of Iowa’s Mesquakie tribe, from the Iowa Women’s Archives Noble Collection, along with a published autobiography excerpt held by the State Historical Society of Iowa.

From their home in the Great Lakes region, the Mesquakie (formerly known as the Fox tribe) relocated to Iowa during the 18th and early 19th century following warfare against French fur traders and other Native American tribes. In 1845, the U.S. Government forced them out of Iowa to a reservation in Kansas, but many tribe members remained in secret, and others returned after a few years. The Iowa legislature enacted a law in 1856 allowing them to stay, and sold them back some of their land. Today the Mesquakie own 3,000 acres. [source]

Iowa Digital Library: Mesquakie photographic postcards

Iowa Digital Library: Excerpts from Autobiography of a Fox Woman



Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage

William Loren Katz

Black Indian Slave Narratives

Patrick Minges

Red Over Black: Black Slavery Among the Cherokee Indians

R. Halliburton, Jr.

IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas

Gabrielle Tayac

The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People

Kenneth W. Porter

ca. 1860-70’s, [carte de visite portrait of Olive Oatman, Survivor of the Oatman Massacre and held five years in captivity by Yavapais indians]

“In 1851 Olive Oatman survived the brutal massacre of most of her family by the Yavapais in Arizona and was held in captivity for five years. While in captivity she was tattooed on her face and arms in the tribal tradition.”

via Heritage Auctions

My first encounter with AIM was at a pow-wow held in 1971 … One man, a Chippewa, stood up and made a speech. I had never heard anybody talk like that. He spoke about genocide and sovereignty, about tribal leaders selling out … He had himself wrapped up in an upside-down American flag, telling us that every star in this flag represented a state stolen from the Indians … Some people wept. An old man turned to me and said, “These are the words I always wanted to speak, but had kept shut up within me.”

Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Women


Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

This beautifully written book tells the haunting saga of a quintessentially American family. It is the story of Shoe Boots, a famed Cherokee warrior and successful farmer, and Doll, an African slave he acquired in the late 1790s. Over the next thirty years, Shoe Boots and Doll lived together as master and slave and also as lifelong partners who, with their children and grandchildren, experienced key events in American history—including slavery, the Creek War, the founding of the Cherokee Nation and subsequent removal of Native Americans along the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War. This is the gripping story of their lives, in slavery and in freedom.

Meticulously crafted from historical and literary sources, Ties That Bind vividly portrays the members of the Shoeboots family. Doll emerges as an especially poignant character, whose life is mostly known through the records of things done to her—her purchase, her marriage, the loss of her children—but also through her moving petition to the federal government for the pension owed to her as Shoe Boots’s widow. A sensitive rendition of the hard realities of black slavery within Native American nations, the book provides the fullest picture we have of the myriad complexities, ironies, and tensions among African Americans, Native Americans, and whites in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story

At the turn of the nineteenth century, James Vann, a Cherokee chief and entrepreneur, established Diamond Hill in Georgia, the most famous plantation in the southeastern Cherokee Nation. In this first full-length study to reconstruct the history of the plantation, Tiya Miles tells the story of Diamond Hill’s founding, its flourishing, its takeover by white land-lottery winners on the eve of the Cherokee Removal, its decay, and ultimately its renovation in the 1950s.

This moving multiracial history sheds light on the various cultural communities that interacted within the plantation boundaries–from elite Cherokee slaveholders to Cherokee subsistence farmers, from black slaves of various ethnic backgrounds to free blacks from the North and South, from German-speaking Moravian missionaries to white southern skilled laborers. Moreover, the book includes rich portraits of the women of these various communities. Vividly written and extensively researched, this history illuminates gender, class, and cross-racial relationships on the southern frontier

Tiya Miles…

is a professor at the University of Michigan in the Department of American Culture, Department of Afro-American and African Studies, Department of History, Department of Women Studies, and Native American Studies Program. Her research and creative interests include African American and Native American interrelated and comparative histories (especially 19th century); Black, Native, and U.S. women’s histories; and African American and Native American women’s literature…continue reading

A righteous and beneficial a deed as ever took place on the frontier.

Theodore Roosevelt, commenting on the Sand Creek massacre wherein 70 to 162 native people were killed and mutilated, two-thirds women and children.

Another comment of Roosevelt’s concerning the Native American plight was, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe 9 out of 10 are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”


I feel that it should be noted that during the year of the Sand Creek massacre (1864), the president of the United States was none other than Abraham Lincoln.


African American and Native American families and lives.

IndiVisible:  African-Native American Lives in the Americas

“Within the fabric of American identity is woven a story that has long been invisible—the lives and experiences of people who share African American and Native American ancestry.African and Native peoples came together in the Americas. Over centuries, African Americans and Native Americans created shared histories, communities, families, and ways of life. Prejudice, laws, and twists of history have often divided them from others, yet African-Native American people were united in the struggle against slavery and dispossession, and then for self-determination and freedom.For African-Native Americans, their double heritage is truly indivisible.” 

Read more about this exhibition:    

Photo #1 Comanche family, early 1900s
Here is a family from the Comanche Nation located in southwestern Oklahoma. The elder man in Comanche traditional clothing is Ta-Ten-e-quer. His wife, Ta-Tat-ty, also wears Comanche clothing. Their niece (center) is Wife-per, also known as Frances E. Wright. Her father was a Buffalo Soldier (an African American cavalryman) who deserted and married into the Comanches. Henry (center left) and Lorenzano (center right) are the sons of Frances, who married an African American man.

Courtesy Sam DeVenney

Photo #2 Buck Franklin (1879–1960), son of a Chickasaw freedman (emancipated slave)
Buck Franklin (shown here ca. 1899 with his older brother, Matthew) was named after his grandfather, who had been a slave of a Chickasaw family in Oklahoma. Buck Franklin became a lawyer, notably defending survivors of the Tulsa Riots in 1921 which had resulted in the murder of 300 African Americans.

Courtesy John Franklin

Photo #3 Choctaw freedmen roll

Buck Franklin’s father was a Chickasaw freedman, and his mother was one-quarter Choctaw. The Choctaw freedmen roll pertaining to the family is shown here.

Courtesy National Archives at Fort Worth

Photo #4 Foxx family (Mashpee), 2008
(L to R): Anne, Monet, Majai (baby), Aisha, and Maurice Foxx
Photograph by Kevin Cartwright

“Through the centuries, people whose lives cross racial lines have found difficulty in gaining full acceptance from the society in which they live. This situation has often been true for African-Native American people, because their blended identities challenge the rules of race and racial categorization.But African-Native American people are all around us. Some identify primarily with a Native nation. Some identify primarily with the African American community. All of them hold the human desire for being and belonging.”

Jimi Hendrix, rock legend

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
—Jimi Hendrix

The rock-and-roll innovator Jimi Hendrix often spoke proudly of his Cherokee grandmother. He was one of many African Americans who cite family traditions in claiming Native ancestry.

Above photo:

Kitty Cloud and John Taylor—acceptance
As a child, Kitty was adopted by Utes when her starving Hispanic parents insisted on exchanging her for food. Her Ute parents called her “Little Woman,” but the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) required English names. She became Kitty, of the Cloud family.
John Taylor, a Buffalo Soldier, married her when she was 18. Their descendants, who carry the name of Valdez, also given by the BIA, were first removed from Ute tribal rolls but were later re-enrolled.

Courtesy Center of South West Studies, Fort Lewis College

The Longest Walk, 1978
Solidarity between African Americans and Native Americans grew with the Black Power movement of the 1970s, whose goals were closer to the nationalism espoused by American Indian Movement activists. Pictured here (left to right) are Muhammad Ali, Buffy St. Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram at a concert at the end of the Longest Walk, a 3,600-mile protest march from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in the name of Native rights.

Courtesy David Amram

All photos and information credit from:

Common historical myth/misconception: the white guilt narrative edition

I think it’s time for us to talk about the effects of white guilt on historical revisionism, especially within the USA. The following sentiments need to gtfo of the common Intro to American History lexicon:

-The blacks sold each other into slavery before the whites came along, so the white people were just as bad as the Africans.

-Black people in America had slaves too, so I don’t get why we’re demonizing white people.

-The Indians screwed each other over and worked with the Europeans, so the white people weren’t that bad.

These sentiments are horribly offensive, deeply ignorant, erase the identities of millions of people, and post-humously deprive people of their agency.

First of all, “Africa” is not and never has been a nationality. It is a continent filled with a multitude of ethnicities and nationalities. Before the Europeans came along, the power structure in Africa was driven by wealth and ethnicity. When these African nations went to war with each other, they did take prisoners of war, and those prisoners of war were sold into slavery. However, to identify this as “blacks oppressing other blacks” or “Africans oppressing other Africans,” is to view pre-European Africa through a colonialist lens. Those people were the Bantu, the Yoruba, the Igbo; they weren’t just people in a continent you don’t understand.

The construct of race as viewed by the population targeted in the paragraph above was not even developed until Europeans arrived in Africa, and even then the white=superior, black=inferior dichotomy took about a century to develop. Which leads me to the second point.

The development of the construct of race in the New World isn’t as simple as it is made out to be. When Europeans first landed in Africa, an entirely new culture developed from the interaction between the European and African populations. This culture was that of the Creoles: a syncretic society whose culture combined elements of both African cultural attributes and European cultural attributes to create a third, entirely new culture. This culture saw itself as neither African nor European, and in fact, to have identified a Creole person as an African or a European would have been deeply offensive to them.

Members of the Creole culture settled in parts of the New World, and those people owned slaves from Africa. The New World Creole population was highly affluent, and affluent people held slaves regardless of race; wealth ruled the hierarchy of the New World in its beginning stages. However, as time went on and the racial construct solidified, the Creole population, though they had never been slaves, were slowly deprived of their agency, and often found themselves being forced into slavery by sheer virtue of their darker skin. To identify the Creole slaveholders as “blacks owning slaves” is to demonstrate a total lack of comprehension for the realities and identities of the early New World, and the history of the construct of race.

Finally, the peoples inhabiting North America before the Europeans showed up were hardly a cohesive group of people with one language and culture and mode of dress. North America was populated by a huge variety of nations with their own cultures, languages, ethnic identifications, gender roles, and worship practices. Between those nations there were alliances and rivalries and enmities. When the Europeans arrived, some nations saw them as a key to thwarting their enemies; some didn’t.

To imply that the foreign policy decisions of a few nations, while, of course, labeling the people who made those decisions simply as “The Indians” is to blame Native populations for their own destruction, and alleviate the colonial population of their crimes. I don’t think you need me to tell you why that is disgusting and offensive.

The United States of America was built on the backs of African slaves and the native populations of North America; not to mention the young, poor, and mostly Irish indentured servants the colonists went through like tissues before slavery became normalized. Guilt, and the perpetuation of harmful, erasing narratives through that guilt, solves nothing. To the contrary, it further marginalizes and erases non-dominant populations.

If you truly feel guilty, then good. Do something about it. Get into education reform. Write an article. Write letters to school boards and the Department of Education. Call out these narratives when you encounter them. The knowledge is accessible to you, so use it. Don’t stand by, and don’t perpetuate ignorance.

ask historicity-was-already-taken a question

Petitioning the “Washington Chiefs”

“During the last two years strangers have looked over our land with spyglasses and made marks upon it, and we know but little of what this means.” — Hopi tribe

A Hopi (Moqui) petition signed by all the Chiefs and headmen of the tribe asking the Federal Government to give them title to their lands instead of individually allotting each tribal member., 03/27/1894 - 04/10/1894

Seeking an answer from the Federal Government, the Hopi tribe in the Arizona Territory petitioned Congress asking that the entire tribe be given land, rather than allotments to individuals as determined by the Dawes Act. The Hopi lived in the arid desert and farmed communally to survive. The allotment process would sell off “excess” lands, reducing the overall acreage the tribe needed to survive. Also, the Hopi were a matrilineal society, meaning they traced ancestry through the mother. They were fearful that the allotment process would eventually cancel out their way of life, and that women would not have control of their own homes. Each pictogram represents a family, and every family in the tribe signed the petition. 

The government never formally responded to the petition, and the Hopi’s lands were never allotted. In an annual report from the Indian commissioner, it was recommended that the Hopis be allowed to continue their custom, “it is believed that the best interests of the tribe would be promoted by granting the petition.”

(via the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” eGuide)

This petition is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures“ exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.


Pre-Colonial Homosexuality: Native American Gender Roles

Gay people aka Two Spirit were highly respected individuals until Europeans arrived and altered the traditions.

Napoleon, Haiti, and Manifest Destiny

In 1800-1801, Spain secretly returned the lands granted to it in the Treaty of Paris—the 1763 treaty which ended the Seven Year’s War—to French custody. These lands were Louisiana Territory, and Napoleon planned to turn these lands into the North American, overseas arm of his empire.

The United States government learned of this in 1802. The knowledge caused no small amount of panic because the government which controlled that territory controlled the mouth of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, and whomever controlled the mouth of the Mississippi had an effective stranglehold on the economy of the United States. And indeed, the Unites States’ government’s fears came to pass when Napoleon closed the New Orleans port.

Map of the Louisiana Purchase; courtesy of A People and a Nation: Volume I Ninth Edition by Mary Beth Norton

But something was happening in the background of all of this which would permanently destroy Napoleon’s plans and alter the future of the United States, for better or for worse. The slave revolt of St. Domingue began in 1791, and concluded with the complete overthrow of French colonial rule in 1804. This is known today as the Haitian Revolution.

Napoleon had planned to use St. Domingue as his settled holding in the Caribbean from which to launch his new empire. The enslaved labor force and the revenue he gained from the work done by this labor force would form the backbone of the infrastructure for this new arm of his empire.

Having lost that holding, that labor force, and all the money that came with it, and having been in preparation for war with Britain, Napoleon decided that his plans for the Louisiana Territory were no longer financially tenable and made the choice to sell it to the United States instead. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon for $15 million, or about $233 million in today’s dollars. And thus began, in earnest, American expansionism and the mentality of Manifest Destiny.

Now, I said that the impact of the Haitian Revolution on French empire building would alter the future of the United States for better or for worse. I said this because, if you were an impoverished (white) immigrant, or a white farmer in search of land, it was for better. If you bought into early nineteenth century conceptions of the American Dream—which nearly all people of European descent did—it was for better. If you believed that it was the destiny of the still New Nation to expand from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it was for better.

However, if you were a First Nations person, it was for worse; if you were a non-white person living under Spanish/French racial constructions, it was for worse; if you were a free person of African descent, it was for worse; if you were a white person who was very much not socialized in an Anglo-centric manner, it was for worse. And for descendants of some of those groups, it is still for worse.

Here I would like to input a map depicting the territories inhabited by First Nations peoples as this piece of land was being handed off between white, European powers. However, the best map of this nature is too large to be included in this post. Thus you may find it here; be sure to use the zoom feature, and I do apologize for the inappropriate file name; I have no control over that as it is too large to upload.

And just an interesting note about the Haitian Revolution: the use of the philosophies which incited “American” revolt against British rule by a black, enslaved population terrified people like Thomas Jefferson so much that they could barely speak of it; they had no idea how to make sense of it within their precisely constructed idea of race. In the words of one of my grad school peers, “The Haitian Revolution was kind of like Voldemort in the eyes of the Founding Fathers.”

ask historicity-was-already-taken a question


Signatures and Pictographs

Representatives of the Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Wyandot tribes signed this treaty with the United States on November 17, 1807, ceding millions of acres in Ohio and Michigan. Each tribal representative signed with a pictograph. President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison signed at the bottom. The tribes received $10,000 collectively, $2,400 annually, and reservations of 1 to 6 square miles.

Treaty between the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi Indians, 11/17/1807

via DocsTeach

(November is Native American Heritage Month!)