The Beaver

The North American fur trade was a vastly powerful engine that drove European immigration, economic growth and the geographical expansion of white presence and control for more than two hundred years. From its beginnings on the Atlantic coast, the trade spread north and west, stretching eventually to the Pacific and the fringes of the Arctic. Many animals were trapped for their fur, for a variety of uses, but it was the demand for beaver fur for making hats which proved the most enduring and lucrative aspect of the enterprise.

In the early modern period, the fur of the European beaver (castor fiber) was the main raw material of the hatting industry. Beaver fur is ideally suited to making hats: it is strong, resistant to tearing and unravelling, unlike woven material; durable, holding its shape well; and naturally water resistant. Beavers were hunted throughout northern Europe and eastern Siberia, with felting – the conversion of raw pelts into material suitable for hatting – concentrated in Russia. But by the seventeenth century the beaver population was in rapid decline, depleted by hundreds of years of unsustainable exploitation. The price of fur hats escalated in tandem with the increased scarcity of felt  to make them.

Fortunately for hat-makers and hat-wearers, this decline coincided with a rapidly increasing European presence in North America, home of a very similar species of beaver, castor canadensis. The possibilities for reversing the shortage of beaver fur, and by so doing making money, were seized upon from the beginning of settlement. Following their arrival in 1620, the religious separatists who founded the New England colonies paid off the debts incurred by their passage mainly by exporting beaver pelts. These pelts were acquired from American Indians, who were often as eager as the English to participate in the trade. In 1639 Roger Ludlow wrote from Connecticut to the Massachusetts magistrate William Pynchon on behalf of a group of Indians upriver who wanted him to relax the restrictions  placed on the fur trade, in which Pynchon himself also participated.

This information is a part of the online exhibition “American Indian Histories and Cultures,” a collaborative collection by Adam Matthew and the Newberry. The exhibit can be viewed at:


Eric Jay Dolin, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The epic history of the fur trade in America (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010

anonymous asked:

My grandfather was a Mexican American who studied Native American history extensively. I was wondering if it would be disrespectful to get a totem pole commemorating his memory? (He committed suicide many years ago.)

Why a totem pole? That’s from Pacific Northwest Tribes. There are Tribes in Mexico as well, and they are every bit as Native as other North American Tribes. I encourage you investigate them.

DailyPBO: The President & The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation - June 2014

The crowd to President Obama: “We love you President Obama! You’re our hero!” President Obama: “I love you back!”

Obama became only the fourth sitting president to visit an Indian reservation. Attending with the First Lady, it was a truly inspiring event at the Cannon Ball Pow Wow Grounds in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The Native American community was bursting with pride over the president’s visit and when he spoke Lakota during his speech, they were completely moved. It was a wonderful day for a community that never (and I mean NEVER) gets the respect they deserve. Bravo, Mr. President. For more reactions, check the Twitter hashtag: #PrezRezVisit

From Delta State University’s Paxton Papers Collection, Series 2. A photograph of a indigenous Filipino man (?) and a male African American soldier that are both enlisted in Company “A” of the 45th Infantry at Camp John Hay.



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

Long live the Navajo Code Talkers

Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo code talkers, died Wednesday morning, June 4th 2014.

Navajo President Ben Shelly ordered flags be flown at half staff in Window Rock, the Navajo reservation capital.

Nez was the last living member of the U.S. Marines who created the first unbreakable code that baffled the Japanese during World War II.
Nez, 93, died of kidney failure, according to family members. He lived in Albuquerque, N.M., with his son Michael Nez.
“He was a very important man in my life and I will always speak his name,” Michael Nez said in a telephone interview. “I’m going to miss him very much.”

Chester Nez grew up in Chi Chil Tah, among the oaks, in Jones Ranch, N.M. When World War II broke out, young Nez was at Tuba City Boarding School. On a spring day in 1942, U.S. Marines came to the boarding school, looking for Navajo boys.

Nez said he signed up because he was eager for an adventure. He wanted to see what was on the other side of the butte, where he had never traveled.
He and the other 28 Navajo Code Talkers developed a code using their language.

“Sadly, we have lost the last surviving member of the original 29,” Shelly said. “His passing closes another chapter in the annals of Navajo history. Chester Nez and the rest of the original 29 now belong to the ages. We salute their valiant service and memory.
"Since time immemorial, the Navajo language, Dine’ bizaad, has been our shield and protector,” Shelly added. “The power of our language was shared with the world during World War II when the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers stepped forward for service.”
New law requires Native American history in every WA public school curriculum

Today, Jay Inslee signed into a law a bill that will require “Washington’s tribal history, culture, and government to be taught in the common schools.”

Part of the passage of the bill, reports the Herald, is to raise awareness about free and inexpensive resources and training available to teachers on the subject, including the curriculum created by OSPI, which is even in line with Common Core. 

The curriculum has been in development for years, and is designed to be easily incorporated into existing curricula. 

“Washington’s high school graduation requirements include a minimum of one-half credit of Course work in Washington State history and government,” according to the language of the bill. “Courses designed to meet this requirement are encouraged to include information on the culture, history, and government of Washington Indian tribes.”

The bill was designed with both non-Native and Native kids in mind, and should be much more accurate than the shitty Native history you got in school.

“We endorse this bill because most Native American children attend public schools and unfortunately tribal cultures and histories that are taught in the public schools are not accurate and provide misinformation to all students not just tribal students,“ according to a summary of the public testimony in favor of the bill. 

The law will go into effect around the beginning of the school year. 

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


Maria Tallchief (January 24, 1925) – Maria Tallchief is a member of the Osage Indian tribe and was the first Native American woman in ballet. She danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the 40s. She joined the New York City Ballet in 1948 and appeared as a guest performer with the American Ballet Theatre in the late 50s. Her sister ,Marjorie Tallchief, was the first Native American to become primere danseuse etoile in the Paris Opera Ballet.


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


“It’s not murder, it’s War. There’s a big difference.”

Some speedpaintings sort of cinematically imagining the opening scene of my historical fanfic, “Irreversible,” which explores young Alfred’s struggles with loyalty after he witnesses Arthur and the colonists brutally raze an Indian village in 1637. It’s my first completed fic, so pls read and review!

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.

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.