Bertha Parker Pallan (1907-1978) was a Native American archaeologist, of Abenaki and Seneca descent. Her parents were Behula Tahamont, a Native American actress, and Arthur C. Parker, the first president for the Society of American Archaeology. 

Parker discovered and participated in many archaeological sites during her career, but she is best known for her work at the site of Gypsum Cave. Although she was originally hired her as the expedition cook and secretary, she was allowed to explore the cave and was able to reach more inaccessible areas. It is here that she uncovered the first giant ground sloth remains in association with humans, a discovery that received national attention among anthropologists. After her time at Gypsum Cave, she discovered two additional sites: Corn Creek Campsite, and a pueblo site at Scorpion Hill. She worked for over 10 years as an Assistant in Archaeology and Ethnology at the Southwest Museum, where she published a number of archaeological and ethnological papers in the museum journal. In her later years, she acted as a technical advisory and consultant on TV shows and movies depicting American Indians, and hosted her own TV show on Native American history and folklore.

Bertha Parker Pallan was a ground-breaker in many aspects. She is considered the first female Native American archaeologist, and she is one of the first women  recognized for conducting her work at a high level of skill in the field without a university education. Additionally, her role as a consultant for TV and movies influenced how American Indian cultures and their histories were depicted in the media.

You know in the movies where the white guys are paddling down a river and come across the skulls of animals hanging from tree’s as the music turns to eerie and somber. 

A hunter once told me that signs like that aren’t dire or meant to be scary. The idea is to tell other hunters which animals have been hunted recently. The skulls are hung up by their soft tissue and eventually they’ll fall to the ground. 

In this way they are able to practice conservation by not hunting the most recent kills in the area. 

Zitkala-Ša, shown here in 1898, was a Yankton Dakota writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her youthful struggles with identity and pulls between the majority culture and her Native American heritage. Her later books in English were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white readership. Working with American William F. Hanson, Zitkala-Ša wrote the libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera, (1913), the first Native American opera. She was a co-founder of the National Council of American Indians in 1926 to lobby for rights to United States citizenship and civil rights. She served as its president until her death in 1938.

Hand-colored ambrotype portrait of an Iroquois man posing with a knife and spear, c. 1855.

Source: Heritage Auctions.


Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte;

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree. She attended the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, graduating in 1889. La Flesche Picotte grew up on the Omaha Reservation and returned there after completing her studies, opening a hospital for its residents in 1913 which was the first privately funded hospital in Omaha.

The hospital building still remains today and has been converted into a museum in her honour, featuring her work as a doctor and preserving the legacy of Omaha and the Ho-Chunk tribes that resided their. It also has a centre for the care of children named in Susan’s honour and has been designated as a National Historical Landmark.

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce, when young

Series: Photographic Negatives of Native American Delegations and Archaeology of the Southwestern United States, 1879 - 1907Record Group 106: Records of the Smithsonian Institution, 1871 - 1952

Following the Battle of Bear Paw, “non-treaty” groups of the Nez Perce surrendered to the United States Army on October 5, 1877, ending the Nez Perce War.  While not the sole leader of the Nez Perce, Chief Joseph emerged as one of the more outspoken and compelling figures in the conflict and during the Nez Perce’s later struggles following their removal from their ancestral lands in the Pacific Northwest.

More photos of Chief Joseph in the National Archives Catalog

Amado Garcia of the Acoma Pueblo, pictured here on May 17 1919, enlisted in the US Army on June 3, 1918 in Lamar, Colorado. In the First World War, Garcia was cited for bravery with the following:

“Advanced with two men three hundred yards in front of the lines through wire entanglements in order to attack an enemy machine gun.

In spite of strong resistance he succeeded in capturing the guns and returning to our lines.”

Garcia was rewarded with the Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star for his bravery.

(Mathers Museum of World Cultures)

Portrait of Ojibwe chief Hole in the Day, c. 1860′s. By Mathew Brady.

Source: National Archives and Records Administration.


Indian Sign Language Council of 1930. An attempt to record and preserve many varieties of Plains Indian Sign Language (Plains Sign Talk, Hand Talk, First Nations Sign Language).  Translations both oral and in captions.  Only a handful of people now speak these highly endangered languages.

You know that age old saying of leave only footsteps implying a lot of native americans didn’t leave a trace. 

That isn’t always correct. 

Around here the Anishinabe bands would sometimes leave birch bark staked into the ground near the riverbank campgrounds like a modern sign. It had basic pictographic messages for other Anishinabe bands to know what is going on. It provided valuable info like which clans crossed, If they were a visiting, hunting, peace or war delegation, What direction they went, If there was death or illness and approx time they camped. 

Hand-colored tintype portrait of an unidentified Pawnee man probably taken somewhere in the United States, c. 1800′s.

Source: National Museum of American History.

Frank Waln is a Lakota activist and indigenous Hip Hop artist from the Sicangu Sioux Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Jesse Menendez spoke with Frank about his new EP “The Bridge,” which describes the plight of indigenous people in the Unites States. The album also addresses this country’s dark history of genocide and colonization at the hands of our Founding Fathers.

Made with SoundCloud
Portraits of Native Americans

This three-volume set of McKenney & Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America was printed in 1854 and includes 120 colored portraits based on oil paintings by Charles Bird King.

The only Mississippian featured in the set is the Choctaw chief Pushmataha, shown below.

The portraits of women in the set are especially beautiful:

Sadly, the written histories and anecdotes are filled with sexist and racist language, such as this description of Hayne Hudjihini (Eagle of Delight):

Like many handsome women, her face was probably her principal treasure. The countenance does not indicate much character; without the intelligence of the civilized female, it has a softness rarely exhibited by the Indian squaw. There is a Chinese air of childishness and simplicity about it…

Whatever the writers thought of her, Eagle of Delight’s portrait can be found in the White House library today.

Worcester v. Georgia

Series: Appellate Jurisdiction Case Files, 1792 - 2010Record Group 267: Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1772 - 2007

Argued on February 20, 1832, Worcester v. Georgia was a landmark Supreme Court decision in which the Court convicted Samuel Worcester for illegally living on Native American lands and found a Georgia state law requiring a permit to live on Native lands unconstitutional. Although it had little beneficial effect in the short term, Chief Justice John Marshall’s majority opinion is largely considered to be the foundation of Native tribal sovereignty because the decision argued for treatment of Native tribes as independent nations.

View more pages from the Worcester v. Georgia Case File in the @usnatarchives online Catalog.


December 29th 1890: Wounded Knee Massacre

On this day in 1890, hundreds of Native Americans were killed by United States government forces at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Tensions between the federal government and the indigenous peoples of America had led to frequent bouts of warfare ever since the country was first colonised by Europeans. These wars became particularly intense during the latter half of the nineteenth century, and despite several key victories for Native Americans - most famously at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 - the federal government increasingly pushed native peoples onto reservations. The government were particularly alarmed by the growing Ghost Dance movement, which was a spiritual movement which prophesised the imminent defeat of the white man and the resumption of the traditional Indian way of life. The movement factored into mounting tensions at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which were exacerbated by the murder of Sioux chief Sitting Bull on December 15th 1890. The situation came to a head fourteen days later, when the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry surrounded a group of Ghost Dancers, under the leadership of Lakota Sioux chief Big Foot, near Wounded Knee Creek in the reservation. During this confrontation, a shot was fired, and the fighting descended into a massacre of Native Americans by the well-equipped army. It is estimated that around 200 people died - nearly half of whom were women and children - though some historians place the number much higher. Only 25 U.S. soldiers were killed, and 20 of the survivors were awarded the Medal of Honor. The Wounded Knee massacre was a pivotal moment in the history of indigenous relations in North America, as it marks the last major confrontation of the Indian wars. The incident also provides a poignant symbol around which Native American activist groups have rallied, providing the title for Dee Brown’s famous history Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), and becoming the focal point of the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.