Missing in History, presented by

WEEK THREE: 3 Things About Native American History Your Textbook Doesn’t Want You to Know

And how they relate to the fight for justice today

A Canadian textbook was recently recalled because it said Native American tribes willingly forfeited their lands to Europeans. The truth? Native peoples were forced off their lands and onto small plots called “reservations.”

This kind of “erasure” – omitting or misrepresenting figures and events – happens in lots of textbooks. November is Native American Heritage Month. Read and share this guide to educate friends on the events that shaped Native history and how they influence today’s struggle for equality and justice.

1) The US government forced Native American children to attend boarding schools where they were forbidden from speaking their Native languages.

The History: Starting in the 19th century, these government-run schools forced children to abandon their Native culture in favor of white practices. As a result, children were forced to cut their hair, wear uniforms, and march in formations. Rules were extremely strict and discipline was often harsh when rules were broken.

Today: The boarding schools have gone, but punishment of children on the basis of culture persists. For example, in 2012, seventh-grader Miranda Washinawatok was suspended for speaking Menominee to her teacher. Additionally, the percentage of Native American dropouts is twice that of the national average, and given that the education system does next to nothing to encourage Native academic success, it’s not hard to see why.

2) Over 100 years after Sitting Bull was killed at Standing Rock, the Lakota people are still fighting to protect that land from European expansion.

The History: American soldiers cleared the area the next day, killing over 200 Lakota tribe members. The massacre was followed by a three-day blizzard, after which soldiers recovered frozen bodies and buried them in a mass grave.

Today: 126 years later, Standing Rock once again became a site of resistance, as Native Americans from across the country occupied the space to advocate against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which posed environmental and health threats to the Lakota people and their land. In the summer of 2017, a judge ruled that environmental tests had not been sufficiently conducted on the pipeline, but didn’t shut down the pipeline’s construction. The fight over DAPL continues today.

3) For nearly 50 years, activists have fought to change the name of the NFL’s Washington Redsk*ns, a dictionary-defined slur towards Native peoples.

The History: The term “redsk*n” originates from the practice of paying bounty hunters to kill Native Americans, which required the hunters bring back the scalp of the dead as proof. After seven years of fighting, Suzan Harjo and six other Native activists successfully petitioned to have the team’s six trademarks overturned in 1999, only for the decision to be reversed in court following the Redsk*ns’ appeal.

Today: In 2013, Redsk*ns owner Dan Snyder refused to respond to backlash, saying that the name would never change. While activist Amanda Blackhorse had been successful in striking down the trademarks, progress came to a halt this June when the Supreme Court ruled that the law against offensive names restricted the right to free speech.The issue goes beyond the Redsk*ns – over 2,000 American sports teams still have Native American mascots.

This Thanksgiving, let’s recommit to shining a light on missing Native American history. Want to sign up to take action? Visit the campaign page HERE.

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. 

Portrait of two unidentified Pawnee chiefs probably taken at Mathew Brady’s studio in Washington, D.C., c. 1860. They were members of a large Native American delegation to visit the White House. By Mathew Brady.

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.

November is Native American Heritage Month

The National Archives holds extensive records created or received by the U.S. Government relating to Native Americans. We not only hold these records, we provide access to them. Explore these records and other resources at the @usnatarchivesNative American Heritage Month portal.

Native Americans from Southeastern Idaho, ca. 1897
Series: Portraits of Indians from Southeastern Idaho Reservations, 1897 - 1897.  Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793 - 1999.


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.

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

Source: Heritage Auctions.


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

Series: Indian Treaties, 1722 - 1869Record Group 11: General Records of the United States Government, 1778 - 2006

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.  (via DocsTeach)

November is Native American Heritage Month

The National Archives holds extensive records created or received by the U.S. Government relating to Native Americans. We not only hold these records, we provide access to them. Explore these records and other resources at the @usnatarchivesNative American Heritage Month portal.

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

Source: National Archives and Records Administration.

OCTOBER 24: Paula Gunn Allen (1939-2008)

The renowned poet, literary critic, and Native-American activist Paula Gunn Allen was born on this day in 1939. While she identified as a lesbian in her earlier years, by the end of her life Paula was identifying as a “serial bisexual.”

Paula Gunn Allen photographed by Christopher Felver in 2007 (x).

Paula was born on October 24, 1939 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She grew up in the small town of Cubero, New Mexico, which was a Spanish-American land grant village that bordered the Laguna Pueblo reservation. Although Paula was of varying descent with Laguna, Sioux, Lebanese, and Scottish people all along her family line, she always most identified as a Native-American woman and with the Laguna people. Growing up, her father owned a small local store and her brother was a much beloved poet and teacher in the Laguna Pueblo-Anishinaabe community. Together, the family was well off enough to allow Paula to attend the University of Oregon for her undergraduate and then later the University of New Mexico for her PhD.

After graduating from college, Paula became a professor and a writer. She worked in the English department of over 7 different premier universities throughout her lifetime, even becoming the head of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center in the 1990s. As a writer, her breakout work was The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions, which changed the face of academia when it was published in 1986. By combining Native-American with feminist theory, Paula brought a new radical perspective to both areas of study; The Sacred Hoop is still read in college classrooms today. During her life, Paula was also a fiction writer and published over 15 novels, short stories, and poetry collections.

Although she was not as much of a vocal member of the LGBT community during her younger years, Paula Gunn Allen would later recount her experiences of sexuality and of struggling to find a label that fit her. She began her journey by identifying as a lesbian, but would later discover that she was bisexual. She eventually married twice and had two children who survived her at the time of her death on May 29, 2008.


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)

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


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.