North American Indians
North American Indians (also Native Americans) are the original inhabitants of the Americas. The Native Americans of North America are typically considered to be all those tribes north of Central Mexico. While technically part of North America, most archaeologists tend to place the civilizations of Central Mexico into a separate category. Tribes in North America maintained a wide variety of subsistence patterns, from hunting and gathering, to intensive agriculture. North America is also home to two of the most unusual groups of hunter-gatherers, the Northwest Coast tribes, and the Aleuts. The first Native Americans are believed to have migrated from Asia via the Bering land bridge, the exposed continental shelf through Alaska between Asia and North America during the last Ice Age.
- 1 Culture Areas of North America
- 2 Historical role of disease and war on Indian populations
- 3 Praying Indians
- 4 Negative effects of resettlement
- 5 Indian tribes today
- 6 References
- 7 See also
- 8 Further reading
Culture Areas of North America
American Indians of North America are generally divided into culture areas according to similarities in geography, environment, subsistence patterns, language family, and similar social practices. According to the Handbook of North American Indians, there are ten such cultural areas.
- Greenland, extreme northern Canada, and the northern and western coastlines of Alaska: Inuit.
- Most of central Canada and interior Alaska.
- New England, Nova Scotia, the Great Lakes region, the Chesapeake Bay area, and most of current day W. Virginia, the Ohio River valley, and Illinois: Hurons, Shawnee, Iroquois.
- N. Carolina excluding the NE corner, western Virginia, southern W. Virginia, and all the southern states east of the Mississippi River, in addition to parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, and eastern Texas: Cherokee, Creek, Seminole.
- the entire Midwest United States from Texas north to southern parts of Canada: Sioux, Cheyenne.
- Central Mexico north into W. Texas, NM, and AZ: Navajo, Pueblo, Apache.
- Great Basin
- Nevada, Utah, N. Arizona, W. Colorado, W. Wyoming, S. Idaho, SE Oregon, and parts of W. California: Shoshone, Utes.
- Interior and Coastal California and N. Baja: Modoc.
- Northwest Coast
- N. California to S. Alaska along 1500 miles of coastline: Tlingit, Tsimshian.
- Parts of Oregon, Washington, N. Idaho, W. Montana, and SW Canada: Nez Perce.
Historical role of disease and war on Indian populations
Deaths by disease
Indian populations suffered substantial losses over time, mainly due to disease and warfare. As author Guenter Lewy reports, great disparities exists in estimates of Native American Indian populations before the arrival of Europeans, from around 1.2 million to 12 million, with assertions being given of inflation or deflation of numbers. However, it is generally accepted that that only 250,000 Native Americans were alive in the territory of the United States at the end of the 19th century. The major cause of the reduction of population is understood by many scholars to be virgin-soil epidemic, that of death through the spread of highly contagious diseases to which the Natives had no immunity. The principal pathogen was smallpox, the effects of which also killed by hunger by reducing the food gatherers. Other killers included measles, influenza, whooping cough, diphtheria, typhus, bubonic plague, cholera, and scarlet fever. It is estimated that between 75 and 90 percent of all Indian deaths resulted from such killers. While there is evidence that some Europeans promoted this decimation, and certain liberal historians are given to ideological-driven charges, specific accounts of such are in dispute, but poor medical understanding, as well as poor conditions and later forced relocations, such as that of Cherokee resettlement 1838, certainly fostered it. However, the largest loss of life occurred well before such forced relocation, and sometimes after only little contact with European traders from Europe.
Death by war
Puritans first regarded the Natives as potential friends and converts, and relations for some time were amicable. However, later developments would result in the Puritan seeing the Indians as hostile. The murder of several colonists in late 1636 by the feared (by colonists and other Indians alike) Pequot tribe, resulted in increased alarm and hostilities. Torture of prisoners was a routine practice for most Indian tribes, and the Pequots in particular had a reputation for cruelty and ruthlessness, and openly flayed the skin of one of their captors alive, and cut off his fingers and toes, while roasting another. Some Indians also engaged in cannibalism, eating certain body parts of their enemies. While the colonists sometimes engaged in torture in order to gain information, and the means of war on both sides could be brutal, the revelation of the type of cruelty these warring Indians engaged in resulted in a fear and a determination to subdue them.
A particularly brutal war followed, that of King Philip’s War (1675–76), in which fifty-two of New England’s 90 towns were attacked, and seventeen were razed to the ground, and 25 were pillaged. Although Boston's colonial council in Boston had declared "that none be Killed or Wounded that are Willing to surrender themselves into Custody", this would not be English "civilized warfare", and Indian deaths were even higher, with many captured Natives being executed or sold into slavery to foreign countries. Soon, the colonists would become more like their enemies in brutality, albeit somewhat tempered in places by religious restraints.
Enlistment and incitement of Indians by the French, and expansion westward by European settlers resulted in escalating hostilities, and substantial deaths on both sides. The premise that force was the answer was challenged by a number of federal commissioners, but the Europeans overall had the upper hand, and both sides engaging in indiscriminate killing. True and perhaps exaggerated stories of savage killings by Indians spread, and with it increasing animosity toward them outside the East, and desire to exterminate them. The Reverend William Crawford reported in September 1864 that the attitude of the white population of Colorado was, “There is but one sentiment in regard to the final disposition which shall be made of the Indians: ‘Let them be exterminated—men, women, and children together.’” To which he added, "I do not myself share in such views." Violent conflicts due to the Gold Rush saw great decimation of the Indian population of California, mainly by disease but also by killing, with settlers sometimes killing any who were in their way, and retaliating to Indian savagery with greater intensity.
For a more through and balanced account of wars between the Indians and settlers, the reader is directed to the main source for the above, Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide?, by Guenter Lewy.
Deaths by internecine conflicts
In addition to decimation by war with European groups (in contrast to those who worked to convert Indians to faith in Christ), armed conflict and ritual violence between Indians themselves are of considerable antiquity in North America. In North American Indigenous Warfare and Ritual Violence, it is evidenced that in contrast to revisionist history that tribal warfare was more like football games, recent findings provide more evidence that from antiquity Indians fought each other, that internecine "warfare was ubiquitous; every major culture area of native North America reviewed herein has produced archaeological, ethnohistorical, osteological, or ethnographic evidence of armed conflict and ritual violence." This could involve the taking of human trophies being encouraged before contact with Europeans, and hostilities that at least among some areas resulted in "the massacre and mutilation of men, women, and children."
While the effects of wars by European against Indians are not to be minimized, trade with Europeans could reduce traditional forms of intergroup conflict during the early contact period. However, as unjust warring is the usually the result of lust (Ja, 4:2) tribal warfare also could shift from "raiding each other based on revenge, and a desire to acquire prestige goods and status, to an extremely violent pattern of engagements arising from unequal access to foreign trade goods and the quest for war booty, revenge killings, status intensification, and slaves", as it did among Northwest Coast Indians.
New England praying Indians
A once numerous class of Christian Indians existed in America known as praying Indians mainly in New England. These helped the Patriot cause in the American Revolution, but were treated shamefully due to distrust by most of the Colonialists during the period of King Phillip's War, reducing their numbers from an estimated estimated 20 percent of Massachusetts Indians to a few hundred.
Roger Williams of Rhode Island and Thomas Mayhew of Martha's Vineyard were the first English missionaries to seek the conversion of New England's natives, but John Eliot was much more successful, largely because of his command of the complex native Algonquian language (spoken by many Indian nations) which was without a written tradition, but which Eliot provided and translated the Bible into.
Historian and author Robert D. Hall stated that “Eliot was a genius." "He was a missionary, a teacher, a linguist. He founded the Roxbury Latin School. He learned the Algonquin tongue and translated it into English.’’
Between 1646 to 1674, Eliot saw some 1100 Massachusetts natives convert to the Christian religion, and played a central role in establishing fourteen “Praying Indian” communities in the eastern part of Massachusetts.
The praying town of Natick is considered the oldest, being founded in 1651, and by 1674 six more principal praying towns existed: Hassanamesit, Magunkaquog, Nashobah, Okommakamesit, Punkapog, and Wamesit. However, the praying Indians were practically destroyed by the other Native Americans in King Philip's War circa 1675 and by the English, both of whom viewed them as traitors. From an estimated population of 1,100 in 1674, they were reduced to only 300 by 1680. 
Mission work with John Eliot
John Eliot (1605 - 1690), born in Widford, Hertfordshire, England in 1604, was the younger son of Bennett Eliot, a wealthy landowner. At the age of only fifteen he entered Jesus College at Cambridge University, where he soon was recognized as a brilliant linguist and classical scholar.
In 1631 Eliot joined a great migration of Puritans to North America, resulting from the persecution of nonconformists (men who in conscience toward God could not assent to the Church of England). Eliot found a home in Boston, Massachusetts, and was immediately hired as a substitute for the then-absent Reverend John Wilson. Although the Boston congregation wanted Eliot to be an associate minister when Wilson returned from England, he chose to become the pastor of the church of neighboring Roxbury. Eliot served in that pastorate for almost sixty years, while also fathering six children during his long and happy union with his wife, Ann (Mumford) Eliot, which lasted until his death in 1690.
Eliot learned the language of the local Native Americans, and some fifteen years after his arrival in America he began his missionary work to the American Indians. In addition to his personal burden, Eliot had official support during that period, as the English government had required of the Bay Colony that conversion of the natives be a high priority in granting its charter in 1628. The seal of the Mass Bay Colony even featured an Indian pleading with the English to “Come over and help us,” based on Acts 16:9, but very little had been accomplished as yet.
In a letter written to Thomas Thorowgood in 1660 concerning his work in translating and printing the Bible in the language of the Algonquin people, Eliot expressed his motive for engaging in the work:
The Godly undertakers of this plantation had it so much in their hearts, to make the conversion of the Indians one end of their coming, as that they made it one clause in their patent, which did lay a publik ingagement upon us thereunto: and when God was pleased to put me upon that work of preaching to them, that publik ingagement, together with pitty to the poor Indians, and desire to make the name of Christ chief in these darke ends of the earth, and not the rewards of men, were the very first, and chief movers, if I know what did first, and chiefly, move in my heart.
However, Eliot found hardness of heart in his first attempt mid-1646, that being was to the Indian community under Sachem Cutshamekin at Neponset (in Dorchester), as the older Sachem rejected the gospel and his braves openly ridiculed and mocked the clergyman.
Eliot found more hope among a small band of Indians under a native leader of somewhat lesser stature named Waban, "a wise and grave Indian" whom Eliot described as "one who gives more grounded hope of serious respect for the things of God, than any as yet I have known of that forlorn generation. Waban was son-in-law of the Sachem of Concord, whose community lived on the southwest slope of Nonantum Hill (presently on Brighton-Newton line.)
Accompanied by two of three other clergymen, Eliot delivered about a one hour sermon in the Algonquian language in October, 1646, followed later by extended exchanges with them, in which Eliot his fellow clergy gave further instruction and answered questions put forth to them by the Indians, such as:
- How may we come to know Jesus Christ?
whether Jesus Christ did understand, or God did understand Indian prayers?
- Whether Englishmen were ever at any time so ignorant of God and Jesus Christ as themselves?
- How is all the world become so full of people, if they were all once drowned in the flood?
- How came the English to differ so much from the Indians in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, seeing they had all at first but one father?'
- How may we come to serve God?
As a result of this ongoing evangelism many were convicted in heart of their sins and need of salvation in Christ, some to the point of weeping, and Waban turned to the Lord Jesus Christ and progressively many others of his people. The Indians offered all their children for Christian education, and some even reproved Englishmen: "An Indian seeing a profane Englishman fall a tree on the Sabbath said to him, 'Do you not know that this is the Lord's day in the Massachusetts, much matchet man, (i. e. much wicked man,) what, break you God's day?'" They also exhorted other Indians to turn to the faith, and endured persecution, with at least one suffering martyrdom by being poisoned.
The official sanction of the work by the government also meant that the need for more land was made to Eliot, who interceded for them (leading liberal historians to impugn their motives)
On November 4 of the next month, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted "for the good of the Indians" to give the desired land, with Eliot being part of the commission which was to handle the matter. Asked by the Indians what to call their Christian village, Eliot recommended that it be called Nonantum, which in English signifies rejoicing, because “they hearing the word, and seeking to know God, the English did rejoice at it."
In 1663 Eliot, with help from Christian Indians, completed the first Bible printed in America, a Bible written in the Massachusett-Natick Algonquian Indian language, which was a long and difficult task requiring much perseverance, as this language was completely oral. Martin Moore, in Memoirs of the life and character of Rev. John Eliot, stated,
The enormous length of many of its words, the consequent slow communication of ideas, the harshness of their pronunciation, and its little affinity with the European tongues, would have discouraged any but a most determined student. "Our readers will stand aghast," says Mather, "at a few instances. The words ' our lusts' are expressed in Indian by a word of thirty two letters—Nummatchekodtantamoonganunnonash."
Eliot had his translation printed at Harvard College by Christian Indians who were trained to read both languages and to set type. Entitled The Holy Bible Containing the Old Testament and the New. Translated into the Indian Language, the translation of the New Testament took ten years and came off the press in 1663, with printing of the Old Testament following in in 1665, with and one thousand copies of the Algonquin Bible being distributed to the Indian people. Eliot also prepared grammars and primers in the Algonquian language.
The Indian Bible was the first book printed in an American Indian language, and was also the second book of any kind printed in Massachusetts (The Bay Psalm Book of 1640 being held as being the first, which Eliot is also credited as being an editor of). The Eliot Bible appeared some 120 years before the first complete English edition of the Bible was published in what is now the United States (due to the economics of printing versus importing)
In seventeenth century New England, Christian practice was a way of life, and steady, dutiful habits and working towards economic stability were part of what constituted true Christian faith, and which living in English-style buildings and maintaining English work rhythms on geographically defined homesteads was conducive to.
An early historian of Newton, pastor Jonathan Homer, provided the following description of the "Praying Indian" village of Nonantum:
Mr. Eliot...furnished them, by the public aid, with shovels, spades, mattocks, and iron crows, and stimulated the most industrious with money.... The houses of the meanest were found to be equal to those of the sachems or chiefs in other places. They surrounded the town with ditches...and with a stone-wall.
The Indians, thus settled, were instructed in husbandry, and were excited to a prudent as well as industrious management of their affairs. Some of them were taught such trades as were most necessary for them, so that they completely built a house for public worship, 50 feet in length and 25 feet in breadth.
However, in less than five years after its foundation, Eliot was obliged to migrate the entire population of this North American Christian Indian community to a 3,000-acre site some fifteen miles to the southwest, in the present town of Natick.
Twenty years after the arrival of Eliot, the Massachusetts General Court established Natick (meaning “Place of Searching”) as the praying Indian village/town in 1651, helping them to be able to worship in peace. This is considered by some to be the first formally "Christian town" in America, and consisted at first of 51 inhabitants in seven villages, with seven more being later established. The beloved (by the Indians at least) Eliot became known as the “Apostle to the Indians.”
Other praying Indian Towns also were established, including Ponkapoag (Stoughton, MA) and Nashoba (Littleton, MA), but also covering portions of Dover, Wellesley, and Needham in addition to Dedham. By 1675, it is estimated that 20 percent of the Native Indians in New England lived in praying Towns.
Removal and decimation
The winter of 1675 began an intense trial in the wilderness for the Indians. The colonists, being largely distrustful of the these Praying Indians of a different language and culture, and being fearful that they might join "King Phillip" (Metacom), the mighty Wampanoag Indian Chief in an ongoing war, they forced the removal of the approximately 200 Natick Praying Indians to Deer Island at midnight on October 30. Despite only being given half an hour’s notice, the Indians made no opposition, and were left unprotected on the frigid Island, being forbidden to light fires, hunt game, build shelters, and so suffered from hunger and little clothing, though they may have been able to dig clams and fish. A month later this crime was multiplied as the praying Indian Villages of Ponkapoag and Nashoba were sent to suffer interment on the Island, which lasted until into 1676. An attempt by the now elderly Eliot going by boat to bring supplies to the Natives is said to have ended when the boat was capsized by some angry colonists. Despite that winter being one of the coldest winters on record, Eliot recorded that no word of complaint ever issued from their lips. Most of the 500 Indians died of cold and starvation, while some of the Praying Indians worked as spies for the colonists and fought for them.
After the death of King Phillip Pastor Eliot and Daniel Gookin secured the Indians release, personally removing the Indians from the Island and bearing the financial cost to do so. They returned to face the loss of homes and property, and means of survival. A remnant lived on however, as a testimony of enduring faith.
Praying Indians in Delaware
During the period of the 1730s to the 1770s, the Delaware Indians had been forced out of their homelands in the east and had found temporary refuge along the Ohio River.
Among these was a contingent of Moravian Indian converts in western Delaware. During the 1740s the Moravians had established communities of Indian Christians from Georgia to New York, but these were gradually moved westward further away from "civilization", due to increasing pressures of European settlements. Yet the Moravians believed that healthy communities could exist separate from both the negative influences of European society as well as the pagan customs of non-Christianized Indians.
In the early 1770s settlements of Christian Indians were established in Gnadenhutten, Salem and New Schonbrunn where Delawares, Mohicans, and other tribal affiliations mingled together as religious communities.
However, war between some of the Delawares outside these communities and the Americans broke out, resulting in the destruction of Coshocton on April 19, 1781, which was located in the middle of the warpath between the American forces at Pittsburgh, and the British stronghold of Detroit.
The Christian Indians in the Moravian villages were unarmed noncombatants and at this time were not molested, but in September 1781, certain Indian tribes who were allied with the British forced the Christian Indians and the white missionaries to move from their Moravian villages to a new village on the Sandusky. The missionaries were also taken to Detroit and tried for treason by the British, but were acquitted.
Being in need of food, over 100 of the Christian Indians returned to their old Moravian villages in February 1782, seeking to harvest the crops they had been forced to leave behind. However, war was still ongoing, and an adhoc militia of 160 Pennsylvania local frontiersmen led by Colonel David Williamson, seeking to destroy Indian villages and looking for Indian scalps, found the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten. Although the pacifism of the Moravian Indians was well known, and they had been very helpful to the American cause, the militiamen accused them of taking part in ongoing raids against them, and sought to frame them as guilty. At a council called by Williamson, his men (some of whom had recently lost relations to Indians) voted to kill them all, with records showing only 18 voting to spare them.
A website created to honor the slain (and the main source for this section), states,
On the evening of the 7th, the Indians spent their last hours praying and singing, knowing that their spirits would soon be in the presence of their God. They did not resist, they did not struggle. The next morning the slaughter began. The women were killed in one building, the men in the other. The old, the young and the infants were all massacred. The lists of the victims contain the names of infants and toddlers who were killed. As the victims were brought into the slaughter houses, many sang hymns, others prayed. The word of God was on their lips as the mallet or tomahawk crashed into their skulls...
The other abandoned Moravian towns were then burned as well. Two Indian boys, one of whom had been scalped, survived to tell of the massacre. The bordermen who had committed the mass murder were hailed as heroes by most of their fellow frontiersmen, but were deemed as criminals by most of the rest of America.
90-96 Delaware (Lenni Lenape), Mohican, and other Indians who had been converted by Moravian missionaries to Christianity died, and as a result of the massacre, Indian distrust of Americans and resistance to them much increased.
Negative effects of resettlement
Later, after the American Indian Peoples were rounded up onto reservations, the sudden dependence on the government created situations that are often associated with welfare situations. Both because of biology (Indian people like many Asian people do not break down alcohol the same way Europeans do) and the lack of being a "bread winner" that men throughout history find critical to identity as head of the family, alcohol and drug abuse became very common both among reservation and urban Indians, as is the case today. A strong rise in child and spousal abuse occurred after the "welfare state" like existence for the men came into being. Without the need to provide for the family, depression sets in, and is a common problem on the reservation.
Conflicts between "traditionalists" and "modernists", between "Christian Indians" and "tribal religion" Indians, between urban Indians and reservation Indians, and "full bloods" and "mixed bloods" are common among Indian people and effect their politics and social life. In the 1980s, Indian reservations began to see a rise in gangs, often as a result of drugs and drug wars with other social cultures in large cities.
Indian tribes today
Indian People have a proud heritage and find strength there to renew their cultures. They are, as a people, generally both proud to be American and (since World War I), proud soldiers for this country. At any Indian gathering, the first people onto the dance floor, or introduced politically, or recognized for contributions to the tribe are the elder male veterans, then the elder women (non veterans), the all other veterans, and only then people who have not served in the US military.
Indian People have many problems to solve, but new social services, generally run and funded by the tribes themselves, along with new recognition of Indian People's contributions to society are ways that tribes and individuals are trying to change things.
Today, many Indian tribes are seeing a resurgence, such as in California, with outreach programs working to reunite urban Indians with both their reservation families and other urban tribal members; programs set up both by the tribe themselves (often with assistance of state and local governments) to teach their languages and open schools that focus on a tribal way of life. Most tribes have been granted some limited power in self governance as well, significantly in the area of the sentencing of tribal members in various criminal and civil issues. Special tax breaks have helped Indian people and Indian reservations become more self-sufficient. Some states have even revisited the definition of 'reservation' based on the Dawes Act which originally provided for substantially more "reservation" land if the Indian people would buy it as individual land, and either market it or farm it (the intent was to help Indian Peoples integrate into the American social and economic systems). So for instance in Wisconsin, Indian reservation land can include buying real estate in Milwaukee - far from the physical location of the tribes themselves. Laws have been enacted in some States that give Indians special privileges in allowing gambling in the form of slot machines and other gaming, resulting in economic gains but with increased addictive behavior, and at the expense of spiritual and social values.
Self governance is a huge issue, with each of the over 300 recognized tribes having different rules and regulations placed on them by the Government. As with every other political system in the world, Indian People disagree with each other about many issues from how to spend government money to how "traditional" to become, to what religion should be the focal point of the tribe.
Other issues remain between recognized Sovereign Nations and the US government including mineral right issues, natural resource husbandry and mediation, conflicts with government run museums (as well as a few private museums) over who has the right to various artifacts, what rights modern Indian peoples should and should not have when dealing with artifacts that are clearly earlier than the oldest known existence of any particular tribe (for example, who has rights to archaeological finds at Mesa Verde, which represents an extinct tribe, the Anisazii).
- Swidler, Nina, Dongoske, Roger. 1997. Native Americans and Archaeologists: Stepping Stones to Common Ground. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.
- Trail of Tears
- Washburn, Wilcomb E. 1998. Handbook Of North American Indians, Vol. 4, History of Indian-White Relations. Washington: Smithsonian Institute.
- Guenter Lewy, Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide?
- North American Indigenous Warfare and Ritual Violence, summary
- "Talk on first Christian Indians," The Boston Globe Newspaper, May 13, 2010
- "praying Indians," The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Encyclopedia.com; http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/praying_Indians.aspx
- The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2008
- Tyndal's ploughboy, Eliot Bible
- The Lantern Braintree Historical Society, VOL March 2007 XXV No.3
- Memoirs of the life and character of Rev. John Eliot, pp. 24-43
- Praying Indians of Natick and Ponkapoag
- The Memorial History of Boston 1630-1880 Vol. I, p. 321
- Blackwell Reference Online; A Dictionary of American Reference; Purvis, Thomas L. 1997
- Gnadenhutten Massacre
- Information on the Militia Criminals
- 12% of Indian deaths are related to alcohol, several times the national average. http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Aug28/0,4670,IndianDeathsAlcohol,00.html
- Don A. Cozzetto, "The Economic and Social Implications of Indian Gaming: The Case of Minnesota," American Indian Culture and Research Journal (Winter 1995), p. 126
- Judy Zelio, "The Fat New Buffalo," State Legislatures (June 1994): p. 38-41
- Marci McDonald, "Tribal Gamblers," Maclean's (May 30, 1994): p. 32-33
- Magnuson, "Casino Wars: Ethics and Economics in Indian Country," Christian Century (February 16, 1994): pp. 169-171
- Daniel Gookin,Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England in the years 1675-1677
- William L. Traxel, Footprints of the Welsh Indians: settlers in North America before 1492
- John McIntosh, The origin of the North American Indians
- Martin Moore, Memoirs of the life and character of Rev. John Eliot