Mountain Camp 2015: Walking in the footsteps of our ancestors

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By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst

Wilderness. The wild. Whether intentional or not, using the world “wild” to designate landscape and environment sets the land apart from us. Americans are civilized, Natives are savages, and the land is wild. Sound familiar? Because of American formal education and informal borrowing of traits from other cultures, Americans believe they can visit the wild, but can never live in it. Americans are trained to think that those who do choose to live in the wilderness are either Natives (read savages) or half-crazed tree huggers.

But the concept of wilderness was obsolete the minute it was born. We, as a Native society and Tulalip people, know every inch of this land used to be Indian Country. Every inch. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a “wild” or a “wilderness” on this continent. All things are related. This notion of connectedness to all things was so central to our ancestors, to the very essence of Native culture, but has dissipated as generation after generation of Native peoples have found themselves urbanized; slowly transformed by the contemporary world of independence, big cities, and a relentless dependence on technology.

So then how can we reasonably begin to understand our ancestors, their actions, thoughts, and values? If we live in a modern time that is inherently different in nearly every respect than the time of our ancestors, how can we truly grasp the culture we stem from? The culture we fight to hold onto, both externally and internally, every single day, while the world around us constantly tells us to give it up, get with modern times, and stop looking backward, look forward.

There is no simple solution, yet as we look around we can clearly see a persistence and resurgence of Tulalip culture that we refuse to let die. There is the plan for Lushootseed immersion classrooms, the stead-fast work of our Rediscovery Program, the restoration of the Qwuloolt Estuary, and, most recently, the reintroduction of our ancestral mountainous areas to a new wave of Tulalip citizens, known as Mountain Camp 2015.




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The idea behind Mountain Camp helps us begin to answer the critical questions about how we keep in touch with our ancestors in modern times. Instead of bringing traditional teachings to an untraditional space, we learn our ancestral teachings in an ancestral space, to walk as they walked. The pristine swədaʔx̌ali co-stewardship area, located 5,000 feet up in the Skykomish Watershed, was a space where our ancestors once resided. It was a place where they hunted, gathered, and lived only off the sustenance the land offered them. Most importantly, after all these years, the swədaʔx̌ali remains a land our ancestors would recognize today, unhampered by urban cities and deconstruction.

“I think for our youth to be up in the mountains it is critical for them to get a strong, firm understanding of who they really are as Tulalip people,” says Patti Gobin, Tulalip Foundation Board of Trustee. “It’s been a long time since our people, our children in particular, have been allowed into these areas. After the signing of the treaty, we were confined to the reservation at Tulalip, and many of us grew up thinking that’s all we were, Tulalips from a reservation. But we are far more than that. From white cap to white cap, as Coast Salish people, this was our ancestral land and it means everything to have our children up here to allow the spirits of our ancestors to commune with them and talk to them, and for them to experience what it is to be out in the wilderness, the way we have always lived.

“If they are given the gifts of what the woods have to offer them and they have ears to listen, then those gifts will strengthen them as young men and women. They’ll never forget this experience and they’ll always come back here and they’ll always fight for the right to come back here, which is critical for future generations.”




For the inaugural Mountain Camp 2015 (held in mid-August), three camp leaders led eight Tulalip tribal members, all 7th and 8th graders, in the experience of a lifetime. They spent five days and four nights in the swədaʔx̌ali and surrounding areas living as our ancestors lived; setting up and taking down camp as they moved locations, singing, storytelling, making traditional cedar baskets, foraging, berry picking, preparing meals, building fires, using the crystal clear lake to cleanse their bodies and spirits, learning traditional values in the sacred land, and coming together as a supportive family.

In order to give the Tulalip youth the most impactful experience possible, the Natural Resources Department teamed with Cultural Resources and Youth Services to develop two main themes for the camp: reconnecting to the mountains and x̌əʔaʔxʷaʔšəd (stepping lightly).  Both themes aspire to reunite the children with teachings and values central to our ancestors; recognizing the connectedness of all things while respecting the Earth.

“Mountain Camp is all about having a space for kids to come up and just enjoy the outdoors, connect with their mountain culture, learn how to camp, learn how to be out here and be safe,” says camp leader Kelly Finley, Natural Resources Outreach and Education Coordinator. “I grew up in the mountains hunting, fishing, and playing in the trees. It was a vital part of my youth and to this day I love being out there. It is an honor to provide an opportunity for young people to love the outdoors as I do. I hope through this experience there will be a better understanding of our natural world and how we all connect to our environment. I look forward to continue this work next year with new and returning students.”

In keeping with their traditional teachings the youth introduced themselves to the mountains and forest that make up the swədaʔx̌ali region. They took turns stating their names, their parents’ names, and the names of their grandparents. The mountains took notice and later that night swədaʔx̌ali formally introduced itself to the kids in the form of a glorious show of thunder and lightning.

“Thunder is medicine to our people, it was the mountain’s way of welcoming our people back to the place we’ve been absent far too long,” says Inez Bill, Rediscovery Program Coordinator. “The children were in an area where the spirits of our ancestors could see them. We, the elders who volunteered and visited the youth on their camp, did our best to impart the meaning and importance of what they were doing. They were experiencing a place, a spirit of our ancestors that most people will never be able to experience. We hope that experience helps lead those youth to live a good life. As younger people they are in their most formative years. We used to have rites of passage, and for these youth,  Mountain Camp represented a rite of passage for them.”

Indeed, the Tulalip elders and volunteers added to the overall experience of the youth; helping to explain how their ancestors were one with their environment and lived a fulfilled and spiritual life, all without the uses of cellphones, computers, T.V., and the internet. A true highlight was the elders teaching the youngsters how to make their very own cedar baskets so that they could go huckleberry picking during their brief stay in the mountains. The messages of finding strength and beauty in all experiences with nature were taken in by the youth and each did his and her best to internalize those values.

“The elders have been telling us stories about what they used to do when they used to go berry picking, and how it was tradition that they make it look like they weren’t even there. They just picked a little bit and moved along,” explains camp participant Jacynta Myles. “They made cedar bark baskets and used them for berry picking baskets. You can go from blackberries to huckleberries and store practically anything in it.

“I love the area. How we woke up to thunder this morning, I’ve never heard it that loud. I think every area in the woods is pretty special, but being here in this area, all together, makes it even more special. And we’re having fun.”




“It’s all about going into the wilderness, no electronics or nothing like that,” says youth participant Sunny Killebrew. “We’re just like on our own, no parents, just depending on ourselves and making new friends. We’ve been learning that this is the land where are ancestors were raised, grew up, and lived. They hunted, they ate, they slept, they did everything on this land right here. It feels good, like I’m doing something they would want me to do.”

For the tribal elders and everyone involved who contributed to making Mountain Camp a reality, it was a dream come true to witness the camp youth as they one-by-one grasped the importance of walking in their ancestor’s footsteps. The entire project had been in the works over the last few years, allowing Natural Resources the necessary time to find funding and the resources to build a Mountain Camp program for our youth.

“This, as the first year, was a big learning experience for all of us. While there are things we might tweak for next year, overall we believe this first year was a big success and deeply worthwhile, as measured by the experience these eight kids received and all that we, as program leaders, learned as it unfolded,” said Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst. “Success this year can be attributed to the collaboration with our Cultural Resources, Language and Youth Services staff; and a very successful and helpful partnership with the YMCA Outdoor Leadership Program in Seattle, the US Forest Service, and our own Rediscovery Program in Tulalip’s Cultural Resources division.

“This Mountain Camp experience presented an opportunity to reconnect tribal youth to these inland, mountain ancestral territories where their ancestors lived, while also explicitly reserving rights to continue using these areas for hunting, fishing and gathering.”


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From practically being inside a thunder and lightning storm at an elevation of 5,000 feet, to storytelling in their Lushootseed language as they witnessed a meteor shower, to creating their own cedar bark baskets for huckleberry picking, the Tulalip youth created many memories that will last a lifetime. As they grow and mature into adults, their sense of appreciation for what they were able to be a part of and experience will undoubtedly grow immensely. It’s a difficult task for anyone to be expected to live as their ancestors lived, let alone asking that of a 7th or 8th grade student. In honor of their efforts and achievements while participating in Mountain Camp 2015 the youth were honored with a blanket ceremony when they got back home to Tulalip.

“The ceremony was to acknowledge what the kids went through. It was an accomplishment for them to go through everything that they did while up in the mountains, living in nature,” continues Inez Bill. “They didn’t have their cell phones or any of the other electronic gadgets they would have back home. They experienced something together, they grew together, and they had a rite of passage together. I covered the kids with blankets as a remembrance of what they went through. The ceremony recognized that rite of passage, of how we want them to be as young people.

“In our ancestral way, they were brought out to nature to find their spiritual strength. I think later in their lives, that spiritual strength will give them direction and confidence when they need it most. And for the parents and grandparents who were at the ceremony, I think they were happy and truly touched.”

Following the ceremony the camp participants mingled a while longer, still wrapped in their blankets, and talking about their favorite moments from Mountain Camp. Going to their ancestral lands, being immersed in their cultural teachings, a rite of passage, experiencing nature as it was meant to be experienced. There are so many possible takeaways, but none bigger than that of camp participant Kaiser Moses who says, “I feel empowered. I feel I can do anything!”




Plans are already underway for Mountain Camp 2016. Stay on the lookout for more details and registration information in future syəcəb and online on our Tulalip News Facebook page.

Michelle Obama Just Made Groundbreaking Remarks On Native American Struggles


Get ready for right-wing heads to explode like you’ve never seen before: First Lady Michelle Obama just stood up for Native Americans and their plight in American history, and told every citizen far and wide that they are being stripped of their culture.

Speaking to Generation Indigenous, Michelle Obama touched on Native American history and today’s youth and how the United States government has ultimately stripped them of their heritage due to systemic discrimination, abuse and racism:

“You see, we need to be very clear about where the challenges in this community first started. Folks in Indian Country didn’t just wake up one day with addiction problems. Poverty and violence didn’t just randomly happen to this community. These issues are the result of a long history of systematic discrimination and abuse.”

“Let me offer just a few examples from our past, starting with how, back in 1830, we passed a law removing Native Americans from their homes and forcibly re-locating them to barren lands out west. The Trail of Tears was part of this process. Then we began separating children from their families and sending them to boarding schools designed to strip them of all traces of their culture, language and history. And then our government started issuing what were known as ‘Civilization Regulations’ – regulations that outlawed Indian religions, ceremonies and practices – so we literally made their culture illegal.”

These comments are truly groundbreaking coming from the First Lady. They speak volumes of the Obama Administration’s strive to be inclusive to all and remember our history’s stains. While Republicans, from state laws in Michigan and Wisconsin to acts of Congress, continue to throw Native Americans under the bus, the First Lady shares in their plight. I am sure Republicans will cry reverse racism and throw their hands in the air accusing her of pandering to anti-white “causes.”

But can you blame conservatives, who hold Ayn Rand in such high regard (cough cough Rand Paul and Paul Ryan)? Given the fact that Ayn Rand is on record saying:

“[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using…. What was it they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.”

The difference in ideology is striking.

“So given this history, we shouldn’t be surprised at the challenges that kids in Indian Country are facing today.  And we should never forget that we played a role in this.  Make no mistake about it – we own this,” Michelle Obama continued.

We are so lucky to have a First Lady like Michelle Obama. She speaks the truth, and she’s a realist. We must confront our past actions, realize the have long, lasting effects, and work to fix our mistakes. Burying our heads in the sand and saying “it’s in the past” is not going to work. Bravo, Madame First Lady.

Why Native Americans Are Concerned About Potential Exploitation of Their DNA

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.This image shows a Native woman from the Plains region carrying a baby on her back.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
This image shows a Native woman from the Plains region carrying a baby on her back.


Arvind Suresh, Indian Country Today


Until the advent of genetic genealogy, knowing your ancestry meant combing through old records, decoding the meaning of family heirlooms and listening to your parents and grandparents tell you about the “good old days.” For anthropologists and archaeologists interested in going back even further in time, the only reliable means of understanding human history were trying to interpret ruins or remnants of skeletons or other information uncovered at the site of remains.

DNA testing has changed all that, allowing us to delve far deeper into our past than before and with a much higher degree of accuracy. Although there are many issues stirred by DNA testing, none is more provocative than interpreting our family and tribal ancestries.

Nowhere is this more apparent than among the Native American tribes in the United States. I recently wroteabout a large-scale genetic analysis among the American population by personal genetics and genealogy company 23andMe, using its extensive database to begin to decipher the ancestral origins of various ethnic groups in the United States.

Though the study involved more than 160,000 people, less than less than one percent of those who participated self-identified as Native American. Rose Eveleth, a journalist writing for The Atlanticsuggests that this lack of participation may have a lot to do with how Native tribes perceive genetic testing:

But when it comes to Native Americans, the question of genetic testing, and particularly genetic testing to determine ancestral origins, is controversial. […] Researchers and ethicists are still figuring how to balance scientific goals with the need to respect individual and cultural privacy. And for Native Americans, the question of how to do that, like nearly everything, is bound up in a long history of racism and colonialism.

[…] for Native Americans, who have witnessed their artifacts, remains, and land taken away, shared, and discussed among academics for centuries, concerns about genetic appropriation carry ominous reminders about the past.

Eveleth references the widely publicized case where the Havasupai Tribe living near the Grand Canyon sued an Arizona State University scientist for using genetic samples collected from the tribe to conduct research outside of the purpose of the original study. The crux of the issue was the consent form, which covered a broad range of uses for the samples—a fact that the tribes claimed was not explained to them appropriately.

Although the tribe won the case, reclaimed the samples and settled with the university for $700,000, the issue captured the front pageof the New York Timesand put “every tribe in the US on notice regarding genetics research” as Native American tribal research ethics expert Ron Whitener quotedin an article titled “After Havasupai Litigation, Native Americans Wary of Genetic Research” published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A.

Around the same time that the genetics of the Havasupai were being studied, another high profile issue bought Native American tribes in conflict with researchers. The Kennewick Man, an approximately 9,000-year-old skeleton was discovered by accident in 1994 in Kennewick, Washington. The Umatilla Tribe, who were indigenous to the region, sought to reclaim the remains under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to bury it in accordance with traditions. Anthropology researchers who wanted to study the skeleton however, argued there wasn’t enough evidence to convincingly show that the remains were Native American and therefore should not be returned. This resulted in a widely publicized eight-year-long legal dispute between scientists and the government that ended in 2004 with the court ruling in favor of the archaeologists, a decision that the tribes were expectedly unhappy with.

Now, the issue has come under the spotlight once again with the Seattle Times reportinglast month that preliminary DNA analyses indicated that the Kennewick Man was indeed of Native American ancestry.

RELATED: The Long Legal and Moral Battle Over Kennewick Man

This piece originally appeared on February 2 at the Genetic Literacy Project. Read the rest of the article here.



‘All Indians Are Dead?’ At Least That’s What Most Schools Teach Children



Alysa Landry, Indian Country Today


It’s time to break out the construction paper and synthetic feathers.

Students in schools across the country this month will learn about the first Thanksgiving, perpetuating a fairy tale about struggling pilgrims and the friendly Indians who shared a harvest banquet. This usually follows Columbus Day instruction that is similarly celebratory.

But for the vast majority of elementary and secondary students, lessons like these may be the only time they learn about American Indians at all. A staggering 87 percent of references to American Indians in all 50 states’ academic standards portray them in a pre-1900 context.

That means students are graduating from high school without even basic knowledge of contemporary Native challenges or culture, said Sarah Shear, associate professor of social studies education at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona. Shear, who this year earned a PhD in learning, teaching and curriculum from the University of Missouri, spent two years examining state-mandated U.S. history standards, coding each state six times in an effort to understand what students are learning about Natives.

The project began when Shear was teaching an undergraduate class in multi-cultural education. When she asked what students knew about America’s indigenous people, hands shot into the air.

“What they told me is that they learned about Thanksgiving and Columbus Day,” she said. “Every once in a while a student would mention something about the Trail of Tears. It was incredibly frustrating. They were coming to college believing that all Indians are dead.”

Shear partnered with other researchers to analyze states’ academic standards, lengthy documents that dictate what topics teachers should emphasize, including names of important people, dates, events and concepts. Textbook authors often tailor materials to meet those standards.

The study revealed a shameful lack of meaningful Native content, Shear said.

“All of the states are teaching that there were civil ways to end problems and that the Indian problem was dealt with nicely,” she said. “They’re teaching that this is what needed to happen in order for the United States to become the United States. The conflict had to be dealt with in order to manifest destiny. The relationship with Indians was a means to an end.”

The study also revealed that all 50 states lack any content about current Native events or challenges.

“Nothing about treaties, land rights, water rights,” Shear said. “Nothing about the fact that tribes are still fighting to be recognized and determine sovereignty.”

In some states, politics plays a huge role in determining academic standards, Shear said. Politicians, not educators, decide the “grand story” that teachers will tell students. In other states, standards may be simply—and shockingly—out of date. Either way, Shear said, the effect is a white-washing of history, a focus on the Euro-American story that is so narrow there’s no room for an indigenous narrative.

While state standards highlight topics that must be covered in the classroom, teachers still have leeway to tailor lessons or add content, said Tony Castro, assistant professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri. Castro, who served as a faculty assistant to Shear’s research project, said he was disappointed with the findings.

RELATED: 7 Things Teachers Need to Know About Native American Heritage Month

RELATED: Native American Heritage Month Resources for Teachers

“This kind of curriculum, these misconceptions, all that has led to the invisibilization of indigenous people,” he said. “What we teach acts as a mirror to what we value and what we recognize as legitimate. These standards are perpetuating a misconception and are continuing to marginalize groups of people and minimize the concerns or issues those people have about being full citizens in the American democracy.”

Shear’s research is being published in an upcoming issue of Theory & Research in Social Education. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of her findings:

Across all the states, 87 percent of references to Natives portray them prior to 1900, with no clear vision of what happened after that.

In half of the states, no individual Natives or specific tribes are named.

Of the Natives named in standards, the most common are Sacagawea, Squanto, Sequoyah and Sitting Bill.

Only 62 Native nations are named in standards; most are mentioned by only one state. One nation, the Iroquois, is mentioned in six states.

Only four states—Arizona, Washington, Oklahoma and Kansas—include content about Indian boarding schools.

New Mexico is the only state to mention, by name, a member of the American Indian Movement.

Washington is the only state to use the word “genocide” in relation to Natives. That word is used in the standards for fifth grade U.S. history.

Nebraska textbooks portray Natives as lazy, drunk or criminal.

Ninety-percent of all manuscripts written about Native people are authored by non-Native writers.



School Board hears First Reading of “Since Time Immemorial” Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum

Source: Marysville School District
On November 17, 2014, the Marysville School District Board of Directors heard a report from Dr. Kyle Kinoshita, Executive Director of Learning and Teaching, for the following instructional materials:  “Since Time Immemorial” Tribal sovereignty curriculum

In 2009, the state legislature passed State House Bill 1495, strongly encouraging all districts, especially those in proximity to Tribal Nations, to incorporate the history and culture of the local tribes into the curriculum.  In 2011, OSPI created the “Since Time Immemorial” Tribal sovereignty curriculum to outline the general history of Washington State Tribes for grades K – 12.
The curriculum materials will be available for public inspection at the Marysville School District Service Center beginning November 24, 2014 until December 7, 2014, from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.  More information is available at:  Public comment on the proposed adoption is welcomed.  Written comments may be addressed to the Assistant Superintendent, at 4220 80th Street NE, Marysville, WA  98270.  Comments received will be forwarded to the Instructional Materials and Curriculum Committee and the Board of Directors.  The Board of Directors will take action on the proposed curriculum at the December 8th board meeting.


Founders Of Idaho Creation Museum Urge Visitors To ‘Think Critically’

By Jessica Robinson, NW News Network

A group in the Boise area is in the midst of fundraising for a new attraction in the Northwest. It’ll be called the Northwest Science Museum.


Stan Lutz, left, and Doug Bennett stand with a mastodon skull in the Vision Center, a smaller version of what they hope to build.
Credit Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

They envision a 350,000-square-foot space full of fossils, rocks and animal specimens. But this isn’t your usual natural history museum. It’s designed by creationists.

Most scientists, textbooks, and natural history museums would tell you the Earth is several billion years old, that plant and animal species evolved over time, and that dinosaurs died out millions of years before our human ancestors appeared. You might even take that as a given. But a large segment of the population believe something else happened.

It’s the story Doug Bennett wants to tell in the museum.

Creationist view

“The first thing you’re going to see as you walk up to the building is a full-scale Noah’s Ark,” Bennett pointed out.

That ark, and Noah’s flood, are key to the way Bennett sees the history of the earth. To him, it explains many of the geological formations and how fossils were distributed. Bennett is among the 42 percent of Americans who have a creationist view of the world. He believes the earth and all life were created in their present form in one week, about 6,000 years ago.

To Bennett, evolution isn’t about science, it’s about morality.

“If you can make up a system that says there is no god, that things just happen by chance, then we’re not accountable to any higher being,” he said. “And so you can do what you want and have no consequence.”

So far, Bennett and the other founders have set up a smaller version of what they hope to build – they call it the Vision Center. They’ve rented a space in a business park at the edge of Boise and put in displays, including a huge mastodon skull whose tusks fill the center of the room.

‘The most controversial stones in the world’

Bennett said the idea for the museum was an inspiration from God.


Creationists say this stone from Ica, Peru shows a T-rex interacting with a human.
Credit Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

“I think everybody needs to see the evidence we will have in the museum,” he added. “One of the things we have here in this vision center is probably the most controversial stones in the world. Because they show man and dinosaurs interacting.”

In one of the glass cases, Stan Lutz, one of the other founders, pointed out a collection of “Ica stones,” which he said are ancient stones from Peru.

“This stone right here, you can see there’s a man on it riding on a triceratops dinosaur,” he said.

Lutz pointed to a tan colored stone with a man on a lizard-like creature.

“We have rocks showing at least 14 species of dinosaur that are all accurately drawn,” he said.

This isn’t the only evidence they’ll display. In fact, Bennett said they’ll even show the argument from the other side, what he calls the “naturalistic perspective.”

“We want to bring that out and say, ‘Ok, people. Let’s make your choice here.’ Don’t just believe because you’re being told that. Think for yourself. Use critical thinking and think, does this make sense?” Bennett said. “Or is it better to believe what the Bible says — that God created all things.”

The museum in Idaho joins at least a dozen creation museums in other states trying to provide a counterweight to prevailing scientific thought. One museum near Mt. Saint Helens uses the mountain’s explosion as proof that the earth can change rapidly. This year, the Creation Museum in Kentucky hosted a much-discussed debate between the museum’s founder and science personality Bill Nye.

Creationism vs intelligent design

But Casey Luskin, from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, said in many ways, the real debate has moved on.

“I definitely think the conversation about origins has shifted a lot, over the last probably 15 or so years,” he said.

The Discovery Institute is one of the main proponents of intelligent design. Like creationism, intelligent design says the complexity of life was directed by some sort of intelligent cause. But beyond that Luskin draws a sharp line between intelligent design and creationism.

“Intelligent design starts with the data. Whereas creationism starts with the Bible,” he explained. “Intelligent design doesn’t say the earth is 6,000 years old, whereas creationism — that’s a major claim that creationists will make. And so, when people conflate the two, it’s an attempt to try to dismiss the arguments for design in nature without actually addressing them.”

On a visit to the museum’s Vision Center, Laura Wallace of nearby Nampa browsed the displays and found herself divided — between two different views of the history of the earth.

“I don’t know, I mean I believe God could do either,” she said. “If he wanted to do it in a million years he could have. Or if he wants to do it in 4,000 years he could do it. So I don’t know — I guess I’m kind of waffling. I don’t really have a definitive answer on that, but that’s ok, sometimes you don’t have all the answers either.”

Maybe not. But the founders of the museum want to give her a place to look.

EarthFix Conversation: Puget Sound Whales For Sale

A young orca captured in Penn Cove in 1970, which is believed to be Lolita, an orca that whale activists have been fighting to have set free in Puget Sound after 44 years in captivity at the Seaquarium in Miami. | credit: Dr. Terrell Newby
A young orca captured in Penn Cove in 1970, which is believed to be Lolita, an orca that whale activists have been fighting to have set free in Puget Sound after 44 years in captivity at the Seaquarium in Miami. | credit: Dr. Terrell Newby


By: Ashley Ahearn, KUOW


The resident killer whales of Puget Sound are an endangered species. There are about 80 of them left.

But there was a time, not too long ago, when people were catching these whales and selling them into captivity.

In the 1960s and ‘70s an estimated 35 orcas were taken from Puget Sound. 13 were killed in the process.

Sandra Pollard has documented the history of orca capture in Puget Sound in a new book: Puget Sound Whales For Sale: The Fight To End Orca Hunting.

She spoke with EarthFix’s Ashley Ahearn about this dark period in orca history.

Ashley Ahearn: Let’s go back in time here a little bit, why did people start catching orcas?

Sandra Pollard: I think there was probably an element of the trophy hunter there but also they didn’t like whales very much in those days, particularly the orcas, because they thought they were taking the salmon. And in the ‘60s the Navy used them as target practice for strafing runs and many of the whales that eventually turned up in marine parks had bullet holes in them.

So they were not respected. They were disliked. The people who did revere and respect them were the Native American people and they’re on their tribal crests and they looked up to them and they still do.

Ahearn: So it’s been almost 50 years since the first captive orca arrived in Seattle. Can you tell me about that whale and what happened, what was his story?

Pollard: That’s correct. The first whale was called Namu and a man called Ted Griffin had an aquarium down in Seattle, the Seattle Marine Aquarium, and he’d always wanted to have a killer whale and two whales actually washed up in British Columbia at Warrior Cove. They got caught in nets when a couple of fishermen abandoned their nets to get away from a storm. So they had two whales up there. One a bull and one a calf. The calf escaped but unfortunately the bull did not.




So Ted Griffin flew up to Warrior Cove and secured the whale, but then of course, he had to get it back to Seattle. So, with the help of fishermen, he built a three-sided pen with a net on one side and steel bars on the other and they brought Namu, as he was then called, down to Seattle in that three-sided pen. That was a 400-mile journey which took 18 days, and made a glorious entrance into Seattle to go-go dancers and great jubilation. But at the same time there were people there who didn’t like what they were seeing and there were protesters waiting with “Save The Whales” signs even back then. But that was how it all started.

Ahearn: And there was a Canadian biologist who went along for the trip and he describes the separation of Namu from his family. Can you read that section?

Pollard: Yes. The biologist was called Gil Hewlett and this is what he had to say.

“When they are within 300 yards of the pen, Namu lets out a terrifying squeal, almost like a throttled cat. He leaps out of the water and crashes against the left corner of the pen. There is terrific thrashing and he is making all kinds of sounds. Then they are there again, the same family of the cow and two calves. They came straight up behind the pen to about 10 feet away, tremendous squealing going on. Namu seemed to lose all coordination in the pen. He kept getting swept against the cargo net and swimming vigorously forward. The family unit circles around towards the end of the pen.”

Ahearn: Now the family unit follows him a certain distance but then they stop. What happens?

Pollard: Yes the female and the two calves follow him to an area called Seymour Narrows up in British Columbia near Campbell River and then they gradually fell back. And it has been found that the Seymour Narrows area is really the dividing line between the northern residents and the southern residents.

Ahearn: What was the public sentiment around orcas that were being captured and taken into captivity for entertainment? How were people responding at the time?

Pollard: For the most part I think they were thrilled to see this exotic creature up close and personal and impressed by the abilities it had because they are such intelligent creatures that they learn tricks for food. But I think the general consensus was more one of wonder. But there were still those creeping suspicions that this wasn’t right.

Ahearn: It seems that in terms of public sentiment changing about orca capture the most notorious, the most well known capture, occurred in Penn Cove on Whidbey Island in 1970. Can you tell me what happened on that day?

Pollard: That was on either August the 7th or 8th, 1970 and the three pods of Southern Resident orcas known as J,K and L were going north, probably back to the San Juan Islands, and Ted Griffen and Don Goldsbury and the capture team they went out in boats and started to turn them back towards Whidbey Island and the idea was to drive them into Holmes Harbor, which is a sheltered place on Whidbey Island. And they used seal bombs, which are loud explosive devices. And they also used buzzing aircraft.

But they didn’t get them into Holmes Harbor. The whales are very clever and they brought in their diversionary tactics. The mothers and the calves headed up for Deception Pass and the males did a decoy action by going in the opposite direction. But it was too late. The boats outstripped them and they turned the mothers and the calves back and drove about 100 whales into Penn Cove on Whidbey Island. And they were held there in nets until they went through the selection process, which would be to corral the mothers away from the calves and split them up, because it was the calves that they wanted. They were smaller. They easier to transport. And they were easier to train.

The capture net pens in Penn Cove on Whidbey Island 1970.

And the rest of the whales that were turned away that they didn’t want, they stayed around. They’re a family unit. They’re highly social and they stay together for life. There is no dispersal, other than by death or human interference. So those whales stayed with the whales in the capture pens and eventually seven whales were selected for marine parks, which were already waiting around the world. Four calves were drowned and there also had been a female who had died. She had charged the net to try to get to her calf, so she also died during the process, as well. And this caused an uproar and a lot of feeling against the captures. And that started to be the turning point.

And the last whale to be taken from Penn Cove was Lolita and she remains at the Miami Seaquarium where she has been for 44 years.

Ahearn: Sandra, when did we stop taking orcas out of Puget Sound to sell to marine parks around the world?

Pollard: We stopped doing that in March, 1976 when six orca were driven into Olympia and the seal bombs were used and it caused a great hue and cry. There were protesters on the water. There were protesters on land. And there was a lawsuit, as well. So after a couple of weeks there were only two whales left because three had escaped. One had been turned away because it was too big and the two whales were turned over to the University of Washington to be radio tagged and tracked for as long as possible. I don’t think they were tracked for very long, but there was a lawsuit which stopped the captures in Washington state and Seaworld were not able to come back into Washington state and capture orca again and that was the last capture in Washington state.

Ahearn: So really the end of a very dark era for the orca in Puget Sound.

Pollard: It certainly was. And one wonders if that hadn’t happened how much longer the captures would have continued and how many more whales we would have lost.

Sandra Pollard is the author of Puget Sound Whales for Sale: The Fight To End Orca Hunting. You can find out about upcoming stops on her Northwest book tour here.


American Indians share their Yosemite story

Les James, right, who is Miwuk-Chukchansi, beside two examples of traditional housing called umachas with tribal elder Bill Tucker, a Miwuk-Paiute, seen to the left, on a tour of a village site in Yosemite Valley just a few yards from the main loop road driven by thousands of visitors. A umacha is constructed with a frame of cedar poles covered by cedar bark using wild grape vines to tie joints together, according to Tucker and James. Photographed on Monday, June 9, 2014 in Yosemite National Park. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — Fresno Bee Staff Photo
Les James, right, who is Miwuk-Chukchansi, beside two examples of traditional housing called umachas with tribal elder Bill Tucker, a Miwuk-Paiute, seen to the left, on a tour of a village site in Yosemite Valley just a few yards from the main loop road driven by thousands of visitors. A umacha is constructed with a frame of cedar poles covered by cedar bark using wild grape vines to tie joints together, according to Tucker and James. Photographed on Monday, June 9, 2014 in Yosemite National Park. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — Fresno Bee Staff Photo


By Carmen George, The Fresno Bee, June 27, 2014

Editor’s note: Information in the third and fourth paragraphs has been revised to clarify details.

Two little American Indian girls hid motionless in a cave, covered in brush as soldiers passed through Yosemite Valley.

Older members of their Yosemite tribe made a quick escape up a steep, rocky canyon, and the girls were temporarily left behind, told not to make a sound.

This was the mid-1800s during the era when armed soldiers marched into Yosemite Valley not as explorers, but as men out for blood. At the first, they burned villages and stores of acorns, meat and mushrooms. Later on, they patrolled, yet the fear of them remained.

One of those concealed girls, Louisa Tom, lived to be more than 100 years old. She never got over those early images. Into old age, when uniformed park rangers entered her village in Yosemite Valley, she would run and hide behind her cabin, recalls great-granddaughter-in-law Julia Parker, 86, who has worked in the Yosemite Indian museum for 54 years.

For many American Indians, the inspiration for Yosemite National Park did not start with flowery prose from John Muir or a romantic vision of Galen Clark in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias as its “first guardian.” It began with murder and destruction.

TIMELINE: Slide and click through Yosemite’s history

For them, the story of Yosemite since the mid-1800s is tragedy and tears, yet resilient Native Americans have survived and still live in this mountain paradise.

“We’re still here, living in the Yosemite Valley,” Parker says. “So you can’t keep a good people down.”

On Monday, many descendants of these “first people” will attend a ceremony in the Mariposa Grove to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act — precursor to national parks. Les James, 79, a tribal elder active in Yosemite’s native community, will say a blessing, but he won’t be celebrating.

“The changes, the destruction, that’s what I don’t like about it. You destroyed something that we preserved for thousands of years. In 150 years, you’ve ruined it.”

For most of his life in the Yosemite area, James has worked to return cultural activities. He also had a 31-year career in Yosemite, starting in 1959, making trail and warning signs. Over his lifetime, there have been 24 park superintendents.

Helen Coats, 87, is the great-granddaughter of that little girl hiding in the cave. Coats, born in Yosemite Valley, lived in its last native village, destroyed by the Park Service by 1969.

She now lives down Highway 140 in the Mariposa area. She sees “busloads after busloads” of tourists pass by every day. Sometimes, it makes her sad.

“They are just trampling my home to death.”

A dark chapter

To understand the viewpoint of Yosemite’s first people, go back to March 27, 1851 — about 13 years before the Yosemite Grant Act was signed.

On that spring day, during a hunt for Indians who were rumored to be living in a mountain stronghold, the first publicized “discovery” of Yosemite happened.

The natives living in this ethereal place were called the Ahwahneechees, and they already were competing with the Gold Rush to survive. In 1849, there were 100,000 miners swarming the foothills, wrote Margaret Sanborn in “Yosemite: Its Discovery, its Wonders and its People.”

SPECIAL REPORT: Yosemite celebrates 150th anniversary

After an attack on a trading post on the Fresno River near Coarsegold owned by pioneer James Savage, 23 natives were killed by a volunteer company. The group, led by Savage, became the Mariposa Battalion. Federal Indian commissioners — eager to make treaties — told Savage to not “shed blood unnecessarily.”

The battalion discovered Yosemite searching for Indians. During early military expeditions, some natives were shot and killed or hung from oak trees in Yosemite Valley.

Lafayette Bunnell, a battalion member, recorded Chief Tenaya’s reaction finding his son shot in the back trying to escape.

“Upon his entrance into the camp of volunteers, the first object that met his gaze was the dead body of his son. Not a word did he speak, but the workings of his soul were frightfully manifested in the deep and silent gloom that overspread his countenance.”

Later, Tenaya tried to escape by plunging into the river, but was spotted. “Kill me, sir captain! Yes, kill me, as you killed my son; as you would kill my people, if they should come to you! … Yes, sir American, you can tell your warriors to kill the old chief … you have killed the child of my heart …”

The assault would splinter the Ahwahneechee tribe — some fleeing over the Sierra, others rounded up in the foothills.

Their descendents live on. Today, at least seven organized Native American groups have traditional ties to Yosemite, according to Laura Kirn, Yosemite’s cultural resources program manager.

But the pain of their past lives on, too.

Jack Forbes, a former American Indian studies professor at the University of California at Davis, writes about the previous era in “Native Americans of California and Nevada.” He suggests few chapters in U.S. history are more brutal and callous than the conquering of California Indians.

He writes: “It serves to indict not a group of cruel leaders, or a few squads of rough soldiers, but, in effect, an entire people; for the conquest of the Native Californian was above all else a popular, mass enterprise.”

Weight of difference

Coats was born in Yosemite Valley in May 1927.

As a child, she loved to roam and pound berries atop boulders in her village, where women pounded acorns. Sometimes she would dress in buckskin and beads to visit grandmother Lucy Telles weaving baskets for tourists.

It was a good childhood, Coats says, but she couldn’t help notice being treated differently than white children. She recalls that at her Yosemite school, she drew pictures or made dolls, and then was met with an encouraging “Oh, that’s so nice” from the teacher.

“They didn’t try to teach us,” Coats says of schooling for natives. “I guess they thought we wouldn’t make a good pupil maybe for reading and writing.”

Coats was born in the “old Indian village,” tents by current-day Yosemite Village, which now includes a large gift shop, market and pizzeria. In the early 1930s she was moved to a new Indian village near Camp 4, more than a mile away with 17 small cabins. Kirn says the move was to provide more privacy and better housing.

But Coats sees it differently. “The old village, we were too visible. People could really see us there, the way we lived in tents, you know. We were the poor people of Yosemite.”

The Indian cabins lacked what other park houses had, like private bathrooms, warm water, bigger windows and second stories, Coats says.

Feeling the power

Walking through a Yosemite Valley meadow, Bill Tucker, 75, points to plants his Miwuk and Paiute people ate. Many also were used for healing.

Coats recalls a doctor who said her great-grandma would die overnight, but family members placed cooked wild onion on her chest. “Next morning, she was fine.”

In the meadow, Les James looks up at the cliffs. “I can feel that power.”

“Everything is living on Mother Earth,” he says, and even the rocks have stories. Like El Capitan, the world’s largest granite monolith. The name “captain” was thought fitting for this massive stone, but according to native legend, it was named after one of the smallest creatures: An inchworm.

This comes from a tale about the rock’s creation, much like the “Tortoise and the Hare.” The story goes that two children sleeping on a stone awoke to find it grown. All kinds of animals tried to scale its sheer face to rescue them. Then came a little worm.

“This little guy, he’s the underdog,” James says, “and they laugh at him about what he’s going to do, inch his way up and save the kids.” But the worm succeeds. “Even if you’re a little guy, don’t worry, you’ll be famous someday,” James says with a smile.

El Capitan is not El Capitan. It’s the “Measuring-Worm Stone.”

Many visitors today miss Yosemite’s wonder, says Lois Martin, 70, who grew up in the native village and is chairwoman of the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation. “It’s so commercialized.”

But many hold to a hope that in Yosemite, humanity might still connect to indigenous roots shared by all. The late David Brower, the Sierra Club’s first executive director, once said people need places to be reminded that “civilization is only a thin veneer over the deep evolutionary flow of things that built him.”

Meadow manhole

Walking through green grass in Yosemite Valley, James and Tucker come upon concrete. Tucker, a retired park plumber, says it’s part of an old sewer line — a manhole in the meadow.

It gets him thinking about his 30-year career in the park. Memories of burst sewer lines and the wastewater treatment ponds in Tuolumne Meadows, in the high country, give him chills.

Many of Yosemite’s American Indians also worry about species management: the killing of “non-native” fish and plants considered invasive in Yosemite Valley, such as blackberry bushes, which have been sprayed with pesticides. Over five years, 40 acres have been treated with a weed killer, Kirn says. “We believe that if an animal does digest it, it’s about as safe as a chemical can be.”

Yosemite’s first people weren’t trying to preserve an untouched wilderness, but they understood nature and lived light on the land. They had the advantage of thousands of years of experience.

The park often has glossed over the native role in the evolution of Yosemite’s meadows, says University of California at Davis lecturer M. Kat Anderson in “Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources.” For example, the natives regularly set fires to help oaks produce more acorn.

“They told us how many mushrooms to pick, how many fish to catch,” James says of the Park Service. “They think we didn’t know that. We taught them that.”

Park officials over the years gradually have come to recognize the value of native stewardship.

Some of the natives, however, question how the Park Service manages things.

In the Camp 4 parking lot, James and Tucker spot a new paved trail leading toward Yosemite Falls. They don’t understand how the park is touting removing pavement in the Mariposa Grove as more is laid down in Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said the native community has many legitimate concerns, but the park gets almost 4 million visitors a year, and managing the place is “always a balancing act.”

But, he said, “our highest calling and our No. 1 priority is always preserving the natural environment of Yosemite, and the less development the better.”

Coats says she understands why the Park Service does some construction: “The park is kind of like Disneyland. There’s so many people in there. I can kind of relate to them fencing off things because in the old days they didn’t have to do that.”

What, then, is the value of the indigenous perspective in this new, much more populated and modern Yosemite? Maybe it boils down to this, says James: “For thousands of years, we were here before them. That’s because we lived by nature’s law. If you don’t live by nature’s law, you are not going to survive. That’s really the bottom line.”

Losing home

Archaeological evidence shows people in Yosemite Valley about 7,000 years ago, Kirn says. In areas bordering the park, evidence dates back 9,500 years. That’s about the time people perfected hunting woolly mammoths.

That residency in Yosemite ended for many in the 1960s when descendants of those original people, like Coats, were told to leave.

A bed of pine needles covers the place where Coats’ cabin once stood, but the 87-year-old still can find her way to this spot, following the boulders.

This was the park’s last native village. In the 1960s it was decided only natives with full-time work could live in Yosemite. As many lost seasonal employment, like Coats, who did tourists’ laundry, their homes were destroyed by the Park Service.

A few families with full-time work were moved elsewhere. Parker says, “When they separated us, I couldn’t go out there and sing a song, I’d be disturbing the neighbors.”

Today, the community is rebuilding its village. Included in the 1980 general management plan, it will be used for ceremonies and gatherings.

The project hit a rough patch a few years ago. Roundhouse beams were deemed unsafe and the park put a stop to construction. Yosemite’s native community needed to follow building codes.

“They’ve got codes for churches, bowling alleys, everything else, but not for roundhouses,” James says. “The white man is trying to tell us how to build a roundhouse when he doesn’t know how to build it himself.”

This month, a compromise was reached. An American Indian engineer will be hired.

Kirn is eager to see the roundhouse built. “It’s a place in which they can continue to be present in the park and work in partnership with all of us to maintain the sacred nature of Yosemite.”

Preserving culture in national parks is taking on growing importance, says William Tweed, retired chief park naturalist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, in “Uncertain Path: A Search for the Future of National Parks.”

“In this new century, where nothing natural or wild seems beyond the threatening reach of humankind, the cultural values associated with national parks may ultimately be their most important feature.”

The return of culture

In the last half century, spiritual camps were started — ceremonies for healing and honoring all life, and an annual spiritual walk, tracing ancestors’ steps over the Sierra.

The walk is important to Tucker, as it’s a time of learning. Like above Mono Lake, when children see the sunrise for the first time, glittering on distant water. And watching kids turn into young adults, helping elders carry backpacks and pitching tents before thundershowers.

There also are sunrises over Tenaya Lake, known by the first people as “Lake of Shining Rocks” for granite domes rolling above the water. Tucker thinks of those mornings. “Pretty soon that good ol’ fog comes up out of that lake, and just kind of dances out there.”

Tucker also helps with bear dances, ceremonies held three times a year in Yosemite to honor the bear as it awakes from winter, forages in the summer and returns to hibernation with the onset of new snows.

The natives share a special connection with the bear, says Jay Johnson, 82, a Miwuk and Paiute instrumental in the native community and who worked in park forestry for 41 years.

Johnson’s aunt once spoke to a bear lying in the road after a line of angry motorists failed to clear the path. “Uncle, you’re going to have to move,” she told the bear in her native language. “We have to go down after groceries, after food.” The bear moved.

Johnson has worked to get the Miwuk tribe federally recognized. But an application, submitted in the early 1980s, remains before the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many suspect their homeland being in a national park has played a role in the delay.

“As long as they keep pushing us back, we’re like a lost tribe,” says Coats, who is Miwuk and Paiute.

Finding a voice

After basket weaver Lucy Telles died, Parker, her granddaughter-in-law, was asked by the Park Service to fill her place in the Indian museum.

But Parker said she “wasn’t scholarly,” couldn’t make baskets and wasn’t from Yosemite. The orphaned Pomo and Coastal Miwok woman moved to the park at age 17 and a year later married a native to Yosemite.

Yet she gave it a shot and learned to weave when she was about 20. One day, she heard things said of natives that weren’t correct, “so I thought I better answer the question and put my basket down. And now my grandchildren say, ‘You can’t stop talking, Grandma!’ ”

Today, four generations of women in her family weave baskets and share native stories. Parker’s baskets have been given to the queen of England, king of Norway and the Smithsonian Institution.

In earlier years, Parker also worked in the gift shop of glamorous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley. “I was probably one of the first Indian ladies to work in the gift shop. When I worked in the gift shop, they had me stand in the corner like a wooden Indian. They didn’t think I could handle any of the cash register.” One day she filled in for a cashier but was told she couldn’t handle more than $10.

Eventually, she was made manager of a new Indian shop. Parker’s request that five American Indians work there was granted.

At 86, she still is in the museum. Earlier this month, Parker was awarded the Barry Hance Memorial Award, an honor presented annually to a park employee for strong work ethic, good character and love for Yosemite. Over 54 years, “sometimes I think, is it worth all this? Having people ask you, ‘Are you a real Indian?’ ”

But then, “If I wasn’t here, who would be here?”

Parker makes a point to connect with children when they visit. They like her stories, baskets and games. She likes helping them think about grandmas. She wants them to know a grandma’s stories are important.

Coats feels the same. “Ask your grandparents. They are not going to tell you nothing unless you say, ‘What happened in your day?’ They are going to think you’re not interested. … The way you learn our history is through us. You don’t read this in books. You have to read it through the elders.”

Making peace

Walking from Yosemite’s last native village, Coats thinks about what happened to her ancestors, the killings and the displacement.

“They came and took what they wanted, as they did all over America. … There’s always going to be a little anger inside.”

But, she adds, “What good is it to get angry? You can’t do anything with anger. Some things you have to accept — but you never forget, you pass on your history.

“The more people become aware of some of the background of the Native Americans, the more I think they try to understand. I think understanding can bring people closer together, to maybe work together, instead of being prejudiced — and that goes both ways.”

Read more here:

What or Who Is an Indian Giver? A History of the Offensive Term

The 1910 Fruitgum Company’s song “Indian Giver” went on to No. 5 on The Billboard Hot 100 in 1969 and was on the charts for 13 weeks.

By Vincent Schilling, ICTMN

To many of us, such phrases as “Teacher, Billy gave me the ball, now he wants it back! He’s being an Indian giver!” are too often heard in school. But where did the term come from? The literal history of where the word originates is a bit murky, but perhaps this article can shed a some light on some pre-conceived notions.

First, some modern-day definitions. Merriam-Webster’s defines an Indian giver as “sometimes offensive: a person who gives something to another and then takes it back or expects an equivalent in return.” The Urban Dictionary defines the term as “a person, who gives someone something, then wants it back!”

The original concept of the terms “Indian gift” or an “Indian giver” are mentioned in Thomas Hutchinson’s 1765 publication History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. In the book, Hutchinson defined an Indian gift as something “for which an equivalent return is expected.”

Another such reference to the concept of Indian bartering or gift giving is in Thomas P. Slaughter’s book on the travels of Lewis and Clark in 1804. The book, entitled Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness, Slaughter writes the following passage and describes Lewis and Clarks reactions when dealing with Indians from the Wahkiacum village.


“… These last began by offering us some roots; but as we had now learned that they always expect three or four times as much in return as the real value of the articles, and are even dissatisfied with that, we declined such dangerous presents.”

When Lewis and Clark later in the passage also traded with the Shoshone Indians who they thought were more agreeable, they then labeled the Wahkiacums “intrusive, thievish and impertinent.”

The journals of the Lewis and Clark expeditions set a tone for the thievish identity of Indians and the effects were long lasting. By 1848, the phrase “Indian giver” had made its way into the vernacular of non-Indians so much that it made its way into linguist John Russell Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms.


The entry on page 214 of the 1848 book says:

“INDIAN GIVER: When an Indian gives any thing (sic), he expects to receive an equivalent, or to have his gift returned. This term is applied by children to a child who, after having given away a thing, wishes to have it back again.”

In 1969, the popular music group 1910 Fruitgum Company and country artist Roger Miller both coincidentally released songs entitled “Indian Giver.” The 1910 Fruitgum Company’s song went on to No. 5 on The Billboard Hot 100 in 1969 and was on the charts for 13 weeks.

Although the term largely faded from mainstream media use it retained popularity on school playgrounds. Indian giver got a serious mainstream plug when Kris Jenner told Good Morning America that her ex son-in-law should not ask for his $2 million engagement ring back from Kim Kardashian.

Jenner told GMA, she “…hates an Indian-giver” and that her daughter should have been able to keep the gift. The backlash against Jenner’s use of the term was seen around the world and she later issued an apology.

RELATED: Kim Kardashian’s Mom ‘Hates an Indian Giver’

The term could just as easily have come from the fact that white settlers and the government designated land for the Indians and then took it back after it was discovered to be valuable. Like the Black Hills, which were given to the Oglala Lakota then were taken back after gold was discovered.

Considering there is merit to this claim, it is not necessarily proven in print and thus must remain a strong speculation.

In response to whether or not the term “Indian giver” is pro or con Indian, perhaps the sentiment expressed on The Word Detective website by Evan Morris is a valuable assertion.

“While it’s true that the European settlers had a far worse reputation when it came to trustworthiness than the Indians did, the victors in history usually get to make up the idioms, so it’s doubtful that ‘Indian giver’ refers to the manner in which the settlers treated the Indians. It would be quite a stretch to credit 19th century European settlers with the honesty to have recognized that they, and not the Indians, were the ‘Indian givers’ in most cases.”



Native History: Mayflower Sets Sail, Starts the Long Assault of Indian Country

By Alysa Landry, Indian Country Today Media Network

This Date in Native History: says the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620, but is that accurate? According to Wampanoag history, the Mayflower sailed with 102 passengers 10 days earlier—on September 6, 1620—after two failed attempts to leave England.

Accounts vary of the voyage that forever changed America for its first inhabitants. says the Mayflower completed its 66-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean on November 21, 1620. Other sources, including experts at Plimoth Plantation, a nonprofit living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, say the journey ended November 11, 1620, when colonists disembarked at Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the tip of Cape Cod.

The Mayflower, which weighed 180 tons and was about 100 feet long and 20 feet wide, departed with another ship, the Speedwell, twice in August 1620. Both ships returned to dock when the Speedwell was found to be unseaworthy, according to the written history of William Bradford, a separatist, leader of the voyage to the New World and first governor of the settlement. The Mayflower then made the journey on its own.

Bradford’s history states that the successful voyage began September 6 when the colonists “put to sea.” They landed in Provincetown on November 11, Bradford wrote. It was a Monday.

The ship was headed for Virginia, where colonists were authorized by the British crown to settle. Some of the colonists sought religious freedom while many others were dissatisfied with economic opportunities. Stormy weather and navigation errors forced the Mayflower 500 miles off course and colonists landed on Cape Cod.

Upon landing, Bradford wrote this:  “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean.”

By December, the colonists had moved across the bay to Plymouth, establishing the first permanent white settlement in America.

For thousands of years before that, however, the Wampanoag village of Patuxet had flourished on the same land, said Darius Coombs, associate director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program at Plimoth Plantation.

“At the time, that was a Wampanoag community,” said Coombs, who is one of about 25 Wampanoag people who work at Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite. “We had trade ships coming for 100 years before that, but the ships, the people, didn’t stay. So this wasn’t our first encounter with outsiders.”

When settlers arrived in Plymouth, they found cleared fields and fresh water. Despite this, colonial leaders like Bradford claimed the land was “unpeopled.” According to English tradition, lands without clear title were available to the first people to permanently inhabit it.

But the Wampanoag had simply moved to their winter homes away from the coast, having buried their food supply in Patuxet to store it, Coombs said.

“When the early settlers came, it was winter, so they came after we left the summer homes for the season,” he said. “They found Native burial grounds, which were disturbed, and they dug up our buried food.”

According to Coombs, the settlers actually were lucky that they arrived in 1620 instead of five years before that. A plague, most likely carried by Europeans, spread across New England from 1616 to 1618, wiping out as many as 70 to 90 percent of the tribe’s population.

“There were more than 70 Wampanoag communities at one time,” he said. “The Mayflower changed history for our people.”

Coombs for the last 25 years has worked at the Wampanoag Homesite, where tribal members live present-day culture and tell the truth about history. That history includes loss of land, slavery, rape and genocide, he said.

“This is present-day Wampanoag, but I’ll tell you, not everyone can do this,” he said. “Not everyone can talk about what happened because it still hurts down to the core.”

Regardless of the exact dates the Mayflower sailed, the voyage was a game-changer for American Indians. Activist and author Vine Deloria Jr., in his famous book Custer Died for your Sins, commentated on the Mayflower and the Pilgrims.

“Many Indians, of course, believe it would have been better if Plymouth Rock had landed on the Pilgrims than the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock,” he wrote. “Nothing was more destructive of man than the early settlements on this continent.”