WA American Indian History

Category: Education

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Part II - WA Graduation Requirement


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Washington State Graduation Requirement : 

Washington State Graduation Requirement Part II: American Indians in the Pacific Northwest

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As you’ve recently discovered, the study of Washington state history and government is a graduation requirement. (ii) Under the provisions of RCW 28A.230.170 and 28A.230.090, one-half credit shall be required in Washington state history and government which shall include study of the Constitution of the state of Washington and is encouraged to include information on the culture, history, and government of the American Indian people who were the first inhabitants of the state. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to study. The following presentation is designed to help you learn more about the people native to this region.

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However, before we begin, I’d like to address some common cultural misconceptions about American Indians. MYTH: TRUTH: American Indians are DIVERSE, DYNAMIC, and continue to ADAPT to changing conditions. The suffering endured by American Indians, though tragic, was inevitable. MYTH: TRUTH: Despite past and present challenges, the history of American Indians is one of adaptation, change, resistance, survival, and revival. Today, over 4 million Americans are native. MYTH: American Indians are victims of historical circumstance who are unable to move beyond the past. TRUTH: American Indians are agents of change who continue to create inventive ways to tell their own stories and to meet the needs of their communities. Let’s look at some examples.

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Add something about we shall remain and Sherman Alexe… We Shall Remain is a documentary by PBS that illustrates how understanding Native history is essential to understanding American history. Longhouse Media is a non-profit organization based out of Washington State. The organization’s mission is to serve indigenous communities by using media to promote self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change. There are many American Indian authors who write stories from contemporary native perspectives. If you’re looking for a good book to read, I recommend you check out Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The book features Junior.

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Now it’s time to start the presentation. I recommend you respond to the questions as you proceed. READY TO BEGIN?

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According to scientists, evidence suggests humans migrated to North America thousands of years ago by crossing a land bridge that once connected North America to Asia during the Ice Age. According to our origin stories, we’ve been here, well, since the beginning of time.

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Long before Washington became a state, many different indigenous groups lived here. Let’s take a closer look.

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Over time, unique cultures emerged, each developing a distinct history. So, you’re saying not all American Indians are alike. Duh!!!

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Indians living along the coast thrived off the sea. The natural environment was so rich, people didn’t necessarily need to cultivate crops. Abundant food supplies offered opportunities to develop elaborate goods and art. Consequently, Coastal Indians became sophisticated traders who accumulated considerable wealth. During potlatch festivals, for example, host families demonstrated their status by giving away what they owned. Other families would later return the favor. Coastal Indians

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Washington’s present borders do not reflect the cultural and geographic boundaries shared by Coastal Indians. Ancestral and cultural ties linked people as far north as Alaska to northern California. For example, the Tinglits, were known for making intricate art. The Haida were considered formidable warriors who periodically raided Coast Salish villages. The Makah were renowned for their seamanship and whale hunting skills.

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Indians of the plateau region obtained a living in a variety of ways. Historically, salmon fishing provided a major source of food. The introduction of horses to the Americas by Spanish explorers enabled Plateau Indians to adapt their hunting skills. As a result, elk, deer, and buffalo hunting became more common. Plateau Indians

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Like Coastal Indians, Washington’s present borders do not reflect the cultural and geographic boundaries of Plateau Indians. River basins bordered by mountains provided ample fishing and hunting, and yielded a variety of plants to harvest. In addition, the landscape served as a natural barrier against enemies, native or white. However, by the late 1800s, a desire for farmland and the discovery of gold, and other mineral deposits, attracted white settlers to the region. American expansion often sparked war between Plateau Indians and the United States government. Tribes such as the Yakima, Nez Perce and Modoc, were among the last to resist a 400 year period of colonization that began shortly after 1492. “Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not pay for my country, now overrun by white men. They do not protect my father’s grave.”

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Speaking of 1492, that’s the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue… Indians! China must be nearby. China Guess again!

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Bummer! After Columbus’ voyage, Spain claimed much of the “New World,” including the Pacific Northwest. However, Spanish explorers did not arrive until 1775. Europeans were looking for the “Northwest Passage” to Asia. King Charles III Emperor Qianlong Apparently, global trade has been important to the Pacific Northwest for a long time. Sorry to break the news to you: there is no shortcut.

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Next came the British who threatened to go to war with Spain over the territory. In 1790, Spain agreed to open the region to explorers from other countries. Uh oh! Obviously you want to trade, but what do you have to offer us? Sea otters – lots of them! King George King Charles III Emperor Qianlong

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We’ll bring Sacagawea to show we intend peace. Lewis and Clarke’s 1803 expedition would pave the way for westward expansion. And to translate. Fur trading between local Indian tribes and British fur traders offered booming business opportunities. However, few British settled the region. Thomas Jefferson By 1800, the United States was trying to establish a presence in the area. After purchasing the Louisiana Territory from France, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clarke to explore an overland route. St. Louis Wash. DC aka “The Other Washington”

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Between 1790 and 1846, British and American trading companies along the coast competed over the fur trade. Both depended on trade with American Indians. How about some metal tools or supplies. Furs are in high demand in China. We need product. This can’t last forever. Supply is good. What do you have to trade?

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Following the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803, encounters between Plateau Indians, “mountain men”, then later missionaries, increased. I’m here to spread civilization and Christianity. Want to convert? I don’t like where this story is going. I’m here to make money. Want to trade? Savages! Savages! Whitman Mission (1836)

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Fort Nisqually (1833) Cowlitz Farm (1839) Fort Vancouver (1824) Fort Colville (1825) Fort Okanogan (1811) Fort Spokane (1812) Spokane House (1810) Fort Nez Perce or Fort Walla Walla (1818) The fur trade brought American Indians from the Pacific Northwest into contact with people from all over the world. Many fur traders were Scottish, French Canadian, Iroquois, Cree, Chippewa, Hawaiian, and free African Americans. Whitman Mission (1836) I wanted to move to Oregon, but in 1846 it was illegal for black people to live there. George Washington Bush In fact, George Washington Bush, an African American, was one of the first Americans to settle into the area that would become Washington. He settled near present day Olympia not too far from Fort Nisqually.

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Before the 1840s, non-natives and American Indians coexisted on relatively equal terms. Trade helped create mutually beneficial relationships. The common use of Chinook jargon, a mixture of words blended together from various languages, and intermarriage helped forge ties between non-natives and American Indians. What happened?

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Manifest Destiny! If “civilization” and Christianity are so good, why are we running away? “The West” was meant to be. God says so. As the white population grew, American Indians faced several disadvantages. Because “progress” is often savage.

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1) Disposability We’re rugged individuals who work the land. Therefore, we own the land. Indians just occupy it. As whites became economically independent of American Indians, the relationship between the groups became less cooperative and more competitive. Consequently, conflict increased. Hmm… So the argument is land + labor = ownership. Does this mean if I come to your house and rearrange the furniture I get to own your home?

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Although tribes often formed alliances to resist white encroachment, each tribe generally considered itself distinct. In some cases, historical rivalries between tribes made it easier for the United States to conquer American Indians as a whole. 2) Disunity It seems ironic that despite their diversity, various tribes were treated similarly. What’s the second disadvantage?

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European diseases, like small pox, had the most devastating impact on American Indians. Reports of mass graves appear to this day. 3) Disease Not only did disease significantly reduce the population, those who survived struggled to cope with the disruption caused by massive deaths. Whitman Mission (1836) I bet people believed the deaths were a sign that Manifest Destiny was meant to be. Disease was a result of happenstance. By raising livestock, over time Europeans happened to became immune to various diseases. However, some people did believe mass deaths were a divine signal that God wanted white people to settle North America. What’s the third disadvantage? I don’t know what I would do if I suddenly lost my family. Regardless, fewer people meant less resistance to white settlement. Meanwhile, trying to understand why whites were multiplying while American Indians were mysteriously dying generated psychological distress among native populations. Sometimes distress sparked violent reprisals against white settlers, like the “Whitman Tragedy” that occurred in 1847.

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While the number of American Indians declined, the American population in the Pacific Northwest grew. The United States and Britain disputed over the exact boundary between the Oregon Territory and British Columbia. Eventually both governments agreed to avoid war by establishing the 49th parallel as the border. Mine! Mine! Hmm…I wonder what the locals thought about this?

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When the Washington Territory was established in 1853, the first priority of Governor Isaac Stevens was to secure the land and the cooperation of the local native tribes through treaties. Isaac Stevens I come to negotiate through friendship and good will. I wonder if Isaac Stevens forsaw the consequences of his actions? In an effort to make deals as quickly as possible, the treaties created by Isaac Stevens promised to protect the right of Indians to fish and hunt “in common with all citizens of the Territory.”

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First came The Treaty of Medicine Creek signed in 1854… My people are many. Oregon trail or bust!

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Followed by the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1854… Soon they will fill the land. “The white man's God cannot love his red children or he would protect them.” Chief Sealth, Duwamish

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And the Treaty of Point No Point in 1854… Thus, we claim the right to overspread…

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And the Yakima Treaty of Camp Stevens in 1855… and to possess the whole continent…

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And the Walla Walla Treaty of Camp Stevens in 1855… for the development of liberty…

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And the Nez Perce Treaty of Camp Stevens in 1855… and self-government…

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And the Quinault River Treaty in 1855… for our growing population.

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More land was taken by executive order in 1864 during the Civil War… Two years earlier I helped redistribute millions of acres of tribal land to white farmers by authorizing the Homestead Act. President Lincoln Despite all that land taken from American Indians, the government never gave freed slaves “40 acres and a mule.”

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Again, more land was taken in 1872… President Grant "Wars of extermination . . . are demoralizing and wicked." Let’s promote peace. Donehogawa, Commissioner of Native American Affairs

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And again in 1873. In exchange for peace, we’ll feed Indians during the winter. Then fight them during the summer to remove them.

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In 1889, Washington became a state. Perhaps out of a sign of respect we should change the state flag. On second thought, I never understood why Indians are often portrayed as mascots. After all, my ancestors were fisherman not Warriors, Raiders, Red Skins, Chiefs, Braves…

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By 1893, most Indians were relegated to reservations where they were encouraged to live in isolation from whites and to continue a “traditional” lifestyle. Many Americans assumed Indians would simply vanish over time. This certainly did not happen. 1853 1893

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Although American Indians lost considerable land, by making treaties, the United States government was essentially treating tribes as independent nations that possessed sovereignty (authority) over their land, including the right to make their own laws. Federally Recognized Tribes

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For many years, enforcement of tribal rights was a non-issue.  The first groups of white settlers were preoccupied with farming, logging, mining, and shipbuilding. It was not until the early twentieth-century that serious conflict arose regarding the rights that had been reserved for American Indians through treaties.  However, the United States did not always follow through on its agreements with American Indians.

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This was the case in 1887 when the government passed the Dawes Act. Between 1887 and 1934, Indian policy aimed to “kill the Indian and save the man” by encouraging people to abandon traditional tribal customs and assimilate into white society by becoming “responsible farmers.” Reservations were divided into 160 acre parcels and given to individuals. The remaining land was often sold to white settlers. Consequently, reservation land grew even smaller. During this time, many children were removed from their families and sent to boarding schools where they were punished for practicing their culture, religion, and language. WITHOUT AN EDUCATION WITH AN EDUCATION

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Although government policies “encouraged” Indians to become more like whites, American Indians were not granted citizenship until 1924. FYI… Was citizenship meant to assimilate American Indians into “the mainstream” or a means for the government to minimize its treaty obligations?

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By the 1930s, during the Great Depression, life on reservations was tough. As a group, American Indians were among the poorest in America. However, in 1934, tribes got a “new deal” from President Roosevelt. The Indian Reorganization Act developed reservation-centered relief programs and promoted tribal governments. Tribes were encouraged to revive their cultural traditions and received help to buy back land loss as a result of the Dawes Act. President Roosevelt

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In the Puget Sound region, the requirement of being attached to a reservation in order to receive assistance posed some challenges. First, it was common for people to belong to multiple tribes. Secondly, many people made a living from fishing, logging, and day labor rather than farming reservation land. Landless tribes, such as the Duwamish, had governing organizations, but no reservation. This left them in legal limbo. Port of Seattle For example, the land around the Port of Seattle sits on Duwamish land, and the city is named after its former chief, Chief Sealth; however, the Duwamish did not receive a reservation.

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Contrast the situation faced by the Duwamish in Seattle to the Puyallup whose reservation encompasses land around the Port of Tacoma. The Puyallup tribal government has been able to lease and sell this land to generate income to develop economic opportunities for its tribal members. Port of Tacoma

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In 1953, federal policy advocated for the "termination" of the special legal relationship between Native peoples and the federal government. The goal was to encourage Indians to become independent from government assistance. In some instances, entire tribes were terminated. What do you think my ancestors were doing before they were put on the rez? President Eisenhower Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish he’ll eat for a lifetime. = Reservations that exist today. = Reservations that were terminated.

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The termination policies of the 1950s attempted to eliminate the special relationship the government created when it made treaties with various tribes. However, during the 1960s and 1970s, American Indians across the country made treaty rights and tribal sovereignty (authority) a major civil rights issue. In Washington State, conservation laws had restricted treaty agreements that had been in effect for over 100 years. In response, a campaign to reassert American Indian fishing rights began in 1964 with "fish-ins" on the Puyallup River. Protestors would deliberately defy fishing laws in order to challenge state regulations. Many whites resented the protestors for engaging in what they considered to be illegal fishing practices. For American Indians, the protests not only brought attention to American Indian sovereignty, but also highlighted the ways in which the commercial exploitation of natural resources and industrial development adversely impacted American Indian life.

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The main issue was whether states, like Washington, had the power to impose regulations on other nations. As a result of treaties that had been made in 1854 and 1855, according to the US Constitution, tribes are considered nations. With this in mind, local tribes went to court to block efforts by Washington State to regulate tribal sovereignty. In 1973, after years of legal challenges, Judge Boldt ruled that it was not up to the state to tell tribes how to manage something that had always belonged to them. This is going to be controversial. Judge Boldt Robert Satiacum, Puyallup Marlon Brando, “The Godfather” My ancestors could have used your help 100 years ago.

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The principles established by the Boldt Decision have since been applied to other resources. Since treaties are agreements between nations, states, like Washington, are limited in the ways they can regulate American Indian tribes. The Boldt decision was a significant victory for tribal sovereignty. Nevertheless, the controversy between the state and tribes over land and resources continues. Billy Frank, Nisqually For example…

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The right of whaling at usual and accustomed grounds is a Makah tradition secured by the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay. Makah whaling dates back at least 1,500 years, but was halted in the 1920s because the gray whale population was severely reduced by non-native commercial whaling. Cultural Practices Under what circumstances can the state prohibit tribes from engaging in cultural and economic practices guaranteed by treaties?

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As a result of treaties, tribes are exempt from many state taxes and laws that regulate businesses. Consequently, many tribes have developed casinos as a way to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Historically, American Indians have been the most impoverished ethnic group in America. Nevertheless, non-natives claim tribes have an unfair economic advantage because they face fewer taxes and regulations. Economic Self-Reliance Tulalip Casino Should the state of Washington have the authority to impose economic restrictions upon American Indian tribes, which are considered separate nations under the law?

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American Indians contend with some of the worst pollution in the United States. In Washington state, several reservations are located near coal and oil-fired power plants, steel mills, refineries, pulp and paper mills, and smelters. All of these industries produce significant amounts of industrial pollution. While these industries traditionally provide middle class jobs, nearby tribal land often is adversely impacted. Environmental Regulation Travis, Nick, and Cody, Swinomish Producers of March Point, Shell refinery, March Point How much authority should tribes have to regulate natural resources and land use on or near their property?

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The fact that these controversies remain is a testament to the endurance of American Indian communities. Their ability to address the struggles of the past and adapt to present conditions illustrates a commitment to creating a better future for their communities. This may be the end of this presentation, but the story of American Indians in the Pacific Northwest continues to unfold.

Citations : 

Citations Arnaldo Schwantes, Carlos. The Pacific Northwest : An Interpretive History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest Ed. John F. Findlay. University of Washington, 1998. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/Course%20Index/Units.html#unit1>. Edward Curtis's North American Indian. Library of Congress, 13 July 2007. Web. 28 Dec. 2009. <http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award98/ienhtml/curthome.html>. Gabriel, Chrisman. "The Fish-in Protests at Franks Landing ." Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project Ed. James Gregory. University of Washington, 2006. Web. 28 Dec. 2009. <http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/fish-ins.htm>.

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Gabriel, Galanda S. "Indian Law is Crucial to this State." Through Indian Eyes: The Untold Story of Native American Peoples. Seattle Times, 2004. Web. 7 Oct. 2003. <http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/142764_indianlaw07.html>. “Native Americans and Supporters Stage Fish-in to Protest Denial of Treaty rights on March 2, 1964.” HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington. Web. 28 Dec. 2009. <http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm>. Through Indian Eyes: The Untold Story of Native American Peoples. New York: Reader's Digest, 2005. Turnbull, Lornet. "Indian Policy Comes Under Fire." Seattle Times, 2004. Web. 19 Dec. 2004. <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002124284_indians19m.html>.