The Power of Words

The purpose of words is to convey meaning. How they’re spelled, how they sound differs tremendously. Sometimes they convey the same meaning, such as for a cat or dog. Others are unique and can’t be translated into another language, especially if they’re based on cultural context.

When immigrants come to a country, they assimilate better if they learn the host language. This is not simply a matter of getting along better in society. It integrates them into the culture. America became a “melting pot” as immigrants came from a multitude of foreign nations, then were united in a common language, i.e. English, even if they maintained their ethnic traditions.

When Europeans came to the American continent they encountered indigenous peoples whose languages were entirely foreign. While there’s a similarity in etymology and syntax among Latin-based languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, etc.), those spoken by Native Americans (which were several) had no similarities to European languages. Their culture and society were so different, many words common to Europeans didn’t even exist in theirs and vice versa.

Most of our thoughts comprise words. A person’s vocabulary determines their ability to think and comprehend the world around them. Without applicable words, unfamiliar concepts cannot exist. Emotions, however, exist beyond words. If you see someone laughing or crying, you know they’re feeling something.

Europeans took possession of this country in a less than friendly manner. Eventually, indigenous people became the “Indian Problem.” They refused to cooperate by giving up the land gifted to them by the Creator, a.k.a. Great Spirit. After numerous wars, massacres, and ugly confrontations, those that remained were herded off to reservations. As if that wasn’t bad enough, their children were taken and sent to government boarding schools where they were “reprogrammed.” This comprised cutting their hair, dressing them in “civilized” clothing, and forbidding them from speaking their native tongue. Being caught doing so resulted in their mouth being washing out with soap.

This was not a benevolent gesture to help Native Americans assimilate into European/American society. The intent was to annihilate their culture, identity, and beliefs, an insidious form of virtual genocide. A slight improvement, I suppose, over edicts from the Vatican that gave early explorers and colonists permission to kill them or make them their slaves.

Imagine forcing new immigrants to give up their language and customs. As “guests” in this country, it could almost be justified, a condition of habitation that promotes unity. Instead, just about any document they may need to read is available in their own language at taxpayer expense. Yet, quite the opposite was done to indigenous peoples who were here first.

If you have a difficult time relating to this, consider hoards of Chinese soldiers swarming our borders and forcing us to abandon our way of life, including our language, and adapt to theirs or die.

As intended, indigenous languages began to disappear. Fortunately, some survived. Ironically, helping the current younger generations to learn their native tongue is now a function of the very schools who originally forbade them from speaking it.

Why should they care? Because that is who they are. Culture, ceremonies, and their collective philosophy of life is embedded in their language. They have words with no English analog. Even in English, certain things have different meaning. For example, “All my relations” to a Native American includes all living things as well as the Earth herself. “Turtle Island” is not only this continent, but embodies their creation story.

Why should we care if their culture is lost? Because it’s in the world’s best interest for it to be revitalized. Assimilating it may be the only thing that can save us from ourselves in this war-torn, polluted, technology-dependent world.

This short video (less that 3 minutes) contains the 10 Commandments of Native Americans. As you listen, consider they initially welcomed Europeans to their land. They only became aggressive when the Founding Fathers and those who followed didn’t want to share this country with its original inhabitants.

They wanted them out of their way.

History Books Are Written by the Victors

This is the first book I read as research when I started the Dead Horse Canyon series. That was three years ago in January and I have learned so much since then. It opened my eyes to the fact that history books truly are written by the victors, often to justify horrific deeds, vilify the conquered, or pretend they never happened. Every American History book in print should have this one as an appendix, albeit “the rest of the story.” What follows is the review I wrote in January 2019. –MF

Great Speeches by Native Americans

Edited by Bob Blaisdell

Anyone who thinks they know American history needs to read this book. Those who don’t understand why the white men are hated also need to read it. In a nutshell, it’s a testimonial of exploitation, lies, and aggression, which has been the norm on the part of supposed “civilized” nations for millennia. Seeing indigenous people as inferior, savages, and uncivilized based on their lifestyle and thus treating them no better than animals has a sordid and long history.

This book chronicles the treatment of the Indigenous Americans from the first contact by the Pilgrims in the 1600s through the 20th century. The lies and aggression are nothing short of shameful and an embarrassment to any honest person. Those of us who grew up playing “cowboys and Indians” and watching similar TV shows were not seeing things as they really are.

In most cases, the Indigenous Americans only wanted peace. Some had the foresight to see the problems that were coming. They saw the land as sacred, given to them by The Great Spirit, and they treated Mother Earth with respect and gratitude. They may not have had the white man’s technology, but their societal norms were often far more advanced than “civilized” nations. The wholesale slaughter and exploitation of these people in the name of Christianity is a national disgrace.

Besides the actual slaughters, their children were often taken away, essentially kidnapped, and sent to boarding schools where their native culture was derided while they were indoctrinated with supposedly white civilization’s values. Their women were often sterilized without their knowledge. There is no doubt the intent was genocide.

If you think things have changed today, think again. Power and control by those with selfish and evil intent still prevails. Corporate power subdues the rights of individuals. Nothing has changed.

I cried more reading this book than any novel. It’s a very sad commentary on the foundation of the United States. These Native Americans were highly intelligent, moral individuals. In the vast majority of cases, they were only aggressive when they’d had enough of being lied to and could see the intent was their annihilation.

Read it. More people need their eyes opened to the truth that is our history and how it relates to what’s going on today.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

A Quizzical Glimpse of Native American History

Most people are familiar with the saying “To the victor go the spoils,” which includes writing (or rewriting) history books to justify defeating the enemy.

With that in mind, see how many of the following questions you can answer correctly.


1. True/False King Ferdinand was given permission to kill indigenous people or make them their slaves by the pope.


2. How many tribal nations have a formal nation-to-nation relationship with the U.S. Government?

a. 14

b. 567

c. 173


3. How many federal and state-recognized American Indian reservations are there?

a. 492

b. 39

c. 334


4. How many states have a recognized American Indian reservation?

a. 35

b. 9

c. 17


5. True/False The Founding Fathers were sympathetic toward Native Americans and recognized their rights under the Declaration of Independence.


6. True/False The Declaration of Independence’s statement that “all men are created equal” included Native Americans.


7. What was the reason for the majority of U.S. Government – Indian wars?

a. White settlers occupying Indian land in violation of treaties

b. U.S. Government ignoring existing treaties due to westward expansion.

c. Loss of livelihood and hunting grounds to encroachment by white settlers.

d. All of the above


8. Indian people are categorized by culture and geography. Which of the following are NOT considered culture areas?

a. Arctic, subarctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau

b. Great Basin, California, Southwest, Mesoamerica

c. Great Plains, Northeast, Southeast, Caribbean

d. None of the above


9. In the early 19th Century, Sequoyah, a Cherokee polymath from the Little Tennessee Valley created:

a. A list of treaty violations to present to the U.S. Congress

b. The allotment system to assign land to individuals

c. A syllabary of 86 ornate characters


10. Which of the following places are based on Native American names?

a. Allegheny, Alaska, Adirondack

b. Biloxi, Caddo, Chattanooga

c. Hatteras, Erie, Huron

d. Wyoming, Winnebago, Wichita

e. All of the above


ANSWERS

1. True. The first papal bull issued for King Ferdinand in Spain after Columbus returned from the Caribbean stated: “All people of North America are no better than feral animals and may be slaughtered at will.” 

And that bull was followed by another that accompanied the North American land grants: “All land grants will be governed by the same rules as the land grants in Spain, to which you have been accustomed. Thus, as usual, any people populating your land defined by the land grant here issued are your slaves.”

2. b. 567 tribal nations

3. c. 334 reservations

4. a. 35 states with reservations

5. False. George Washington was known as Town Destroyer in the Seneca language based on the decimated cornfields and razed villages he promoted. Thomas Jefferson as Governor of Virginia, ordered a war of extermination against the Shawnee.

6. Following that “created equal” statement it states “except the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

Yes, it really says that. The Natives were accused of being savages for defending their homeland while as one example, at Sand Creek the U.S. Army slaughtered innocent Native Americans who were literally flying the U.S. Flag with a white banner of surrender.

Custer did, indeed, have it coming.

I find it ironic that following WWII the U.S. was more than generous helping to rebuild war zones of former enemies in Germany and Japan, yet few promises made to this country’s original residents have been kept.

7. d. All of the above are reasons for the U.S. – Indian Wars.

The “Manifest Destiny” attitude of America’s early European explorers and subsequent settlers toward the country’s native population was overtly hostile. Land that was virtually stolen, deceptive treaties of which the Indigenous signers were not advised of their true content, and treaties to which both signatories agreed but Congress never ratified are but a part of the sordid tale.

Too many members of the Native population live in substandard conditions with many reservations comparable to a Third World Country and comprise some of the poorest counties in the United States. Yet now the government proposes giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to illegal aliens for being “inconvenienced.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

8. d. None of the above. All represent designated cultural areas.

9. c. A syllabary of 86 characters based on the sound of syllables in the Cherokee language

10. e. All of the above. Hundreds, more likely thousands, of places in the U.S. and Canada retain their Native American names.


SCORES BASED ON NUMBER CORRECT

9 – 10 Cheated or has a college degree in Native American History.

7 – 8 Assumed this was an open-book quiz.

5 – 6 Fan of Longmire series on Netflix.

3 – 4 A few lucky guesses.

0 – 2 Don’t waste your money on lotto tickets.


Swallow your pride and leave your scores below.

“Return to Dead Horse Canyon: Grandfather Spirits” Now Available!

The suspense-laden sequel to triple award winning “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” is now available!

In honor of Native American Heritage Month both this new release as well as its predecessor, “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits,” are on sale in ebook format for only $0.99 through November 30, 2021.

If you’ve read the first book, no doubt you’ve been wondering what happens now that Charlie and Sara have discovered what her husband, Bryan, discovered that cost him his life.

While Charlie swore to avenge his white brother’s death, the path to do so remains unclear.

His job with Lone Star Operations allows him to use his college education and earn a generous income. However, it conflicts with everything he knows to be right. Is violating the Earth wrong or not? Little does he realize that his work will ultimately return him to the Northern Cheyenne reservation where his true destiny will manifest in ways he never imagined.

Sara is determined to fulfill Bryan’s last request to expose the government corruption coupled with the lethal forces that stole his life. Releasing the scandalous Top Secret data via WikiLeaks infuriates those with much to lose, which places her in the cross-hairs of a hired killer.

While miles apart, each struggles with life-threatening situations as a result of their dedication to Bryan’s legacy. Their lives remain entangled through a series of fateful decisions and circumstances that define a future fraught with unknowns for them both.

The books are available through the following links with more vendors to follow in the coming days. Remember that reviews are pure gold to authors and help other readers decide on whether a book is right for them.

Book 1:

Amazon Affiliate Link

Barnes and Noble

Google Play

Other eBook Vendors

Book 2

Amazon Affiliate Link

Barnes and Noble

Google Play

Smashwords

When Every Day was Earth Day

Karl Bodmer: Indians hunting the bison. Tableau 31. In: Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied: Maximilian Prince of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832–1834; published London 1843–1844.

Today is Earth Day, reminding us to honor and appreciate our planet as well as treat her kindly. The concept of doing so only once a year is incomprehensible to Indigenous cultures. Native American reverence for all living things extends to the Earth herself. Taking what you need with respect and gratitude is expected; exploiting her resources for the sake of greed is abhorrent.

Every day was “Earth Day.”

For example, bison (erroneously called buffalo) were revered and respected. They killed only what was needed for food, then used the hide, horns, bones, and sinew for such things as clothing, tipis, and tools. Nothing was wasted. Killing for sport or simply for the animal’s hide (much less its tongue), was unheard of.

Then the white man came.

At the beginning of the 19th century 30 to 40 million bison were present on the Plains. By 1895 their numbers had been reduced to roughly 1,000. Upon completion of the Intercontinental Railroad, they were often shot from moving trains. Hide Hunters moved into Native hunting grounds and slaughtered bison, leaving their rotting carcasses behind.

1892: bison skulls await industrial processing at Michigan Carbon Works in Rogueville (a suburb of Detroit). Bones were processed to be used for glue, fertilizer, dye/tint/ink, or were burned to create “bone char” which was an important component for sugar refining.

In 1873, Army Lt. Col. Richard Irving Dodge stated, “Where there were myriads of buffalo the year before, there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with a sickening stench, and the vast plain which only a short twelve months before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary putrid desert.”

Historian, Pekka Hämäläinen, noted the effect this had on Native Americans when she noted, “The buffalo was the foundation of their economy and the centerpiece of their cosmology, and the wholesale slaughter shook their existence at its core.”

Rath & Wright’s buffalo hide yard in 1878, showing 40,000 buffalo hides, Dodge City, Kansas.”

Where might our country be today if it weren’t for such wanton destruction? But the real question is have we learned anything since?

THE STORY OF BRIGHT EYES IS COMING TO THE BIG SCREEN

Many indigenous people from various tribes have fought for their rights, whether on horseback or in the halls of Congress. Among them was a young woman named Bright Eyes, about whom plans are in work to make a feature-length movie.

To quote the producer’s website:

It’s the true story of a shy, young woman of the Omaha Tribe whose love for her people and other Native Americans helped her overcome her fear. So, she spoke out against injustice and helped bring about the landmark court case of Chief Standing Bear vs. General George Crook where a Native American was first regarded as a “person” with legal rights!

Can you believe that it took until 1880 for Native Americans to be considered a “person?”

What’s wrong with this picture? Let’s take a look at the founding documents of the United States penned in 1776. How many times have you heard the following words from The Declaration of Independence ?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“All men?” Really? Obviously that didn’t apply to First Nation peoples.

Did you know that in the early 19th Century slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for census purposes while indigenous people were not counted at all?

Then there’s the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868, following the Civil War:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Did this apply to indigenous people? Obviously not.

Instead they were considered savages for fighting for their rights to land on which they were the original occupants. A country that shoved them out of the way, yet states in the Second Amendment to its Constitution, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

And why the Second Amendment? To defend our country from a tyrannical government or foreign invaders!

Sound familiar?

Seems to me that’s what Native Americans were trying to do when all other negotiations with the U.S. Government failed.

If more people understood the true history of how indigenous people were treated it could make a huge difference. As I’ve discovered the truth through research I’ve done writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits and working with my Northern Cheyenne co-author, Pete Risingsun, I’ve been outraged by the hypocrisy and double standard.

The United States would be a wonderful country if only it followed its own declarations rather than the whims of greedy, powerful individuals who either warp or by-pass the law to their own benefit. And if you think things are improving currently, clearly you don’t understand what’s going on. Why are illegal aliens treated better than our nation’s first people? Everyone who belongs here is losing their rights at an unprecedented rate.

Perhaps it’s a case of “What goes around, comes around.”

I didn’t intend for this blog to turn into a rant, but it’s something I’ve come to feel very strongly about.

Back to Bright Eyes, this wonderful true story about an heroic Native American woman is being made into a feature film. I encourage you to watch the trailer here.

The producers are looking for crowd funding to make it happen. You can help bring this inspiring story to the big screen! Find out more on their website.

Research Notes & Bibliography

“Village” by Albert Bierstadt c. 1920

The list of websites I accessed researching “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” is far too long to list. It included such subjects as where to report water contamination issues in Colorado, seasonal wild flowers, fracking risks, and drilling for oil. But by far, the most extensive research related to Native American history.

Quite frankly, I hadn’t given it much thought before. My experience with Native Americans had been limited, but positive. I was aware that reservations harbored numerous issues, but hadn’t considered why. The indoctrination I’d received in public schools as a child had never addressed their side of the story. I didn’t think of it as right or wrong, simply historical fact.

I grew up in the glory days of westerns and tales of cowboys and Indians. I never thought of the latter as bad, only different. Of course in history class they were portrayed as uneducated savages. Medicine men were somewhere on par with witches and sorcerers.

Then a few years ago I read a book that sensitized me to the harsh realities associated with colonization. It at least made me think. Then, as I was writing this book, Charlie Littlewolf came on the scene. That’s how it works in my novels. I get an idea and start writing, then the characters show up. I immediately knew there was a lot to learn about who he was and where

Want to know what really happened? Read this first.

he came from, both genetically and geographically.

So I started reading. I ordered several books, most of which I read cover to cover. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter mostly come from “Great Speeches of Native Americans.” That book literally made me cry as the reality of how Indigenous Americans were treated began to register.

It was nothing short of shameful how many treaties were broken, largely because they weren’t ratified by Congress. The U.S. side of the agreement, which often promised food and other supplies, was never fulfilled, but what the Indigenous people brought to the table was long gone. One Native American noted how he couldn’t understand how there were so many “chiefs,” none of whom were authorized to sign such an agreement on behalf of the government.

A beautiful glimpse of Native American spirituality.

The first book I read on spirit medicine was “The Making of a Healer: Teachings of my Oneida Grandmother” by Russell FourEagles. It was one of the amazingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. For the first time I realized the spiritual nature of Native American beliefs. I knew they believed in a “Great Spirit” but had no idea how that related to how they honored the Earth. If you happened to see the movie “Avatar” a few years back, then you got a taste of their view of life as well as the brutality of colonization, whether on this planet or a distant one.

By the time I’d finished writing the first version of the book I wanted a Native American to read it and tell me if anything was incorrect or culturally insensitive. That goal ultimately led me to my co-author, Pete Risingsun, a Northern Cheyenne who’s well-versed in his culture. He pointed out the many things I had wrong and not only helped me correct it but brought it to life.

Which begs the question, was all my reading prior to finding Pete a waste of time?

Hardly.

Without that background I don’t think we could have communicated as well as we did.

The heartbreaking story of the Northern Cheyenne’s journey.

Knowing the history was essential to us being on the same page. The first thing Pete did was send me the book “Morning Star: Let Us Make a New Way” by Richard DeSirey, which told the story of the Northern Cheyenne. Northern Cheyenne traditions, rituals, and ceremonies are very specific and often differ from those associated with the Southern Cheyenne. His knowledge was worth his weight in gold.

Nonetheless, for anyone who wants to learn more about Native Americans, here are the books that I acquired and read to a greater or lesser degree before Pete came onboard.

Those with asterisks (*) are those I dub essential reads, plus the DVD course “Native Peoples of North America” from The Great Courses if you really want to know the part of American history you weren’t told in school.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bennett, Hal Zina: Zuni Fetishes: Using Native American Objects for Meditation, Reflection, and Insight. ISBN 0-06-250069-4

Blaisdell, Bob, Editor; Great Speeches by Native Americans; Dover Thrift Editions; 2000. ISBN 978-0-486-41122-4*

Brinkerhoff, Val W.; The Remnant Awakens; Digital Legend Press; 2016. ISBN 978-1-7295451-9-5

DeSirey, Richard D.; Morning Star: Let Us Make A New Way; 2017; ISBN 978-1-976355-4-7*

FourEagles, Russell: The Making of a Healer: Teachings of my Oneida Grandmother; Copyright 2014, Quest Books. ISBN 978-0-8356-0927-2*

Lake-Thom, Bobby; Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies. ISBN 0-452-27650-0

Maryboy, Nancy C. and Begay, David; Sharing the Skies: Navajo Astronomy; Rio Nuevo Publishers, Tucson, Arizona; 2010. ISBN 978-1-933855-40-0

Mose, Don Jr.: The Legend of the Navajo Hero Twins: Illustrated by Charles Yanito: Copyright 2013, San Juan School District, Blanding, Utah. ISBN 1-931489-59-9

Parnwell, E.C.; Translated by Marvin Yellowhair; The New Oxford Picture Dictionary English/Navajo; Oxford University Press; 1989. ISBN 0-19-434362-6

Sun Bear and Wabun; The Medicine Wheel Earth Astrology; Simon & Schuster; 1980. ISBN 978-0-671-76420-3*

Sun Bear, Wabun Wind, and Crysalis Mulligan; Dancing with the Wheel; Simon & Schuster; 1991. ISBN 978-0-671-76732-7

Waldman, Carl; Atlas of The North American Indian 3rd Edition; Checkmark Books; 2009. ISBN 978-0-8160-6859-3

Waldman, Carl; Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes 3rd Edition; Checkmark Books; 2006. ISBN 0-8160-6274-9

Native Peoples of North America; The Great Courses No. 8131 (c) The Teaching Company; presented by Daniel M. Cobb.*

Websites

https://www.powwows.com/top-10-places-authentic-native-culture-lives/*