Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Enemies Or Allies: Conflict On The Great Plains

"Fur traders in canada 1777," by William Faden, 1776.
Enemies Or Allies
Conflict On The Great Plains
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS - This paper originally appeared in the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation's quarterly "The Past Times," Vol. IX, No. 4. 

Sometime in 1615 French explorers made first contact with the Algonquin-speaking Anishinabe. The Anishinabe, like many native peoples, refer to themselves as “The People, and like other tribes, break themselves down into bands. This particular tribe or band of Anishinabe call themselves Ojibwe, meaning “Puckered Moccasins,” in reference to how they made their moccasins. The French couldn’t easily say Ojibwe and instead referred to them as “Chippewa.”

France’s new world empire was built on the fur trade and they badly needed Indian allies to help sustain it. Went the French came up the St. Lawrence River, they encountered the Chippewa. The Chippewa were stunned with their first encounter and their oral traditions reflect stories of men they thought were bears at first “walking off of a floating island,” and when the trappers took a meal of wine and biscuits the Chippewa thought they were drinking blood and eating wood.

They Came For Gold Then Stayed For Fur
At first Europeans came for gold, when little or none was found, natural resources like fur became a substitute. The French wanted furs for trade and profit, the natives wanted guns to hunt and expand their territories.

Beginning at the turn of 1600 traditional skirmishes over territories escalated into the one-hundred years long conflict, the Beaver Wars. The Iroquois allied themselves with the Dutch for their supply of guns, the Algonquin with the French. The Iroquois made war on the Huron in the Great Lakes and by 1649, with the assistance of disease, destroyed the Huron confederacy. As the Iroquois battered the Huron, the Chippewa braced for war and looked west to the territories of their enemies there.

A lot happened at the turn of 1600. Two groups of people either moved or were forced out of the lower Great Lakes region, the Hidatsa and the Catawba, both tribes Siouan speakers, both would probably cringe at being identified as anything Sioux. The Hidatsa moved west to the upper Missouri to live with the Mandan. The Catawba who have the oral tradition say that they were pushed south over the Appalachian Mountains by the Iroquois.

What the Chippewa called the Iroquois before Beaver Wars is no longer recalled. What they called the Iroquois during and after the wars is recorded as “Nadowaysws,” or “The True Adders.” The Chippewa called their enemies in the western half of the Great Lakes “Nadowaysuaig” or “Nadowaysuis,” translated as Snakes-In-The-Grass or the Lesser Adders. The French couldn’t quite say either word in Chippewa and instead used an adopted short form of the word, “Sioux.”

It was about 1640 when the Assiniboine Sioux broke away from the main body of the Great Sioux Nation. The Great Sioux Nation is made up of four Dakota tribes, the Mdewakaŋton, Sisetowon, Waĥpėtowon, Waĥpėkutė, two Wiceyena tribes, the Ihankton and Ihanktowana, and the Teton.

The Seven Council Fires
Members of the the Great Sioux Nation today refer to themselves as Oċėti Śakowiŋ, or the Seven Council Fires. The Seven Council Fires consist of the Dakota (Mdewakaŋton, Sisetowon, Waĥpėtowon, & Waĥpėkutė), Nakota (Ihaŋktowon & Ihaŋktowana; the French called them “Yankton” & “Yanktonai”), and the Lakota (Tetonwon, whom are the most numerous and are organized into seven sub-tribes: Huŋkpapa, Sihasapa, Itażipċo, Mniconjou, Oohėnuŋpa, Śiċaŋġu, & Oglala).

The Assiniboine have the oral tradition that recalls a fight over meat and broke off from the Yanktonai. This infighting occurred during the Beaver Wars and as the Chippewa were pushing west for territory and furs. Natural resources became scarce forcing people to fight back, move further west, or starve. In one generation, the Assiniboine moved northwest and allied themselves to the Plains Cree and Piegan. The Assiniboine were ever after known to the main body of Sioux as Hohė, or rebels.

In 1659-60 the French explorers Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medard Chouart Sieur des Groseilliers journeyed west to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan followed by Jesuit missionaries twenty years later. In 1680 the Jesuits Hennepin and Duluth made contact with the Sioux in northern Minnesota at the height of conflict between the Sioux and Chippewa at Mill Lac. The Okdada Dakota moved west to the Missouri River where, in a generation, changed their lifestyle from sedentary horticulture and hunting to nomadic hunting so completely, changed their dialect, that they came to be called Oglala Lakota.

The Confluence Of Guns And Horses
Armed with guns from trade with the English, the Lakota arrived on the plains at nearly the same time as horses, 1692, and took complete advantage of both to the dismay of all tribes on the northern plains, all but the Cheyenne.

When the Sioux came to dwell on the plains the only tribe with whom they didn’t have an antagonistic relationship with were the Tsistsistas, who the Sioux referred to as Śahiyėna, or Cheyenne, meaning “Red Talkers.” The relationship didn’t remain friendly for long.

Horse stealing raids and skirmishes to gain and control territory became the lifestyle of the Lakota in the early eighteenth century. The first recorded horse stealing raid was against the Hėwaĥtoĥta, the Hidatsa, in 1706. Then a war with the Mandan followed.

In fact, so many horse stealing raids occurred in the first half of the 18th century that when Pierre La Verendrye made first contact with the Mandan there were no horses to barter for. La Verendrye walked his entire stay on the northern plains. 

War between the Sioux and Cheyene broke out around 1740 and lasted until 1766 when a war party of Oglala Lakota attacked a Cheyenne village near present-day Fort Yates, North Dakota. The Cheyenne retaliated by setting fire to the plains. The Oglala’s horses broke free and they were forced to abandon camp and run cross country. The Oglala were forced to run in the flames as the fire caught up to them. They who survived the running the fire jumped into Long Lake. This band of Oglala became known afterward as the Śiċaŋġu, whom the French called Brulė, or Burnt Thigh. The Sioux and Cheyenne put aside their differences and became allies.
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Bibliography:

Tenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, 1888-'89, paper by Garrick Mallory, edited by J. W. Powell.

Fifteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smothsonian, 1894-'95, paper by W. J. McGee.

Siouan Sociology, by James Owen Dorsey prepared in the 1890s. Paper published in The Sioux Indians: A Socio-Ethnological History, an introduction by John F. Bryde, Ph.D., edited by Sol Lewis, 1973.

Yanktonai Ethnohistory and the John K. Bear Winter Count, paper by James Howard, Plains Anthropologist, 1976.