5. Stories about Native Americans, the West, Frontier

Story #1 – Ute Indian Prayer trees –

Ute Indians used ropes made from natural fibers to bend ponderosa pines into different positions to create “prayer trees”  The trees served different functions carry different meaning depending on shape are bent. A tree marking a trail bent to point to particular destination, or to important landmark such as Pikes Peak, for example. Others are bent signify burial and other spiritual sites. 

 Story #2 – Hopi and Zuni Indians of the Southwest – Kachina dolls.

From winter solstice to summer, life and death. Part of year live disembodied spirits vastness of nature. With winter solstice leave and enter bodies of men, stay until Niman Kachina festival in July. As men, bring rain, gifts, life or death,, many ceremonies honor them. Costumed men believe inhabited by spirits, lead festivals. Wooden dolls fashioned after spirits given children. Not toys – teach young of spirits, fear them. Awesome figure Monster Woman [Soyok Wuhti] appears during Powamu ceremony as one of many who threaten lives of children. Dressed all black, with long stragling hair, staring eyes and a wide-fanged mouth, she carries a blood smeared knife and a long jangling crook – a truly fearsome creature to children. She may reach for children with long crook and threaten put them in basket on her back, or cut off their heads with large bloody knife she carries utterly terrifying her young audience. Helps children obey parents and fear spirits                                                                                                                                               

Story #3 – The opening of the American Western Frontier – Mountain Men, Explorers, Wagon Trains, hardy pioneers . . . and camels.

Up until end of Civil War, camels were key part of United States military strategy. It all started in 1850’s, when first American settlers started moving west. Their horses and mules weren’t cut out for long, dry treks between water sources. General Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, shipped in camels from modern countries Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and  Turkey,” Eventually, hundreds of camels would be use in Big Bend by Army. What happened to them all? After the Civil War, everything that the Confederate traitor Davis had touched was scrubbed away — and that included Army’s camels.  Today, one business is trying to bring camel back. The Texas Camel Corps, as they’re called, takes groups through Texas’s Big Bend on their camels’ trusty humps. Most camels turned loose 1870’s – last wild ones seen in 1950’s.


                                                                                                                  Story #4 – Only cannibal arrested, tried and sentenced to prison in the U. S.

Only American arrested, tried, found guilty of cannabilism. In Lake County, Colorado, Packer led group through mountains from Ouray. He was warned not to go. He stumbled out of wilderness mountains several weeks later looking none worst for trials. A search party was organized, found remains of others, clearly bones scrapped and cut as prepared for meals. He escaped from jail for nine years until finally caught. Sentenced to Canon City Prison. In 1950’s students at CU, put up banners at school cafeteria announcing it was “The Alfred Packer Memorial Cafe.” It is now formally called that and decorated accordingly. When finally sentenced, the judge, a Democrat, said “There were six democrats in Lake County and you ate 5 of them.
 Story #5 – Decent women needed in frontier West of America – 1800’s
Concern post Civil War West – too few decent women.To cowboys and other men in West, too few women. Many “soiled doves” but respectable, decent women – where are ones that can make West decent place to live and life as it could be? The West led nation in women recognized as equal citizens with right to vote. Wyoming led way in 1869 granting right to vote to women. Also achieved right sit on juries and run for political office. First female judge in United States was Esther Morris (picture below) elected as judge in Wyoming. In Northwest Ordinance of 1787, U. S. law said territory can petition for statehood when reaches population of 60,000. Many men voted allow women vote to do two things: (1) encourage decent women to come to state to better society (and start families) and (2) to bolster number of citizens reach number needed get statehood.


Story #6 – Dog Soldiers of the Great Plains.

In the 1800’s on the Great Plains the most respected and feared warriors of the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Sioux, Pawnee, Commanche and other tribes were the “Dog Soldiers.” Just as dogs protected tribes camps, so too this warrior did. He wore a special collar around his neck and attached to it was a 12 foot by 5 inch piece of leather – his “collar.” When tribe threatened, would stake down end of collar with 4 sacred arrows and could not retreat until commander gave OK. Highest sign of bravery was for enemy warrior to step into area stacked out to fight. Picture shows warrior on horse with collar and other picture shows warrior with collar trailing behind him. These warriors were greatest heroes to their tribes esp. young of the tribe.


Story # 7    Who’s buried in Buffalo Bills Grave west of Denver? Colorado says they have him, Wyoming says they have him, where is he?.

Even though Buffalo Bill always wanted be buried in Wyoming, Denver city officials and Denver Post bribed relatives, finagling to host burial. That’s when Wyoming faithful pulled off caper straight out of Hollywood: They sneaked into funeral home and replaced body with local vagrant, a look-alike impostor, spiriting real Cody back home to Cowboy State and a secret grave. In 1906 his will said wanted be buried on Cedar Mountain, Wyoming. June, 1917, funeral was attended by 25,000 thousand mourners, Rumors so inflamed both sides that Cody’s foster son, Johnny Baker, reburied Cody under tons of concrete 4 feet thick as security against theft. In 1948, Colorado National Guard stationed troops around grave site after American Legion post members in Cody offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could steal Cody’s body. In 2006, Wyoming legislature passed petition asking Colorado do DNA tests and if he is in Colorado to release body to them. Colorado, of course, refused. Wyoming considered petitioning U.S. Supreme Court – Vice President at time, Dick Chaney, was from Wyoming.


Story #8 – Native American History is fascinating – Game of Lacrosse is example. National game of Canada – name comes from the French missionaries

In 1600’s French Missionaries saw game and likened stick to Catholic Bishops Cross – thus name Lacrosse, French for “the Cross.” Lacrosse was way Indians settled arguments, a diplomatic tool, allowed tribes resolve territorial disputes. When have to hunt and gather, you can’t waste valuable time in constant warfare. Indian confederacies arranged contest one another at convenient times in seasonal calendar. Rather than warfare, games settled disputes between tribes. No rules except two trees as goal, every game saw arms, legs broken, skulls cracked – often deaths. Every tribe had own mythology about first ball game played by gods of creation in sky. Ball players volleyed back and forth over land were imitating sun and moon as moved back and forth across sky back when gods played game in heavens.

Story #9 – Where did those words come from?

Native Americans speaking language of Algonquian group were first meet English explorers and many words from these languages entered English—for example, caribou (“snow-shoveler”), chipmunk (“red squirrel”), moccasin, moose, muskrat, opossum (“white dog”), papoose (“baby”), pecan (“nut”), powwow (“to dream, to have a vision”), raccoon, skunk (“to urinate” + “fox”), squaw, toboggan, totem, wigwam, and woodchuck. The word “avocado” is Nahuatl, a Central Mexican/Aztec Indian language, for “testicle.” Half names of U.S. states derived from Amerindian words, such as Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Missouri. Many Native American words entered English language, such as chia, chili, chocolate, coyote, guacamole, mesquite, peyote, shack, tamale, tomato, abalone, bayou, cannibal, Chinook, manatee, poncho, and potato. The word “barbecue” is from the Arawakan Indian language meaning “framework of sticks.” The word “Sioux” adopted by French explorers picked up from Chippewa tribe. “Sioux” is Chippewa word for “enemy,” who actually were the Lakota people. So Sioux are actually the Lakota, a name that means, “Where the people of peace dwell.Where did those words come from? Many from Native Americans.