Cochise Apache Chief

Cochise was not just a character in western movies and tv shows. He was actually a real Apache Chief of the Chokenen-Chiricahua Apache band located around the area of what is now Sonoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

This true legend of the old west is one of the better known names of the Apaches along with Geronimo and Mangas Colorades. All three men fought very hard during their lifetimes to stop the invasion of white settlers and Mexican and American soldiers into the land that their people had lived in since around 1600.

I could not find an actual photo of Cochise to share in this post. Let me correct that, I found enough to get a campfire started with but none of the photos were truly the Apache Chief Cochise. That became apparent when I noticed that the different pictures were not the same man. Maybe one of the reasons that there were no photographs taken of him was because photography was relatively new during the time that he lived and even though there were photographers, getting that equipment  safely into Apache territory would have been a feat into itself.

Actor Michael Ansarra as Indian Warrior Cochise Between Scenes on Set of TV Show "Broken Arrow"
TV Series Cochise

Broken Arrow TV Series

So, I decided to share a video here that is about the friendship of Cochise and Tom Jeffords that actually existed. Jeffords was the only white friend of Cochise and ended up being the agent of the reservation where Cochise spent his last years. The movie Broken Arrow which starred James Stewart and Jeff Chandler actually was the first film that showed some sympathy towards Native Americans and their fight to keep the European settlers off of their lands. The movie has been credited to changing popular opinion of Americans from negative to positive towards the Indigenous Peoples of the North American continent. So, even though the actor playing Cochise was not himself from any tribal tradition, his role caused a better respect of the people who lost their homelands and fought hard battles for what was rightfully theirs.

To read some very interesting history of the Apache Chief Cochise, I would recommend the wiki article Cochise. I could write a summation of it but I think you would have more interest in reading the article first hand.

Feast Of The Hunters Moon In Indiana

An Autumn Tradition

Every year for the last 45 years people have gathered where Fort Ouiatenon used to sit in Indiana to celebrate The Feast Of The Hunters Moon. Each year people re-create a time when Native Americans and the French gathered together in the fall.

hunters moon In 2014 the feast will be held on October 4th and 5th along the Wabash River just about 4 miles southwest of West Lafayette, Indiana.

Is The Feast A Thanksgiving Gathering?

In a way the gathering each fall of the French and the Native Americans along the Wabash River was a sort of thanksgiving meal. Celebrating the harvest for the year and the good trade relations at the time of the Hunters Moon would have been a way of being thankful for a good year. It just occurs earlier than the traditional Thanksgiving holiday celebrated in the US.

Why It Is Held At Ft Quiatenon?

In 1717 the French established the first European garrisoned settlement in the territory that would later become the state of Indiana. It was to be a military outpost that would prevent the expansion of the British along the Wabash River. Fur-bearing animals like beaver and buffalo were plentiful in this area resulting in the Fort also being used as a trading post between the French and Native Americans. It has been noted by historians that there were three reasons for the building of Fort Ouiatenon:

1. Strategy of military defense
2. Quest for wealth in the fur trade
3. Missionary opportunities (converting the Natives to Catholicism)

Across the Wabash River was a large Wea Indian village making Ouiatenon a profitable location. Part of the Miami tribes, The Weas had settled in five villages on the banks of the Wabash below the mouth of the Tippecanoe River. The location acted as a gateway to the western prairies for other tribes including the Kickapoos, Mascoutens, Sauk, and Fox. The Weas were quick to establish trade relations with the French allowing the bounty of the prairies and the forests to flow regularly from Ouiatenon to Quebec and on to France.

So, every year in the fall people gather once again at the location where Fort Ouiatenon once stood and re-enact the gathering of the Native Americans and the French. The event draws thousands of participants in the re-creation and thousands more who delight in the two days of feasting, music, demonstrations, and trading. Food vendors and craft vendors enhance the gathering with delightful items to tempt everyone. Perhaps you would like to join in the festivities this year.

Thanks for stopping by today to learn about a fall festival held in Indiana each year. The Feast Of The Hunters Moon is really a fun time and educational to boot.

Cornstalk Shawnee Chief

chief cornstalk One of the great Chiefs of the Shawnee Indians was Cornstalk, pictured at the left. Chief Cornstalk was described as a handsome man with a charismatic personality. He was a great warrior, extremely proficient orator, brilliant organizer, and was admired by both his enemies and his tribe for his cunning strategy in warfare.

He led a Confederacy of Tribes against the encroachment of the white settlers, trying to get the indians to leave their lands and to protect their sacred hunting grounds in Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. It is his death that defines Cornstalk as being a true Native American Hero.

His last words, as he lay dieing, were a curse placed upon the area where he was murdered. Modern day Point Pleasant, West Virginia has many residents who believe the curse was and is real. The area does have many incidents which have occurred over the last 200 years that do seem to be related with Chief Cornstalks last words.

A Little History Of The Shawnee And Cornstalk

Born around 1720, most probably in Pennsylvania, Cornstalk and the Shawnee were pushed west to the Ohio Country when he was a young boy.

Little is known about Cornstalk until about 1763. This account tells of the warrior leading a band of about 60 Shawnee into Greenbriar County, Virginia. The Shawnee were quite upset about the constant advancement west of the white settlers. In an attempt to get them to leave, it is reported that Cornstalk and his band befriended the settlers and then murdered everyone at Muddy Creek and then some 50 others at Clendenin Settlement in June of 1763.

Cornstalk and the Shawnee sided with the French in the French and Indian War. They feared the English would continue to advance into the Ohio Country and they needed to be stopped. In 1764 the Shawnee were defeated by Colonel Henry Bouquet. Cornstalk was taken prisoner so that the Shawnee would sign the treaty. They agreed to not fight the English again.

For the next decade there was fighting between the English and the Ohio natives. The constant arrival of more white settlers caused much tension. Cornstalk tried to ease the situation peacefully but he was in the minority by 1774. On May 3, 1774, English colonists murdered 11 Mingo Indians. Retribution was demanded by the Mingo and the Shawnee people. Cornstalk promised to protect the English fur traders because they were innocent of this crime.

The British decided to increase military presence by building more forts and to allow more white settlements to be built which enraged the Shawnee even more. The British began to destroy entire villages and the life sustaining crops of the villages. The thought seemed to be that the natives would just give up and move farther away.

At this time, Cornstalk began to have a change of heart about the white settlers. Lord Dunmore sent 1000 men to build a fort in what became West Virginia to attack the Shawnee. Cornstalk sent 1000 warriors to drive Dunmore’s forces out. On October 10, 1774 the Battle of Point Pleasant took place between Dunmore’s troops and the Shawnee. As Dunmore drove the natives north of the Ohio River, he asked that a discussion for a peace treaty be started. While discussions were going on, Colonel Andrew Lewis crossed the Ohio and destroyed several villages. Fearing that Dunmore planned to destroy them, the Shawnee agreed to the terms of the treaty. They gave up all lands east and south of the Ohio River, released captives, and promised not to attack colonists traveling down the river.

Cornstalk, a man of his word, abided by the treaty for the remainder of his life. By 1777 the Shawnee were urged by the British to drive the white settlers out of the region. The American Revolution had begun and the British wanted the help of the Shawnee. Cornstalk and one of his sons went to Point Pleasant to warn the Americans of the impending attack.

Cornstalk was treated well and even began helping the Americans make maps and strategy for defeating the approaching enemies. A report came into the fort that some Shawnee had killed an American soldier. Seeking revenge the colonists killed Cornstalk on November 10, 1777 along with his son and other natives that were in custody.

Before he died, Cornstalk uttered what has become known as “The Curse of Cornstalk”.

history of the shawnee
Native American Tribes: The History and Culture of the Shawnee

Did his people call him Cornstalk? His name has been recorded as Hokolesqua, Colesqua and Keigh-tugh-qua in the languages of the Native Americans and was freely translated by the white men to mean “blade of corn” and became known to most as Cornstalk.

Cornstalk’s Curse

“I was the border man’s friend. Many times I have saved him and his people from harm. I never warred with you, but only to protect our wigwams and lands. I refused to join your paleface enemies with the red coats. I came to the fort as your friend and you murdered me. You have murdered by my side, my young son. For this, may the curse of the Great Spirit rest upon this land. May it be blighted by nature. May it even be blighted by its hopes. May the strength of its peoples be paralyzed by the stain of our blood.” -Chief Cornstalk November 10, 1777

Point Pleasant Has Some Eerie History Since The Curse

Many tragedies and disasters were blamed on the curse:

1907: Coal mine disaster in Monogah, West Virginia. There were 310 miners who lost their lives in what is known as the worst coal mine disaster in America.

1944: 150 people lose their lives when a tornado tears through the tri-state area in June of 1944.

1967: Disaster at Silver Bridge causes 46 people to fall into the Ohio River losing their lives. This December 15th tragedy has been connected to the Mothman Curse with people saying they say the Mothman and reporting strange lights in the sky. Other paranormal events were also reported.

1968: 35 people are killed when the Piedmont Airlines plane crashes near Kanawha Airport in August of 1968.

1970: Southern Airways DC-10 crashes into a mountain near Huntington, West Virginia on November 14. There were 75 people killed in this tragedy.

1976: An explosion at the Mason County Jail causes the town of Point Pleasant to shake in the middle of the night. On that March night the husband of Harriet Sisk came to the jail with explosives hidden in a suitcase. His plan was to blow up his wife and himself. His attempt was successful while he also took the lives of three law enforcement officers. Harriet was in the jail facing charges of murdering her infant daughter.

1978: Chemicals contaminate the town of Point Pleasant’s water supply and wells in January due to a freight train derailment.

1978: The collapse of some construction scaffolding causes 51 men to die at the Willow Island power plant. This tragedy occurred in St. Marys which is north of Point Pleasant during the month of April.

There have been many strange events since Cornstalk’s curse was uttered. Fires and floods that could happen anywhere but there were two floods that almost completely wiped out Point Pleasant. On in 1913 and the other in 1937 could be considered just a hazard of river life. Was the barge explosion just before Christmas in 1953 connected or just something that would have happened anyway? Did Cornstalk cause the destruction of an entire city to be burned in the fire that occurred in the late 1880s? Did Chief Cornstalk and his curse cause the local economy of Point Pleasant to decline from dwindling river traffic and commerce or was that a natural turn of economics?

Is the curse of Cornstalk real? It is difficult to say but there are so many really tragic events that it does make one wonder. Reports of eerie lights, sightings of the Mothman, and other strange tales makes one wonder if the utterings of a disappointed and angry Shawnee Chief have lasted over the span of time to curse the area.

Source of statistics: Haunted West Virginia – The Cornstalk Curse

Mystery Series Celebrates The Ojibwe

Over the course of the last year or so I have been reading the Cork O’Connor series of books by William Kent Krueger. The plots of each book involve a crime that has occurred on or near a fictional Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota. I know, telling you about a series of mystery books is a little off topic when it comes to totems but I do like to share with you from time to time other subjects of interest that involve the cultures of the American Indians. I think that many of you would also enjoy reading this series of books which includes story lines that covers present day struggles and successes of the Anishinaabe people (also called Ojibwe or Chippewa). Often times Krueger will also bring some of the old ways and legends into the plot.

Corcoran O’Connor is the main character in each of the books. Cork shares the ancestry of both the Irish and Anishinaabe and will often show the pitfalls of being of a mixed heritage. More than once in the books he will mention that many times the non-native people of the town he resides in will look at him as Indian while the Ojibwe look at him as white and an outsider. Krueger does a nice job of showing the inner struggle of a man of mixed cultures and also how Cork can work well with both.

Cork has had two Anishinaabe men who influenced the man he has grown up to be. Sam Winter Moon taught him many of the old ways in hunting and tracking and was very much a father figure after his Dad died when Cork was a young boy. Henry Meloux is a spiritual teacher and mentor for Cork and is one of my favorite characters in the books. Henry is a Midewiwin or a Mide who advises both Cork and members of the reservation on the spiritual aspects of a situation along with history and legends of the people. He is really a fascinating character!

I also like that Krueger, who is a non-native, respectively paints a picture with his words about what life on a reservation can be like, the good and the bad. He adds some history into his plots about the economic struggles and successes for the people who live in the northeast region of Minnesota. He teaches us words of the Anishinaabe language along with  sharing legends and beliefs. I never get the impression of any stereotypical depictions of his characters but more an honest portrayal of what the members of any community will encompass. There are good people, bad people, misguided people and some who border on all.

I am now reading book number thirteen in the series, so I think that is an indication that Krueger has written well enough for me to continue getting his books. I would recommend that if you plan to read these books that you start with the first in the series. Although any could be read on their own and be a great read, the books to reference story lines of the previous books.

Iron Lake Book #1

I hope you won’t mind that I strayed a little this week and did not talk about a specific totem. I feel that sometimes reading a good book can help us to grow, too. A bit of medicine in a different form. This series of books has entertained me but taught me things that I would not have known, too. Just the other day, when my husband and I were watching a movie a term was used and I said, “Oh, that is an Ojibwe term and it means…”.

The plots are intriguing, too. There is a crime to solve and Cork is in the middle of figuring out “who done it”. It is always interesting to read how he works through the process and will sometimes be completely on the wrong track. There have been many times that I have thought, “Wow, I did not see that coming!” I also like that Cork’s family are always a part of the story lines. As you read through the series you watch his children grow and his relationship with them.

~Beverly Two Feathers~

Sarah Winnemucca

I haven’t done this in a while but today we are going to have a little history lesson. Many times in life some of our best medicine comes from those who have come before us. Sarah Winnemucca is not a name that comes to mind when people are asked about a notable American Indian in the history of this continent. I think she should be, though. When we think about it, there are not many women of Native descent that are remembered in the annals of history.

Sarah was a Paiute who lived near the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas. She was born in 1844 and witnessed some of the first white settlers to go through her country on their way to California. She and her people encountered the lawless gold miners and the far from scrupulous officials of the government. Unlike most women of her time, she chose to speak out about the despicable acts against her people. Winnemucca spoke out about the sexual assaults of the women of her tribe that happened much too often. She also noted that when the Indians would try to retaliate over these attacks on their women, it was most times represented by the settlers as savage lawlessness.

Sarah Winnemucca

Sarah Winnemucca

When she was a teenager she was hired as a maid for a prominent white settler. It was during this employment that she learned the English language quite well. By 1868 she was working as an interpreter in an Indian Office and moved to Camp McDermitt. She spent about ten years at the agency and witnessed first hand the blatant corruption of the office. By the 1880’s, Sarah became quite outspoken against the American government and wrote a book titled Life Among The Piutes. After the publication of this autobiography, she began to travel across the nation giving public speeches and lectures.

During her public engagements and through her book, Winnemucca brought to light the cruelty and inhumanity that happened during the expansion of the West. She also explained to those in the crowd that the Native societies were much more humane than they had been described by the people whose atrocities were meant to be covered up. She exposed corruption and begged for separate autonomous tribal communities where Natives could live life apart from the white settlers.

It was not unusual for her to let the people she was talking to know that she felt that the Americans were the ones who really deserved the label of savage. She let them know that she was personally calling to them for some justice. Decades later activists would ask for the same things and tell some of the same stories but none were as articulate in their message as Sarah Winnemucca.

I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson about a remarkable woman who was way before her time. How brave she must have been, her courage spurred by her outrage at the suffering and injustice that her people and other Native Peoples had to survive. I don’t know about you but I would have loved to have met this woman!