Native Village Youth and Education News
November 1, 2008 Issue 191 Volume 1

“Turtle,” 1981
Randy Chitto,

 "In our story of Creation, we talk about each one of us having our own path to travel, and our own gift to give and to share. You see, what we say is that the Creator gave us all special gifts; each one of us is special. And each one of us is a special gift to each other because we've got something to share." 
                                                       John Peters (Slow Turtle),  Wampanoag   



U.S.  history books have Indians all wrong, says author
Rhode Island: Journalist Charles C.  Mann says that most of what Americans were taught about American Indian life before European invasion is wrong. Most people learned, as was he, that Indians migrated across the Bering Straits 12,000 years ago. They lived in small groups and had little effect on the environment. But during a lecture at Rhode Island University, Mann said researchers now believe:

Indians migrated to the Americas 20,000 - 35,000 years ago.
Their populations grew to 40,000,000 - 60,000,000.
800 years ago, they lived in cities as big as those in Europe.
Tenochtitlan, (today's Mexico City,) had 215,000 inhabitants who lived on an island in the middle of a man-made lake.
Cahokia (near today's St. Louis)  attracted thousands of inhabitants before it was destroyed by floods.
One city in Peru was surrounded by a wall greater than the one built around Rome.

At its height, the Inca empire, was the world's largest empire.
The Incas created a huge network of roads.
In the Amazon, Indians altered thousands of square miles of wetlands so they could live on mounds of dry ground. They traveled over raised causeways and also created vast designs of raised earth.
Other Amazon  Indians fertilized dirt by mixing it with charcoal and millions of pieces of smashed pottery.
Some estimate that 12% of the Amazon was transformed for agriculture.
Vast arrays of raised mounds and ditches were built on Florida's west coast to, perhaps, keep Indian communities dry and safe during high tides and storms.
The 5,000 members of Massachusetts's Pocumtuck tribe burned 110 square miles of forest each year to provide land for corn and hunting.
The Indians didn't have horses until Europeans arrived.

Mann said Americans have done a “lousy job” of preserving historic Indian sites. They have even built a highway through the ancient city of Cahokia.

Study: Miami Fort not a fort, but a dam
Ohio:  U.S. scientists have discovered that Miami Fort near Cincinnati was not a fort but an ancient water works and dam.  Researchers discovered the 2,000-year-old site is much larger than they believed. One dam was nearly 200 feet high, and its berms stretch nearly 4 miles in length. It's twice as large as any other American Indian earthworks in Ohio, and one of the largest in the nation. "This site was originally described by William Henry Harrison as a great military fort. What we've discovered this summer is that it is not in any way, shape or form a military fort," said Assistant Professor Ken Tankersley.  Physical evidence suggest is was Shawnee women who constructed the earthworks. "It amazes me that when you think of some of the great engineering feats in prehistory, we've always had this male bias that guys must have been doing this," Tankersley added. "But the evidence we have at hand turns this around and suggests that it actually must have been the women who were doing this work."

Potawatomi Tribe visits Perry 

Potawatomi Homelands, Illinois: Potawatomi tribal member recently stopped in Perry to commemorate the Potawatomi "Trail of Death."  From September 4 - November 4, 1838, the U.S. forcibly removed the Potawatomi from their Indiana/Illinois/Michigan homelands to Kansas.  Every five years the Potawatomi Trail of Death Caravan travels that same trail to honor their ancestors who died during removal. "It is about recognizing the people who came before us," said Trail of Death Caravan leader George Godfrey. "You can tell people care by the effort they've put into this. That's what this is about. It's a time for remembrance and reflection. We're paying tribute to courage."


Finnish pioneers, Ojibwe found common ground
Minnesota:  In the late 1800s, Finnish immigrants and the resident Ojibwe people became friends through things common to both cultures.  The groups grew close, creating a new population called “Finndians.” “There are enough of us that we’ve coined the term,” said Lyz Jaakola from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.   “When the Finns arrived [in Minnesota] in the late 1800s, they came at a time when the Anishinabe were just put onto the reservations." The land that was available and affordable at the time was near and on reservations.  Much of that land was low and waterlogged, which resembled Findland's Landscape. “There were a lot of circumstantial things, and similarities in beliefs and mannerisms, that nurtured these connections,” Jaakola said.

How the Finnish and Indians became "Finndians":

One culture had the sauna, the other had the sweat lodge.
One group found multiple uses for cedar, the other used birch.
Both cultures had strong storytelling traditions.
Both placed great importance on communal living.
Both cultures also faced persecution and degradation.
Both had reserved personalities and the tendency to avoid conflict.
Both had a history of being pushed from their homelands.
Both cultures had learned to thrive in similar environments

Choctaw code talkers finally recognized

Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma: As a child, Tewanna Edwards had no idea that her great-uncle, Otis Leader, was among the first American Indian code talkers. "I was shocked," said Edwards, who was 20 when she found out. "He never talked about it. They were sworn to secrecy."  Leader's descendants, and those of the other Choctaw code talkers, will be awarded Congressional Medals of Honor.  Formed in 1918, the Choctaw code talkers used their native language to safely transmit military information.  At the time, U.S. forces in France faced continued defeats by enemy forces.  “The Germans were tapping into our phone lines and were experts at decoding our messages. They knew where our ammunition dumps were; they knew where our troops were. We couldn’t make a move without the German Army knowing about it,"  said researcher Judy Allen. “A commanding officer happened to walk by two Choctaw men speaking in our native language. It was as if a light bulb went off in his head.”    “..."They died with secrets that were never really revealed” in their lifetime so Indian code talkers could be used in future wars,"  said Gregory Pyle, chief of the Choctaw Nation.  Code talker descendants say the recognition is long overdue. They point out that these young men enlisted to fight for their country in 1918 before Natives had the right to become U.S. citizens.  “Our people, they are very quiet, but the honor is so important, to have their heroes finally recognized,”  Chief Pyle said.  Signed by President Bush, the code talker legislation also recognizes Comanche and other Native code talkers of World Wars I and II. Their tribal languages and efforts saved hundreds of thousands of lives and shortened both wars.

The 18 Choctaw Code Talkers
Otis Leader Ben Carterby Albert Billy, Mitchell Bobb
  Victor Brown,   George Davenport Joseph Davenport James Edwards
Tobias Frazier Benjamin Hampton Noel Johnson Solomon Louis
Pete Maytubby Jeff Nelson Joseph Oklahoma Robert Taylor
Walter Veach Calvin Wilson

[Editor's Note: In 1989, the French government recognized the critical role the Choctaw Code Talkers played in World War I by awarding them the "Chevalier de L'Ordre National du Merite" (the Knight of the National Order of Merit), the highest honor France can bestow. ]

Warriors in Uniform: The Legacy of American Indian Heroism
National Geographic Books is highlighting Native American warriors in a new book,  Warriors in Uniform: The Legacy of American Indian Heroism by Herman J. Viola. Executive editor Barbara Brownell Grogan describes the book as “a page-turning epic and a stunning gallery of never-before-seen artifacts from personal collections. As the only book to cover Native American warriors from the 1700s to the present, it stands out.”

Worl 13th recipient ever to win award
Alaska:  Rosita Worl, a Tlingit tribal member and president of Sealaska Heritage Institute, has won the prestigious Solon T. Kimball Award. The award honors those whose work reflects anthropology as an applied science that impacts public policy. "She is truly deserving, and I believe has accomplished more than any other practicing American anthropologist presently living," wrote Steve Langdon from the University of Alaska.  Worl, whose Tlingit names are Yeidiklats'okw and Kaa.haní, has managed SHI since 1996. Among her accomplishments.
She helped developed relations between Alaska and Alaskan Native tribes for the first time in the state;
Worl sought to protect traditional and subsistence living and legally protect them;
Worl helped repatriate cultural objects under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act;
She helped advise and establish the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian;
Worl led efforts to document and perpetuate Native languages and  weave Native language and culture into public school curriculums;
She authored or co-authored more than 60 publications, papers and books and numerous editorials and reviews.
SeaAlaska Heritage Institute:
Solon T. Kimball Award:

IUPUI professor's reburial of Native American remains earns international award
Indiana: Larry J. Zimmerman, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis, has been awarded the international Peter J. Ucko Memorial Award.  Four Native American archaeologists nominated Zimmerman for "paving the way for a generation of Native Americans to believe we could join this profession without having to sacrifice our deeply help moral beliefs about our rights and responsibilities as Indigenous people" Zimmerman's early career decision to rebury Native American human remains was, at the time, considered academic suicide. Times have changed, and his early actions earned him the award for important contributions to archaeology.

Cherokee Nation and Delaware Tribe of Indians Reach Agreement on Separate Federal Recognition
Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma: In October, a Memorandum of Agreement between the Cherokee Nation and the Delaware Tribe of Indians passed unanimously during a special Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting. The MOA supports the recognition of a separate nation for the Delawares. Nearly 10,000 Delaware are in eastern Oklahoma. Until recently, they were considered part of the Cherokee Nation. 


"We are pleased with the constructive method that the Delaware administration has taken on an issue that has divided us for a number of years," said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  "This collaborative agreement protects our concerns about Cherokee Nation sovereignty and allows the Delaware their separate recognition."


Today is a very significant day for the Delaware Tribe,” said Jerry Douglas, Chief of the Delaware Tribe of Indians.  “After years of hard work by Cherokees and Delawares alike, this agreement paves the way for the restoration of the tribe’s separate federal recognition and resolves decades of uncertainty for both tribes.  The tribe looks forward to continuing to work with the Cherokee Nation cooperatively and as allies under the framework embodied in the MOA.”

Immersive video game aims to revitalize American Indian languages
Washington:  A new video game created by a Native-owned company will feature tribal characters speaking a variety of Indian languages. RezWorld is the first fully immersive, 3-D interactive video game that enables young Indians to learn their language using a speech recognition component.  “We’re all about teaching Native language in a context that really engages our young people,” said Don Thornton, the Cherokee owner of Thornton Media. Thornton said RezWorld was a "connection between the survival of tribal languages and the protection of tribal sovereignty.” In RezWorld, players interact with virtual characters by talking into a microphone. The characters respond and provide cultural tidbits to help humans proceed through game levels – all in a Native tongue. Video characters' words can also be displayed on the screen in English to help players.  Educators and researchers say RezWorld  shows positive learning results; many users say the game is more effective than traditional computer language courses. “It’s really a way to teach cultural protocol,” said Thornton. He added that his favorite part of developing RezWorld has been interacting with a trickster-like coyote character. “Coyote is a little bit of a wise guy, so you always have to watch yourself with him,” Thornton said with a laugh.
For more information and preview video,  visit

Saving language through music
Lheidli T'enneh Communities, British Columbia: The language of the Lheidli T'enneh people is critically endangered, but the Couchi family is determined to sing life back into it.  Mary Gouchie, 87, is among the few remaining people fluent in the local Carrier dialect. She will be helping her Granddaughter, Kym Gouchie,  compile a album of songs sung in the Lheidli tongue. Kym was awarded a Canadian Council grant for the project. "Trying to save the language appeals to me, and I like that it is through singing," said Kym, who is an acclaimed singer and musician. "I am going to help [Mary] with the language. I really would like someone to carry on."  Kym says that while a dictionary of the Lheidli dialect exists, it's not the same as hearing the cadence and timbre of words spoken aloud.  "I know a number of languages nearing extinction, and the Lheidli dialect is one of them," she said. "My grandmother is a keeper of the language and my auntie Jeannette Kozak is good at writing it. I am teaming up with them and drawing on my heritage for my art."  Some of the Lheidli songs Kym is writing will be performed by the acclaimed drum trio, Iskwew. Others will be her own solo efforts. All will be combined on a single album to promote the language around the world. More importantly, she hopes it will inspire more at home to take up speaking the Lheidli language.


Background: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

Credits: Ted's Graphics,
, Heather's Animations,

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