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Open Access Publications from the University of California


In print since 1971, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal (AICRJ) is an internationally renowned multidisciplinary journal designed for scholars and researchers. The premier journal in Native American and Indigenous studies, it publishes original scholarly papers and book reviews on a wide range of issues in fields ranging from history to anthropology to cultural studies to education and more. It is published three times per year by the UCLA American Indian Studies Center.

Volume 23, Issue 2, 1999

Issue cover
Duane Champagne


Preliminary Study of the Western Gwich'in Bands

The Kiitl’it and Di’haii Gwich’in were once two distinct subgroups of the Gwich’in people. The Gwich’in people once occupied all the mountainous terrain and river valleys between the Arctic Red River and the MacKenzie River Delta westward to the Upper Noatak River valley in northwestern Alaska. The Kiitl’it and Di’haii were the westernmost bands and were gradually displaced through a series of raids and counter raids by the Inland Inupiat, or Nunamiut, as they will be called here. The situation was further exacerbated by internal feuding, famine, and disease. Weakened and reduced in numbers, the Kiitl’it and Di’haii merged and moved further to the east where they were absorbed by the Neets’aii, Vantee, and Draanjik Gwich’in and by the Koyukon Indians who moved into the middle Yukon River basin in the vicinity of Stevens Village. Although the Gwich’in have long been recognized as a discrete group in northeastern Alaska and northwestern Canada, stories of the Kiitl’it and Di’haii Gwich’in have come to the attention of the academic community only in the last thirty years. The other subgroups-the Gwichah, Teed’it, Vantee, Dagoo, Hantee, Draanjik, Gwichyaa, Deenduu and Neets’ - were well known from the earliest records of the Hudson’s Bay Company traders and missionaries. The Kiitl’it were mentioned first on a map drawn by William Lucas Hardisty, the clerk in charge at the Fort Youcon (Yukon) trading post in 1853 (see fig. 1). William Hardisty called them the “Keetla Koochin”and had them clearly placed in the Upper Koyukuk River valley. The Kiitl’it were mentioned in the journals of the Anglican priest Reverend Robert McDonald, who called them the “Kitlikutchin.”In McDonald’sjournal entry for March 12, 1867, the Kiitl’it were already “enroute to their own country from the country formerly occupied by the Siffleux.” Here McDonald was referring to the Di’hqii who were called Siffleur or Siffleux at the time. The term Di’haii did not surface in academic literature until anthropologist Robert A. McKennan conducted his ethnographic field work of the Neets’aii Gwich’in in the summer of 1933. McKennan was the first to document the presence of the Di’haii.

Rhetorical Exclusion: The Government's Case Against American Indian Activists, AIM, and Leonard Peltier

The liars had fooled everyone, white people and Indians alike; as long as people believed the lies, they would never be able to see what had been done to them or what they were doing to each other... if the white people never looked beyond the lie, to see that theirs was a nation built on stolen land, then they would never be able to understand how they had been used by the witchery; they would never know that they were still being manipulated by those who knew how to stir the ingredients together: the starving against the fat, the colored against the white. The destroyers had only to set it in motion, and sit back to count the casualties. But it was more than a body count; the lies devoured white hearts, and for more than two hundred years white people had worked to fill their emptiness; they tried to glut the hollowness with patriotic wars and great technology and the wealth it brought. And always they had been fooling themselves, and they knew it. The relationship between the federal government and American Indian activists raises fundamental questions about the use and place of power in a democracy. Originally conceived and subsequently understood in theory as a limited democracy, the American polity continues to hold out the promise of individual freedom within a context of constitutional stability and societal order. In practice, this emphasis on stability and order has tended to mean the protection of some of society’s interests at the expense of others, and the continent’s indigenous peoples historically have been required to pay high prices for the protections and freedoms enjoyed by others.

Karl May's Western Novels and Aspects of Their Continuing Influence

A curious phenomenon in reservation tourism is the prominence of central European, especially German-speaking, visitors. Recently, representatives from four reservations have been promoting their lands as tourist destinations at the world’s largest travel trade exposition in Berlin. This is surely due to the interest held by many educated Europeans in ecological matters and in aspects of alternative spiritual experience. They commonly perceive the indigenous population of the Americas as more sensitive to and protective of the natural environment than are members of other racial and ethnic groups. Many seem also to think that Native Americans can help them to understand primordial relations between human beings and nature. The German idealization of aboriginal life in the woods can be traced back to prints by Albrecht Dfirer and Albrecht Altdorfer shortly after 1500. Another motive is simple human curiosity about the unfamiliar, but the national parks supply enough to satisfy the merely curious. For a century and a half, German-speakers have had available western novels in their own language, and as German was the ZinguuJi-ancu in much of central and eastern Europe, these works circulated well beyond one country’s borders. Late in the nineteenth century, western shows-most conspicuously Buffalo Bill’s-toured Europe, raising interest in the vanishing frontier and its inhabitants. One specific motive that drives central Europeans to visit reservations is their long acquaintance with the western novels of a prolific charlatan who never visited the American West.

Kinship and Identity: Mixed Bloods in Urban Indian Communities

INTRODUCTION American Indians have become an increasingly urban population in the twentieth century, moving away from their rural home communities and reservations in search of jobs or schooling. This movement to cities has resulted in higher rates of intermarriage with non-Indians for urban Indians than for rural Indians and consequently higher numbers of mixed bloods in urban areas than on reservations. Today, many of those urban mixed bloods are interested in claiming their Indian identity and learning more about their culture, but they often lack both physical characteristics and cultural knowledge that would allow them readily to assert their Indianness. Consequently, they turn to kinship-an important component of American Indian communities, whether urban, rural, or reservation- to provide an entry into the urban Indian community. By aligning themselves with a larger structure of family and relations, mixed bloods fit into an existing framework and community. This paper examines the effectiveness and the limitations of kinship based identity for mixed bloods in urban Indian communities. The population under study here is mixed bloods who, because of their parents’ or grandparents’ move to the city and subsequent marriage to non-Indians, have lost ties to their tribal communities. They may be a single generation removed from their tribes or many generations, but they are defined for purposes of this study as a population with mixed ancestry, urban for one or more generations, without clear ties to a reservation or tribal community. This study examines those people who are hoping to establish or reestablish ties to their Indian identity, and one strategy for doing so - through kinship - and excludes mixed bloods who have maintained community ties as well as full bloods who have lost ties to their tribal communities through relocation or adoption. This paper is concerned specifically with the problems of mixed bloods in urban areas, whose biological and cultural heritage is mixed, but who are choosing to identify with their Indian heritage.

“…And We Are Still Here”: From Berdache to Two-Spirit People

INTRODUCTION When we gathered people together for two invitational conferences on “Revisiting the ‘North American Berdache’ Empirically and Theoretically,” our aim was to create a dialogue between indigenous/Native people and academics who had written about them. The conferences,funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, provided the start of collab orative work that took place over the course of five years and resulted in publication of our edited book, Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality. One of the most important outcomes of the five-year conversation among participants was the realization that the term berdache was no longer acceptable as a catch-all for Native American (indigenous peoples of the United States of America) and First Nations (indigenous peoples of Canada) gender and sexual behaviors. The Native participants concluded that the term was insulting and part of the colonial discourse that continues to be used by select scholars who appropriate indigenous people’s lives in various ways. Native people were talking about this issue long before non-Native academics noticed. The most active resistance to using berdache for sexual and gender diversity in North American aboriginal communities occurred at the Third Annual Native American Gay and Lesbian Gathering, where attendees decided to change the name of their future gatherings to The International Two-Spirit Gathering. At the center of our investigation into the terms we use is a shared determination to reintegrate the word berdache into our respective writings, but using it clearly and precisely in its original meaning: “kept boy” or “male prostitute.” In this paper, we explain our rationale for integrating the use of berdache into our writings about two-spirit people, explore how the self-naming and academic research issues can be accommodated collaboratively, and draw some conclusions about past and future research into Native American sexualities and gender diversity.

“He Stood for Us Strongly”: Father H. Baxter Liebler's Mission to the Navajo

The San Juan River was still running deep that July of 1943. The cottonwood leaves trembled slightly in the midday heat, with an occasional breeze snaking its way along the dirt road that ran beside the red rock bluffs north of the river. Ada Benally remembers shading her eyes and looking across the brown, roiling water at the approaching dust cloud that billowed above the far bank. The hum of vehicle engines stopped, the opening and closing of truck doors sounded in the distance, and the dust began to settle. Ada wondered what was happening. The sights and sounds came from a section along the river where Navajos and Utes had traditionally picked sumac berries, wild spinach, and herbs. Perhaps these people had come for that purpose. She decided to wait and see, since the river was too high, too fast, and there was no boat to take her across. Had Ada been able to ford the river, she would have witnessed the establishment of the Saint Christopher’s Mission, located two miles outside of Bluff, Utah. Ada would also later be counted as one among several hundred of the mission’s future baptized members. But that was in the future. At this point, the cassocked Father H. (Harold) Baxter Liebler, the director of this Episcopalian mission, stepped out of his vehicle to begin his life-long work among the Navajo. He had come from Old Greenwich, Connecticut, leaving behind a well-established parish to pursue a boyhood vision he considered his destiny. At the age of fifty-three, Father Liebler set out to fulfill his dream of a mission to the Navajo. He selected an isolated part of their reservation known as the Utah Strip with the hope of finding a group of people least touched by earlier inroads of Christianity. Saint Christopher’s was the ideal spot for this undertaking. The site was geographically central to the Utah Navajo population living on the northern boundary of the reservation. The vast majority of the people lived in hogans south of the river and came across on horseback or in wagons occasionally to trade; a general store and a twenty-home Mormon community comprised the city of Bluff.

“Playing Indian,” Power, and Racial Identity in American Sport: Gerald R. Gems' “The Construction, Negotiation, and Transformation of Racial Identity in American Football”

Gerald R. Gems deserves praise for his comparative history of race, sport, and identity. Too often scholars neglect the significance of sport for marginalized groups. Gems avoids this, in part, by drawing together histories and cultures frequently segregated to examine the implications of playing football for Native Americans and African Americans. Sport, as he demonstrates, has had profound effects on individual identities, social movements, and cultural values. As useful as Gems’ account is, however, it offers neither an adequate nor a complete interpretation of the significance of playing football for marginalized groups. In contrast with Gems, who nicely recounts the heroic players and great games of old in an effort to unravel the importance of sport for racial identity, we argue in what follows that one cannot understand the significance of Native Americans and African Americans playing football without an understanding of the significance of “playing Indian” in association with it.

A Response to “Playing Indian”

I offer a response rather than a rebuttal to King and Springwood’s critique of my recent article in “The Construction, Negotiation, and Transformation of Racial Identity in American Football,”for I agree with much of what they state in their discussion. They contend that my study, though “useful,” does not “offer a complete interpretation of the significance of playing football for marginalized groups.” No one, limited study can purport to do so and I did not make such a claim. King and Springwood are also correct in calling for greater examination of the symbolic and ritual uses of Indian mascots to elicit a more complete understanding of the dynamics between dominant and subordinate groups. The truth of such matters will be determined by interdisciplinary insights culled from sociology, anthropology, communication theory, and semiotics, in addition to historical studies like mine, which can only be a small piece of the much larger puzzle. My study is admittedly limited in both its scope and research, and the authors of “Playing Indian” find fault with my singular reference to a retaliatory act when the Carlisle Indians shot arrows in the Dickinson team dummy; but neither I, nor any historian, should draw conclusions unsupported by the evidence. To do so is mere speculation. Certainly the accounts of the Indians’ actions in their games against Army, Harvard, and the University of Chicago (pp. 141-142), lend support to an alternative cultural adaptation of football. The more specific study of images and mascots that King and Springwood call for is certainly a worthy one and warranted, but not one that I had enough evidence to conduct beyond what I stated.

The Concept of Hikwsi in Traditional Hopi Philosophy

Scholarly efforts to understand the Hopi concept of hikwsi were rather unilateral and led to the oversimplified conclusion that hikwsi is a Hopi linguistic equivalent for the soul. This article attempts to shed some light on this important philosophical concept in a Hopi language perspective, particularly as applied in an explanation of human structure and behavior. In the Hopi belief, death does not end a person’s presence in the physical world, but marks a transition from one state of being to another or, in other words, from one form of experience to another. On the fourth day after death, a person’s breath (hikwsi) leaves the body and goes to a place which represents the other realm of existence, not separated from the world of the living, but different in that this realm is unmanifested, unseen, and not accessible to the senses. In ethnographic and anthropological literature this symbolic place has been described as the Underworld, Lower World, Third World, or the World of the Dead (muski; mus-ki, “corpse-home”). According to Emory Sekaquaptewa,this concept can be expressed by a Hopi word, atkya, which literally means “down below.”’ The word atkya can refer not only to an area at the bottom of the Grand Canyon (Ongtupqa) called Sipuapuni, from which the Hopi came out of the Underworld, but also to an area seen from the tops of Hopi mesas in the southwestern direction. This area is marked with kiikiqii (literally, “ruins”;metaphorically, “footprints”),places inhabited once by Hopi ancestors (Hisatsinom) before they arrived at Hopi present settlements, such as, for instance, Homol’ovi,Wupatki, Tsor’ovi (Tuzigoot), and others. Hikwsi of the dead is believed to have the ability to return to the Hopi mesas in visible forms of clouds, rain (or katsinam) and act as an animating force in the sensuous world of the living.