Looking for Native American culture in the U.S.? Here’s where to go.

TRAVEL: Looking for Native American culture in the U.S.? Here’s where to go.

Dana Joseph, for CNN • Updated 12th May 2015

(CNN) — Think Native American culture has been co-opted by casinos, twisted by inaccurate films, relegated to the rez or buried with arrowheads? No chance.

American Indian culture is alive and thriving in modern galleries, powwows, museum exhibits, film festivals and restaurants.

Here are some of the best places in the United States to experience Native America (arranged in a roughly east-to-west geographic order).

1. George Gustav Heye Center (New York)

The George Gustav Heye Center in New York is part of the National Museum of the American Indian.

“The Heye Center began as the personal collection of George Gustav Heye, a wealthy investment banker who collected nearly a million items that became the largest collection of American Indian items in the world,” says NMAI director Kevin Gover (Pawnee).

Heye’s will stipulates that his collection always be made available to the people of New York, and since 1994, it’s been on view for all to see in Lower Manhattan across from Battery Park, in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.

Highlights of the collection include 10 headdresses from different Native tribes and duck decoys from Lovelock Cave, Nevada (at ca. 400 B.C.-A.D. 100, they’re the oldest known in the world). Nursing moms will especially appreciate the Yup’ik jacket that holds junior on Mom’s back till feeding time, when the jacket can be ingeniously turned forward.

Elsewhere in New York City, which, by the way, has the largest indigenous population of any city in the country, the Queens County Farm Museum holds the Thunderbird American Indian Mid-Summer Pow Wow, the city’s largest and oldest (July 25-27, 2014).

2. National Museum of the American Indian (D.C.)Totem pole by Tsimshian carver David R. Boxley at the National Museum of American Indian.

Totem pole by Tsimshian carver David R. Boxley at the National Museum of American Indian.

The National Museum of the American Indian is the Smithsonian Institution’s great national repository of American Indian art and culture on the National Mall.

“Our world-class collection covers cultures from North, Central and South America and totals more than 800,000 items,” says museum director Kevin Gover. “Our Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe was the first Zagat-rated museum cafe in Washington and has a devoted following.”

The museum presents a full calendar of public programs, including concerts, festivals, symposiums and theater, along with one-of-a-kind temporary exhibitions featuring the likes of esteemed Native artists such as Fritz Scholder, George Morrison, Brian Jungen and Allan Houser.

It’s Native inside and out: the design of the grounds has reintroduced a landscape indigenous to the Washington area before “contact.”

3. Oklahoma 

You might know it as the Sooner State, but the state name Oklahoma is Indian, from the Choctaw words “okla” and “humma,” meaning “red people.”The entire state is rich with American Indian culture. Makes sense: Oklahoma has 39 federally recognized tribes and the second greatest percentage of Native Americans in the country.If you know about the forced removal of the Cherokee in 1838-1839 along the Trail of Tears (now a National Historic Trail) to reservations in Indian Territory in what is now southeastern Oklahoma, you’ll appreciate Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. At the Cherokee Heritage Center there’s a re-created ancient Cherokee village and a permanent Trail of Tears exhibit.You can tour the Tahlequah Original Historic Townsite District, where the street signs are written in English and Cherokee. More Cherokee-related museums include the John Ross Museum, the John Hair Museum and Cultural Center and the Cherokee Supreme Court Museum.In Muscogee, you can learn about the art, culture and history of the Five Civilized Tribes (the term refers to the tribes considered most able to assimilate: the Cherokee, the Choctaw, Muscogee/Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole) at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum.In the Osage Hills, 10 minutes from downtown Tulsa, the acclaimed Gilcrease Museum houses the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West and an unparalleled collection of Native American art and artifacts.You’ll want to allow time for the museum and its acres of gardens.Painted drum at the Red Earth Festival.

Painted drum at the Red Earth Festival.

In Oklahoma City, lots of the almost 40,000 indigenous residents turn out for the three-day Red Earth Festival every June (in 2014, June 5-7).

It kicks off with a parade and keeps right on kicking with dancing, singing, storytelling, poetry, music and art.

In Shawnee, The Jim Thorpe Native American Games bring together athletes representing 70 different tribes from across the country.

The Games honor Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox), the athletic legend who was born in Indian Territory near the town of Prague, Oklahoma, and went on to become a pro baseball player, pro football player and an Olympic Gold medalist in record-setting wins of the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympics.

Inaugurated in 2012 to honor the man often called The Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, the Native Games host thousands of athletes competing in 10 sports. The 2014 Games will be held in Shawnee June 8-14. And coming to Oklahoma City in 2017, the $10 million American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

4. Santa Fe, New MexicoArtist Upton Greyshoes Ethelbah at his booth during the Santa Fe Indian Market.

Artist Upton Greyshoes Ethelbah at his booth during the Santa Fe Indian Market.

Experiencing Santa Fe’s rich American Indian culture requires more than a couple of days — and many return trips.

American Indian vendors line the historic Plaza, selling authentic silver and turquoise jewelry and other Native crafts.

Galleries like Shiprock on the Plaza, Blue Rain on Lincoln and the many along Canyon Road are a gateway to a life-altering addiction to Native arts, from painting and sculpture, to textiles, pottery and jewelry.

For a one-fell-swoop approach, you can hit Santa Fe during August’s world-renowned Indian Market, when the parking is horrible but the historic center overflows with booths devoted to Native arts and eats.

“This is the biggest and the best venue for we Native American artists,” says sculptor Upton Greyshoes Ethelbah (Apache). “Collectors arrive for the two-day show by the tens of thousands (estimates range from 80,000 to 100,000).

“Visitors to the Santa Fe Indian Market are treated to the best diverse Native American art in the country, with over 10 different classifications, from stone and bronze sculpture, which is my specialty, to pottery, beadwork, jewelry, painting, weaving and even filmmaking.”

The Indian Market is an opportunity to share cultures not only with visitors unfamiliar with Native differences, but among different tribes as well.

“There are over 562 different tribal groups in the U. S. with different languages, ceremonies and traditions,” he says. “Everyone benefits by experiencing the great variation of artwork that emerges from these many tribes and nations. Virtually every individual item offered to the collector by over a thousand Indian artists originates in tribal tradition or symbology, and artists are eager to share with the collector the inspiration and the historical or spiritual meaning of their work.”

The Inn and Spa at Loretto is an architectural re-creation of the famed Taos Pueblo.

As soon as you see it, you’ll know why it’s one of the most photographed buildings in the country.

5. Gathering of Nations (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

The fourth weekend of April, Native America flocks to Albuquerque for the Gathering of Nations.

Billed as the world’s largest Native American cultural event, it’s a tribal extravaganza in all its flying fringe and bodacious beading.

Where else but North America’s most prominent powwow are you going to find the crowning of Miss Indian World and more than 700 tribes doing their thing?

“The Gathering of Nations strives to be a positive cultural experience that is exhilarating for everyone,” says Derek Mathews, founder of the event, which marked its 31st year in 2014. “The powwow features thousands of dancers performing different styles from many regions and tribes, offers the finest in Native American arts and crafts in the Indian Traders Market, a delicious variety of Native American and Southwest cuisine and the best in contemporary entertainment performances.”

The Grand Entry is special — thousands of Native American dancers simultaneously enter the University of New Mexico’s arena in full regalia to the beating of hundreds of drums.

Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa is located on the sacred lands of the Santa Ana Pueblo.

The resort offers golf, pools, spa, restaurants and all the usual upscale amenities but distinguishes itself with American Indian cultural experiences.

There are Pueblo bread-baking demonstrations by tribal members using a traditional oven called a huruna, flute and tribal dance performances on certain weekends, a cultural museum with personal tours hosted by a tribal member, hiking and riding (horses or bikes) through cottonwoods along the Rio Grande on trails used by the Tamayame people for centuries and creation stories told under the stars by a Native American storyteller (followed by s’mores).

In the city, you can stay at the funky, artsy Nativo Lodge (American Indian meets modern meets retro boutique hotel/motel) and make an extra day of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Petroglyph National Monument.

6. Taos, New MexicoTaos Pueblo Powwow.

Taos Pueblo Powwow.

Taos is crazy with galleries and museums highlighting Native American culture.

The Millicent Rogers Museum is one of the best — it houses important collections of Native American arts, including pottery and jewelry.

Just outside of town is the Taos Pueblo — a settlement of adobe dwellings and ceremonial buildings that dates to the late 13th century, the pueblo is still a living community.

It’s both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark and open to the public for guided walking tours, shopping and fry bread eating. (Check ahead for hours and entry fee.)

The Rio Grande Gorge is located just outside of Taos. You can cross the famous long-span bridge over the incredible 600-foot-deep gorge.

7. Shiprock, New Mexico/Monument Valley

With more than 17 million acres, the Navajo Nation encompasses the entire northeast quarter of Arizona, and spills into New Mexico and Utah.

Shiprock, which is much easier to pronounce than its Navajo name, Tsé Bitʼaʼí, is located in the northwest corner of New Mexico. The “rock with wings” or “winged rock,” which is said to have brought tribes here from the north, rises 1,583 feet from the plain and looks every foot the sacred and mythological heavyweight it is in Navajo culture.

The approach is practically a religious experience. From Shiprock, it’s two-and-a half-hour drive to Monument Valley, on the Arizona-Utah border.

One of the world’s most famous film locations for its miles and miles of mesas, buttes and rock spires sculpted by eons of water and wind, Monument Valley is also a tribal park of the Navajo Nation.

The 17-mile scenic drive takes in Mitten Buttes, Merrick Buttes and other iconic formations. Navajo guides (compulsory if you want to get off the road) can take you into some of the park’s 92,000 acres.

At the Navajo-staffed The View Hotel you can watch the sun rise over the Mittens.

8. Phoenix

Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, and Native history and landmarks are found throughout the state, from “Sky Island” mountains and rock formations in Chiracahua National Monument to urban centers like Phoenix, which is home to almost 45,000 indigenous people.

Haven’t heard of The Heard? As in the Heard Museum? It’s only one of the Phoenix area’s earliest and best cultural attractions, and a terrific destination for learning about American Indian arts and cultures.

“The Heard Museum offers a unique and memorable visitor experience with 11 galleries that present the best of American Indian traditional and contemporary art,” says museum director of curation and education Ann Marshall. “Within a year, six to eight new exhibits are presented, so return visits always bring something new.

The museum’s annual Indian Fair and Market in March (Arizona’s largest) features more than 700 Native artists.

Just outside of downtown Phoenix, the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park sits on a 1,500-year-old site, which includes a short trail through a prehistoric Hohokam archaeological village complete with a partially excavated platform mound, ball court and replicated prehistoric houses.

In December, an Indian Market features music and dance performances, artist demonstrations, children’s crafts and, naturally, fry bread.

Arizona is home to a number of highly regarded American Indian restaurants.

As a 2013 Boston Globe story noted, “Talented [Native] chefs are returning to local, old-fashioned ingredients (think tepary beans, Saguaro cactus seeds, sumac and chollo buds) and adding creative twists to the traditional dishes of indigenous peoples, spurring a hot, new culinary trend.”

The Globe’s three top recommendations for American Indian dining in Phoenix: the Fry Bread House, which, despite being “no-frills,” was “one of only five restaurants nationwide to win the 2012 James Beard American Classics Award, and the only Native American restaurant ever to receive it”; the “five-star, five diamond” KAI; and the “health-focused” Desert Rain Café.

9. Mesa Verde (Colorado)

The ancestral Puebloans who lived at Mesa Verde from A.D. 600 to 1300 left behind some of the best-preserved sites in the country.

An interpretive tour of their ancient cliff dwellings and mesa-top sites is the way to get the most out of this stunning setting. Afterward, you can get a nice meal with an incomparable view at the lodge’s Metate Room restaurant.

With rooms starting at $106, the Far View Lodge inside the national park has spectacular vistas and stargazing opportunities.

10. Denver, ColoradoBison ribs with blackberry barbecue sauce at Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery in Denver.

Bison ribs with blackberry barbecue sauce at Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery in Denver.

The Denver Art Museum is internationally known for its holdings of American Indian art, with permanent collections and exhibitions showing everything from ancient ceramics to 19th-century Arapaho beaded garments to contemporary glasswork.

The museum puts on the Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration, which celebrates its 25th year in September 2014.

There are American Indian dancers, drum groups, artists, vendors, and, need we say it, fry bread.

The Mile High City is also home to the Denver March Powwow — second largest indoor powwow after Albuquerque’s Gathering of Nations — celebrating its 40th year March 20-22, 2015, at the Denver Coliseum.

Who cooks all the Indian tacos at the Denver March Powwow?

It just might be Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery — you can try their tacos anytime at Tocabe’s Denver restaurant.

Partners Ben Jacobs and Matt Chandra call it “fast, casual,” sort of the community-minded Chipotle of Native American food. The shredded bison American Indian taco is a fan favorite. Bison ribs is another signature dish.

“We’re trying to showcase American Indian cuisine in the 21st century,” Chandra says. “This is food that speaks to tradition but also shows that it can progress and have the ability to adapt and become a part of mainstream cuisine.”

11. Crow Fair (Montana)Native American beadwork in Montana.

Native American beadwork in Montana.

Parade cars draped in serape blankets and 1,500 tepees under Montana’s Big Sky — it could only be Crow Fair.

Every third week of August, Crow Agency (60 miles south of Billings off I-90) becomes the Tepee Capital of the World when it hosts the largest modern-day American Indian encampment in the nation, and the largest gathering of the year for the Apsaalooke Nation.

Daily parades, evening powwows, All Indian rodeo, Indian relay horse races, the closing Dance Through Camp — the Crow Fair is a week of incredible displays of Native American culture.

Attractions in the area include Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (where the Sioux and Cheyenne famously defeated the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry); Custer Battlefield Museum; and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (must-do: Devil’s Canyon Overlook).

12. American Indian Film Festival (San Francisco)

Seeing American Indian life through the lens of Native filmmakers is one of the best ways to understand the modern Native experience.

One of the best places to do that (aside from the indie film category on Netflix) is the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.

It’s the mission of the American Indian Film Institute to empower American Indian media artists, and the AIFI’s annual film festival has been bringing Native stories to a growing audience for nearly 40 years.

“There are other American Indian film festivals around the country,” says festival founder and president Michael Smith. “But the AIFI festival in San Francisco is the longest-running and has the most content. Last year, there were more than 85 films.”

The 39th annual American Indian Film Festival takes place November 1-9, 2014.

If you’re lucky, you might catch filmmaker Chris Eyre (Cheyenne, Arapaho), an AIFI and Sundance favorite since his debut film, “Smoke Signals,” won honors at both festivals in 1998.

It’s hard to imagine from modern American Indian film subjects and the festival’s Bay Area setting that the lands south of the Golden Gate Bridge were once home to the Ohlone, or Costanoan, tribe, and north of the bridge, especially in what’s now Marin County, to the Miwok tribe.

For a small taste of what the region was like when American Indians inhabited it centuries before high-tech modernity, you can visit the Marin Museum of the American Indian in Novato’s Miwok Park.

It’s on the site of an actual Miwok village, in a peaceful and pristine setting that’s about as far from the influence of Silicon Valley as you can get in these parts.

13. The Salish Sea (Pacific Northwest)Tillicum Village on Blake Island State Park in Washington.

Tillicum Village on Blake Island State Park in Washington.

As much as it might now be about coffee and grunge culture, the Pacific Northwest is also formline art, totem pole, longhouse and dugout canoe country.

Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia are all part of the Salish Sea.

You could do all sorts of things in the region to get a feel for the richness of its tribal past.

Blake Island has its Tillicum Village, where you can take in a Northwest Coast Indian dance performance with a traditional salmon bake dinner.

You can pay your respects at Chief Seattle’s gravesite and learn about the longhouse tradition in Suquamish, Washington, on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, where the great chief lived and died.

And you can immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Puget Sound Salish Tribes (particularly the Suquamish) at the new and niftily designed Suquamish Museum and Cultural Center.

Just across the water/border in Vancouver, Canada, you can get intensely ethnographic at University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology with its a vast collection of Aboriginal art and artifacts, including traditional canoes, masks, jewelry, carvings, longhouse replicas and totem poles.

Not to be outdone, the Royal BC Museum in Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island has one of the most comprehensive collections of First Nations cultural material, from ceremonial and utilitarian objects to artistic masterworks.

Back in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, there are the much-visited totem poles, tribal dance performances, Aboriginal foods and storytelling, a Spirit Catcher Train through the forest and activities at the Klahowya Aboriginal Village.

There’s more to experience at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, where you can top off First Nations cedar chiseling demonstrations, Totem Park, and the displays and weaving and beadwork demonstrations at Kia’palano First Nations cultural center with views of the Pacific Northwest rainforest from the bridge over the Capilano River. 


The Shawnee Bluejacket Family

The Shawnee Bluejacket Family

The Shawnee Bluejacket family reaches back into the mid-1700s.  Records begin with Chief Bluejacket himself, also known by his Native names of Se-pet-te-he-nath, Big Rabbit, his name given at birth and Wa Weyapiersehnwaw, his adult chosen name, found in use about 1777.

Little is known of Blue Jacket’s early life. He first appears in written historical records in 1773, when he was already a grown man and a war chief. In that year, a British missionary visited the Shawnee villages on the Scioto River and recorded the location of Blue Jacket’s Town on Deer Creek (present Ross County, Ohio).

This would put BlueJacket’s birth at least before 1750.  Historians estimate it to be about 1743.

Blue Jacket participated in Dunmore’s War and the American Revolutionary War (allied with the British), always attempting to maintain Shawnee land rights. With the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War, the Shawnee lost valuable assistance in defending the Ohio Country. The struggle continued as white settlement in Ohio escalated, and Blue Jacket was a prominent leader of the resistance.

On November 3, 1791, the army of a confederation of Indian tribes, led by Blue Jacket and Miami Chief Little Turtle, defeated an American expedition led by Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory. The engagement, known as the Battle of the Wabash or as St. Clair’s Defeat, was the crowning achievement of Blue Jacket’s military career, and the most severe defeat ever inflicted upon the United States by Native Americans.

Blue Jacket’s triumph was short-lived. The Americans were alarmed by St. Clair’s disaster and raised a new professional army, commanded by General Anthony Wayne. On August 20, 1794, Blue Jacket’s confederate army clashed with Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, just south of present-day Toledo, Ohio. Blue Jacket’s army was defeated, and he was compelled to sign the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795, ceding much of present-day Ohio to the United States.

In 1805, Blue Jacket also signed the Treaty of Fort Industry, relinquishing even more of Ohio. In Blue Jacket’s final years, he saw the rise to prominence of Tecumseh, who would take up the banner and make the final attempts to reclaim Shawnee lands in the Ohio Country.

Later a story spread that he was in fact a European settler named Marmaduke Van Swearingen, who had been captured and adopted by Shawnees in the 1770s, around the time of the American Revolutionary War. This story, popularized in historical novels written by Allan W. Eckert in the late 1960s, remains well known in Ohio, where an outdoor drama celebrating the life of the white Indian chief was performed yearly in Xenia, Ohio from 1981 until 2007.

However, subsequent DNA testing proved that story to be false.  Bluejacket’s DNA is unquestionably Native, and the Swearingen family’s is not.  Not only does the Bluejacket and Swearingen DNA not match, they are not even in the same haplogroup.  Swearingen is European, so they haven’t shared a common ancestors in 10s of thousands of years.  An article published in the Ohio Journal of Science in September 2006 which details the findings is shown at this link:                                               http://shawnee-bluejacket.com/Bluejacket_Folders/BlueJacket.pdf

The Bluejacket family has a website with further information about history and current activities at this link:  http://shawnee-bluejacket.com/

Also on this site is the list of the 772 Shawnee adopted into the Cherokee tribe in 1871:  http://shawnee-bluejacket.com/1871_registry.htm

Piqua Shawnee


Pioneer Days, Simon Kenton Festival, Piqua Shawnee

Students learn, have fun at Pioneer Days,  Simon Kenton Festival 

The Ledger Independent by DIANNA POTTORFF

MAYSVILLE — Students from Mason County Intermediate School received history lessons Friday about the early days of Kentucky.

The students traveled to Old Washington for the annual Pioneer Days where they learned about crops grown, what homes looked like, played old-fashioned games and had a chance to pet horses and oxen.

“This is a great learning experience for the students,” Kim Galloway, special education teacher said. “They got to see a lot of things they would never get to experience.”

Abby Collen-Nickell, Madison Hardin and Kionna Alexander said they had a lot of fun singing the old songs as Mary McGlone played the dulcimer.

High school volunteers Sarah Crason, Constance Craig and Grace Huber, dressed in periodic clothing, played old-fashioned games such as duck-duck-goose and hopscotch with the students while other students took a moment to eat lunch on the old courthouse lawn.

Other students took turns petting Gerry Barker’s oxen while others learned how to throw hatchets and use a bow and arrow from Josh Kriger.

Students also learned about the goods that were used in the pioneer days.

Piqua Shawnee Chief Gary Hunt, along with other Native American volunteers, took time to speak with the students about the roles Indians played back in those days.

This is Hunt’s 12th year in the re-enactment as Simon Kenton was adopted by a Shawnee tribe.

“The organizers wanted to bring my people and the Kentons back together for a type of reunion,” he said. “I enjoy my time here. It is a chance to portray history without dealing with the politics.”

Hunt said he enjoys seeing the children faces as they get enjoyment seeing Native Americans.

“We are bringing real history to them,” he said. “I enjoy being in the land of my ancestors.”


The Shawnee Indians: Their Customs, Their Traditions and Folk-Lore


The Shawnee Indians: Their Customs, Their Traditions and Folk-Lore

Written by: James R. Carselowey, Journalist

April 26, 1938

Indian pioneer papers, 1860-1935. (Millwood, New York: Kraus Microform, 1989).

The University of Oklahoma: Digital Library

James R. Carselowey wrote several articles for the Indian Pioneer Papers.  The above referenced article written in 1938 focuses on stories, traditions learned for those who lived among the Shawnee after they made their move out of Kansas from 1868-1871.


“Some of the leaders, including three ex-chiefs of the Shawnee Tribe, together with a small band of others came down to the territory as early as 1868, selected their land and went back for a time.  The three chiefs: Charles Rogers, Johnson Blackfeather, Cyrus Cornatzer.”


The Indian-Pioneer Papers oral history collection spans from 1861 to 1936. It includes typescripts of interviews conducted during the 1930s by government workers (Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers’ project grant) with thousands of Oklahomans regarding the settlement of Oklahoma and Indian territories, as well as the condition and conduct of life there. Consisting of approximately 80,000 entries, the index to this collection may be accessed via personal name, place name, or subject.

Carselowey Family History


Family History Center http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatal..
University of Oklahoma http://digital.libraries.ou.edu/whc/pioneer/

The Shawanese prophet and Tecumseh / Huyot. (Wood Engraving)

Library of Congress – Wood engravings–1810-1890.

Tecumseh,–Shawnee Chief,–1768-1813

Tenskwatawa,–Shawnee Prophet

 Created / Published [between 1814 and 1890]

The Shawanese prophet and Tecumseh / Huyot.

Print shows Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, and Tecumseh, with other Natives and tipis in the background.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

Digital Id

cph 3a20703 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a20703

Library of Congress Control Number


Library of Congress Link:


Visit the Official Website of the Piqua Shawnee:


History of the Shawnee Indians: From the Year 1681 to 1854 by Henry Harvey (1855)

History of the Shawnee Indians: From the Year 1681 to 1854, Inclusive

Front Cover

Ephraim Morgan & sons, 1855 – Shawnee Indians306 pages

Author Henry Harvey, member of the Religious Society of Friends spent time with the Shawnee Indians learning their history and culture.  Although the intent was to teach the Shawnee doctrines and principles of the Christian Religion Henry Harvey took account of the Shawnee people and their history.  This is his account of his time with the Shawnee. 

Reference links:

Harvey, Henry (1855). History of the Shawnee Indians: From the Year 1681 to 1854, Inclusive. Cincinnati: Ephraim Morgan & Sons. p. 18.

Piqua Shawnee – Green Corn Ceremony

The Green Corn Ceremony (Wikipedia)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sioux Green Corn Dance c. 1860
Sioux Green Corn Dance c. 1860

The Green Corn Ceremony (Busk) is an annual ceremony practiced among various Native American peoples associated with the beginning of the yearly corn harvest. Busk is a term given to the ceremony by white traders, the word being a corruption of the Creek word puskita for “a fast”.[1] These ceremonies have been documented ethnographically throughout the North American Eastern Woodlands and Southeastern tribes.[2] Historically, it involved a first fruits rite in which the community would sacrifice the first of the green corn to ensure the rest of the crop would be successful. These Green Corn festivals were practiced widely throughout southern North America by many tribes evidenced in the Mississippian people and throughout the Mississippian Ideological Interaction Sphere. Green Corn festivals are still held today by many different Southeastern Woodland tribes. The Green Corn Ceremony typically occurs in late July–August, determined locally by the ripening of the corn crops.[1] The ceremony is marked with dancing, feasting, fasting and religious observations.


The Green Corn Ceremony is a celebration of many types, representing new beginnings. Also referred to as the Great Peace Ceremony,[1] it is a celebration of thanksgiving to Hsaketumese (The Breath Maker) for the first fruits of the harvest, and a New Year festival as well.
The Busk is the celebration of the New Year, so at this time all offenses are forgiven except for rape and murder, which are executable or banishable offenses. In modern tribal towns and Stomp Dance societies only the ceremonial fire, the cook fires and certain other ceremonial objects will be replaced. Everyone usually begins gathering by the weekend prior to the ceremony, working, praying, dancing and fasting off and on until the big day.
The whole festival tends to last seven-eight days, if you include the historical preparation involved (without the preparation, it lasts about four days).

Day One

The first day of the ceremony, people set up their campsites on one of the square ceremonial grounds.[3] Following this, there is a feast of the remains of last year’s crop, after which all the men of the community begin fasting (historically, the women were considered too weak to participate[1]). That night there is a social stomp dance, unique to the Muscogee and Southeastern cultures.

Day Two

Before dawn on the second day, four brush-covered arbors are set up on the edges of the ceremonial grounds, one in each of the sacred directions.[3] For the first dance of the day, the women of the community participate in a Ribbon or Ladies Dance, which involves fastening rattles and shells to their legs perform a purifying dance with special ribbon-clad sticks to prepare the ceremonial ground for the renewal ceremony.[4] The ceremonial fire is set in the middle of four logs laid crosswise, so as to point to the four directions. The Mico (head priest) takes out a little of each of the new crops (not just corn, but beans, squash, wild plants, and others) rubbed with bear oil, and it is offered together with some meat as “first-fruits” and an atonement for all sins.[1] The fire (which has been re-lit and nurtured with a special medicine by the Mico) will be kept alive until the following year’s Green Corn Ceremony. In traditional times, the women would sweep out their cook-fires and the rest of their homes and collect the filth from this, as well as any old clothing and furniture to be burnt and replaced with new items for the new year.[1][3] The women then bring the coals of the fire into their homes, to rekindle their home fires. They can then bake the new fruits of the year over this fire (also to be eaten with bear oil). Many Creeks also practice the sapi or ceremonial scratches, a type of bloodletting in the mid morning, and in many tribes the men and women might rub corn milk, ash, white clay, or analogous mixtures over themselves and bathe as a form of purification.[4]
They also drink a medicine referred to as passv,[3] also referred to as the “White Drink.” (English traders referred to it as the “Black Drink” due to its dark liquid which froths white when shaken before drinking). This White Drink, known to strangers as Carolina Tea, is a caffeine-laden mixture of seven to fourteen different herbs, the main ingredient being assi-luputski, Creek for “small leaves” of Yaupon Holly. This medicine was intended to help receive purification, as it is a purgative when consumed in mass amounts. (Historically, only men drank enough of the liquid to throw up.) [1] The purgative was consumed to clean the dietary tract of last year’s crop and to truly renew oneself for the new year.

Day Three

While the second day tends to focus on the women’s dance, the third is focused on the men’s.[3]
After the purification of the second day, men of the community perform the Feather Dance to heal the community.
The fasting usually ends by supper-time after the word is given by the women that the food is prepared, at which time the men march in single-file formation down to a body of water, typically a flowing creek or river for a ceremonial dip in the water and private men’s meeting. They then return to the ceremonial square and perform a single Stomp Dance before retiring to their home camps for a feast. During this time, the participants in the medicine rites are not allowed to sleep, as part of their fast. At midnight a Stomp Dance ceremony is held, which includes feasting and continues on through the night. This ceremony usually ends shortly after dawn.

Day Four

The fourth day has friendship dances at dawn, games, and people later pack up and return home with their feelings of purification and forgiveness. Fasting from alcohol, sexual activity, and open water will continue for another four days.


Puskita, commonly referred to as the “Green Corn Ceremony” or “Busk,” is the central and most festive holiday of the traditional Muscogee people. It represents not only the renewal of the annual cycle, but of the spirit and traditions of the Muscogee. This is representative of the return of summer, the ripening of the new corn, and the common Native American traditions of environmental and agricultural renewal.
Historically in the Seminole tribe, 12-year-old boys are declared men at the Green Corn Ceremony, and given new names by the chief as a mark of their maturity.

Tribal Participation

Several tribes still participate in these ceremonies each year, but tribes who have historic tradition within the ceremony include the Iroquois, Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes. Each of these tribes may have their own variations of celebration, dances and traditions, but each performs a new-year’s ceremony involving fasting and several other comparisons each year.

Visit the official web site of the Piqua Shawnee at piquashawnee.com

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The Trail of Tecumseh (1917) by Paul G. Tomlinson

The Trail of Tecumseh

Publication date 1917

Digitizing sponsor Kahle/Austin Foundation

Language English



Tecumseh has long been recognized as one of the most romantic characters in American history. A Shawnee chieftain of boundless courage, devoted patriotism, and great tenacity of purpose, for many years he was a source of perplexity as well as of trouble on the frontier.

Visit the Official Web Site of the Piqua Shawnee at Piquashawnee.com