Sunday, March 17, 2013

Artifacts from the Smithsonian

Peace Medal
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Copper alloy

The General Court of Massachusetts Bay granted this medal during the 17th-century conflict known as the War with the Indians of New England, later called King Philip’s War. The English were losing to this indigenous alliance against colonial expansion until they pursued a full-scale effort to recruit Christian Indian scouts from a forced internment camp the English had established on Deer Island in Boston Harbor. While some Indians from the Praying Town of Natick and the Mohegan nation had assisted the English from the beginning, large-scale recruitment of men from Deer Island did not occur until the spring of 1676, when the English faced “frequent and violent” raids and every expedition to locate the encampments of the resistance had failed. As the missionary Daniel Gookin observed, “After our Indians went out, the balance turned of the English side.”

This medal was most likely given to the eighty men who formed an Indian company based in Charlestown under Captain Samuel Hunting. Officers of this company included Andrew Pittimee (of Natick), James Quanapohit (of Nashaway and Natick), John Magus (of Natick), Job Kattenanit (of Hassanamesit), and James Speen (of Natick), all of whom had been interned on Deer Island. Some of the Native men who served the English lost their lives in the war, but many returned to their Praying Towns. They petitioned to prevent the execution and enslavement of their relations who were falsely declared enemy combatants by the colony. Some were instrumental in securing land rights and in negotiating with the English after the war. Many of their descendants continue to serve as leaders in the Nipmuc communities in the state of Massachusetts today.

The image on the medal is based on the Massachusetts seal, which was part of a marketing campaign to draw English settlers to the new colony. In the original seal, the Indian figure is portrayed saying, “Come over and help us,” a reference to the missionary project. Ironically, it was the English who often required help, whether in navigating an unknown territory, learning to subsist upon native foods, or winning a war.
—Lisa Brooks (Abenaki)

Pipe tomahawk presented to Chief Tecumseh (Shawnee, 1768–1813)
ca. 1812
Wood, iron, lead

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun… Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn, without making an effort worthy of our race? Shall we without a struggle, give up our homes, our lands, bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit? The graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will say with me, Never! Never!”
—Tecumseh, 1811

This ceremonial pipe-tomahawk, a gift from Colonel Henry Procter to Tecumseh, probably was presented to the Shawnee war chief at Fort Malden, in Amherstburg, Ontario, late in the autumn of 1812. During that summer, when the War of 1812 officially started, Tecumseh led Native American warriors against the Americans on the Detroit frontier. In mid-August he joined with British forces led by General Isaac Brock to capture Detroit from General William Hull and an American army.

Tecumseh admired Brock’s decision to prosecute the war against the Americans vigorously, and Tecumseh and Brock became good friends. After Brock was killed on October 13, 1812, the British command passed to Procter. More cautious than Brock, Procter was reluctant to attack American positions in Ohio, and Tecumseh soon lost patience with his hesitancy. In response, Procter met repeatedly with Tecumseh and other Native Americans, attempting to maintain their loyalty and support for the Crown. At these meetings the British often awarded tomahawks and other gifts of weapons to tribal leaders.

This tomahawk is typical of such a weapon and bears the inscription “To Chief Tecumseh / From Col. Proctor / MDCCCXII.” (The inscription, with its alternate spelling of Procter, can be seen in the detail image below.) The tomahawk was probably made in France. The gift did little to mend the rift between Tecumseh and Procter. Less than a year later, on October 5, 1813, when the Americans attacked at the Battle of the Thames, Procter and the British fled from the field. Tecumseh and his warriors stood and fought, but Tecumseh was killed, and Native American armed resistance subsequently disintegrated.
—R. David Edmunds (Cherokee)

Effigy pipe associated with Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant, Mohawk, ca. 1742–1807)
ca. 1785
New York
Wood, slate, porcupine quill, dye, silver

“Among us we have no prisons, we have no pompous parade of courts, we have no written laws, and yet judges are as highly revered among us as they are among you, and their decisions are as highly regarded.

Property, to say the least, is well-guarded, and crimes are as impartially punished. We have among us no splendid villains above the control of our laws. Daring wickedness is never suffered to triumph over helpless innocence. The estates of widows and orphans are never devoured by enterprising sharpers. In a word, we have no robbery under color of law.”
—Joseph Brant, letter to an unknown correspondent, 1807

When Joseph Brant presented a carved pipe to Dr. Caleb Benton sometime in the early 1790s, he was carrying on an ancient Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois) practice. Pipes were exchanged at meetings with visiting dignitaries and used to conclude treaties. Between individuals, the gift of a pipe and tobacco affirmed friendship and gratitude for an act of generosity or kindness.

After the Revolution, Britain’s Haudenosaunee allies were left vulnerable, their lands open to expropriation. Brant, a commissioned officer for the Crown, led many displaced Mohawks to a new homeland on the Grand River in Upper Canada (now Ontario). He also sought compensation for Mohawk territorial losses from New York state and from the federal government in Philadelphia.
Brant may have received or purchased the Benton pipe during a visit to the capital in 1790. He traveled throughout Haudenosaunee territory shortly afterward in an effort to create a united front against U.S. intrusions. He also tried to form a confederation of Native nations in the Midwest to oppose American expansion. On one of those trips, he fell gravely ill and rested in a private residence near Seneca Lake. This may have been the home of Dr. Benton, who had built a tavern on the western shore of Seneca Lake, the traditional territory of the Cayuga Nation.

Brant would have known of Benton’s involvement in the Genesee Land Company, which used bribery and intimidation to buy and sell Native lands, often at enormous profits. But a personal friendship with one of the non-Native leaders of western New York would have been important to Brant’s strategy. The pipe may also have been Brant’s way of expressing his gratitude for Dr. Benton’s medical assistance.
—Doug George-Kanentiio (Akwasasne Mohawk)

Garters associated with Osceola (Seminole, 1804–1838)
ca. 1835
Wool yarn, glass beads

“You have guns and so have we. You have powder and lead, and so have we. You have men and so have we. Your men will fight and so will ours, till the last drop of the Seminole’s blood has moistened the dust of his hunting ground.”
—Osceola, February 2, 1834, statement to Brigadier General Duncan L. Clinch

These leg garters likely belonged to the Seminole leader Osceola. Born in 1804 to Polly Coppinger, a part Muscogee Creek woman, Osceola was the most famous of several Seminole leaders who rose to prominence during the Second Seminole War, from 1835 to 1842. Osceola, whose name means Black Drink Singer, was also strong in medicine and was known for his ability to consume the black drink made from yaupon holly.

Osceola’s great strength as a leader in war was his ability to plan and supervise multiple attacks. He was involved in more than a dozen battles and skirmishes and led Seminole warriors and their Creek and African-American allies against the U.S. Army and Florida militia and volunteers from 1835 until 1837, when illness led him to surrender.

Osceola enjoyed the stature and recognition that he had earned. George Catlin produced two paintings of Osceola. In each of them the war leader wears clothes of Seminole tradition. These finger-woven wool garters, which have beads woven into the pattern, are very similar to the garters Osceola wore in Catlin’s full-length portrait, painted in 1838, shortly before the Seminole leader’s death while he was imprisoned at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. The image became widely known through a lithograph published by Catlin.
Donald L. Fixico (Shawnee/Sac & Fox/Muscogee Creek/Seminole)

Mississippian jar depicting a frog
AD 1200–1400
Blytheville, Mississippi County, Arkansas

While much Mississippian art is cosmological in nature, “realistic” vessels in natural forms, such as this bullfrog, are not uncommon.

Hopewell platform pipe
200 BC–AD 400
Franklin, Warren County, Ohio Steatite

This very thin, narrow-platform, black-stone pipe has a mouthpiece with a raised ridge and was probably smoked without a stem. This particular type of platform pipe is associated with the Heinisch Mound and Late Woodland culture in Ohio. In slight variations, this pipe shape persists into the Early Mississippian period and even later.

Caddoan blade
ca. AD 1100
Foster Place, Lafayette County, Arkansas

This is an exquisite example of a ceremonial Mississippian biface blade. To this day, blades are carried by the Creek—descendants of the Mississippians—during girls’ puberty ceremonies. The blade is used during the ceremony to purify the ground for the young women.

Images and copy from Infinity of Nations with Peace Medal photo by Ernest Amoroso, Garter photo by Walter Larrimore.

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