The Northern Paiute Reservation in Burns, Oregon - Remnants of a Thriving Culture
As I drove west along I-80 and I-84 following the path of the transcontinental railroad and the Oregon Trail, I noticed all the historical landmarks with information on the settlement of this vast frontier conquered by the brave pioneer men and women, immigrants from Scotland and Ireland lured to this country with the promise of land and opportunity, loggers and mountain men, cattlemen, prospectors and railroad entrepreneurs heeding the call to get in on the ground floor of opportunity for great wealth from empire building. I knew the story well since I had taught it for 23 years as a public school teacher in states from coast to coast – the last being the state of Oregon.
During the last part of my teaching career, I had begun to explore the true story of American history - a great country being built upon the destruction and even genocide of indigenous people who had lived here for centuries before the first Europeans arrived in the 15th Century claiming the whole of North and South America for their kings and queens to colonize and use to fill their coffers.
After the United States established preeminence in North America following the American Revolution the Founding Fathers continued the pattern of empire building across North America under the guise of Manifest Destiny and taking over land they claimed they owned at the expense of the indigenous cultures in the way. These stories are now coming to light and I have spent my years in retirement focusing on raising awareness about what happened to the cultures so destroyed in two major novels and several short stories. The first was a generational saga entitled “The Peacemaker.”
This year I published a sequel to that novel entitled “New Pangaea – An Evolution into the Fifth World.” Both books are available at http:kentuckywoman.net. “The Peacemaker” ends on September 11, 2001 and sets the stage for the price America has paid for its destruction of the very people who knew how to take care of the land and keep it producing for the Seventh Generation and beyond.
“New Pangaea” is set on the Hopi Reservation in Northeast Arizona. The Hopi are the only people who never fought the United States nor made treaties and have remained true to their culture and way of life until the Peabody Coal Company came to mine the Black Mesa area on their land. Like other tribes in Standing Rock, North Dakota and the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, the Hopi are beginning to organize to reteach their children the “old ways” of land management and farming. It is these people who will once again become the stewards of the land to bring it back to what it was before the Western European destroyed it. Because I now have a website that includes a blog, I decided to use my social media platform to write short pieces that describe what is happening with indigenous groups across the country because the media certainly is not doing it.
This year I decided to finish my fifty state bucket list by driving across country from Louisville, Kentucky to Seattle, WA to take a cruise to Alaska. On the return trip I will complete the bucket list by visiting North Dakota and Minnesota with the intent of blogging to raise awareness about what is happening with the water protectors in these locations. I had intended to start my blogs then, but on the way out driving across the Lewis and Clark Trail, I stumbled upon the Northern Paiute Indian Reservation in Burns, Oregon and had the opportunity to visit with Diane Teeman a tribal member and anthropologist who consented to speak with me about her tribe and answer questions about where they came from, what happened and where she sees the tribe headed today.
To understand the present we must begin with the stories of the past. What has happened with most North American Indians, sadly, is that through the process of land takeover and genocide, all Indian cultural groups are struggling with rebuilding something of value for their people with what has been left for them. The story of the Northern Paiute is no different than the stories of the Eastern Woodlands people, the pueblo people of the desert Southwest and the Navajo and Hopi. I have written some of the stories but for the purposes of focusing on the current situation, I am including a link to a site that gives a little overview of who the Northern Paiute are, where they lived and how American seizure of their lands and deprivation have reduced what were large numbers of people living in Great Basin area of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon to 410 enrolled tribal members living in these states and 150 members living on the Northern Paiute Reservation in Burns, Oregon. Of these 150 people 2/3 of them are children under the age of 18. https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/indian-tribes/paiute-tribe.htm.
Diane Teeman is a dark skinned, heavy set woman about 40 years old with the blue black hair associated with people of her heritage. She is well-educated and articulate and unexpectedly candid about her tribal history and where the people of her tribe are headed today. The remnants of the Northern Paiute live from Las Vegas, NV to Northeastern and Southeastern California and the Boise area. Many live and work in cities and have blended families from marriage into the Anglo population.
The Reservation I visited was established in 1934 as the result of two federal acts – the Indian Reorganization Act and the Recovery Act associated with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal which provided loans to purchase acreage around the city of Burns for the Reservation. The loans have since been paid back from funds produced by an agricultural corporation that produced alfalfa. That corporation has since been disbanded with no real plans to replace it. Some of the land has been leased and the Reservation operated a casino for a while but it was shut down due to lack of viable revenue. There is an economic development council that has been established and the tribe is now using this as a means to have a voice in land management. In order to do this, Ms. Teeman is studying archaeological sites to validate the skills of the indigenous cultures in land management.
Ms. Teeman reported that there is archaeological evidence going back thousands of years of settlements of people in the Great Basin area numbering 14,000 people. These people lived here and managed the land so well that when the Europeans arrived in the 15th Century the land was pristine – quite different from what it is today. As more and more evidence is uncovered about the unique relationship indigenous North Americans have with the land, and the tribes recover from the damage done to their people from years of crippling military and domestic actions of the United States government, these people will lead our country into a “new Pangaea” and a return to land stewardship.p that produces peace and prosperity for the Seventh Generation