March 1, 1851: Federal commissioners attempting to halt the brutal treatment of Indians in California negotiated 18 treaties with various tribes and village groups, promising them 8.5 million acres of reservation lands. California politicians succeeded in having the treaties secretly rejected by Congress in 1852, leaving the native peoples of the state homeless within a hostile white society.
March 2, 1992: President George H.W. Bush proclaims 1992 as the “Year of the American Indian,” leading Native activists, educators and others to re-evaluate the consequences of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492.
March 3, 1988: The Alaska Native Claims Act is amended.
March 4, 1973: The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council passes a resolution “terminating and canceling all existing coal permits and leases” with the corporations that are strip-mining 60 percent of the tribe’s reservation in Montana.
March 5, 1831: Today, the Supreme Court decided in the case of the Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. The court decided that the Cherokees are not a “foreign state, and therefore the court has no jurisdiction in the dispute.” However, the court does decide that the Cherokees are a distinct political society capable of governing itself and managing its own affairs.
March 6, 1777: 70 Shawnee warriors led by Chief Blackfish will attack settlers near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. One white man managed to escape capture and warn the settlement.
March 7, 1782: Moravian missionaries had converted many Delaware, Mahican and Munsee to Christianity. They had established villages in Pennsylvania in 1746, but moved to the Muskingum River in Ohio in 1773 after their old villages were attacked by other Indian tribes. Unfortunately, at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, the “Moravian Indians” found themselves directly between American and British forces, and their allies. Both sides believe they “Moravians” were helping the other. Today, Col. David Williamson and American soldiers from Pennsylvania surrounded the peaceful village of Gnadenhutten (the second village of the name, the first had been in Pennsylvania), and herded the occupants into two houses. While some of the militia refused to participate, the majority of the soldiers decided to kill all of the “Moravians.” After allowing them to have a final prayer, the soldiers killed the 96 Indian men, women and children in cold blood.
March 8, 1876: By executive order, President Grant “restores” — to the public domain — a tract of country “set apart for the use of the Crow tribe of Indians” on the Crow reservation in Montana Territory.
March 9, 1935: Officers of tribes are now considered U.S. officers.
March 10, 1621: Samoset meets the Pilgrims.
March 11, 1856: The Nez Perce join Col. Cornelius for a fight against the Yakima.
March 12, 1858: The Poncas sign a treaty on this date which grants them a permanent home on the Niobrara River and protection from their enemies, both white and Indians. For these privileges, the Poncas give up a part of their ancestral lands. Unfortunately, several years later, a “mistake” by a government bureaucrat will force them to share land with the Sioux. Repeated protestations over this error will go unheard. The Poncas would live in constant fears of attacks from the Sioux.
March 13, 1864: The first group of Navajos finish the “Long Walk” to Fort Sumner on the Bosque Redondo Reservation, in east-central New Mexico, on this date. During their march, 13 of the 1,430 who started the trip will be kidnapped by Mexicans or will die.
March 14, 1493: Columbus writes a letter describing the generous nature of Indians and mentions they are “men of great deference and kindness.”
March 15, 1858: After fighting American troops for almost 25 years, Billy Bowlegs, Seminole chief who led the resistance to relocation in the Second and Third Seminole Wars, and his followers agree to go to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
March 16, 1622: According to “Mourt’s Relations,” Samoset, an Abnaki from Maine, is the first native aboriginal to make contact with the English at Plymouth, Massachusetts. He greets them in English he learned from English fishermen he encountered in present-day Bristol, Maine.
March 17, 1876: Gen. George Crook’s advance column attacked a Sioux/Cheyenne camp on the Powder River in South Dakota, mistakenly believing it to be the encampment of Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. The people were driven from their lodges and many were killed. The lodges and all the winter supplies were burned and the horse herd captured.
March 18, 1877: More Indians visit Col. Nelson Miles to see if he will negotiate on surrender terms. Miles informs the large group of chiefs his terms have not changed, with the exception that they can surrender at an alternative agency than originally stated. Miles also informs them he will wait no longer for a reply. If the Indians do not surrender soon, his troops will be deployed against them. Little Hawk, Crazy Horse’s uncle agrees to bring the Indians into Miles’ camp or one of the agencies. Nine important Indians remain with Miles as hostages, as a sign of good faith.
March 19, 1840: The Southern Cheyenne hold several white prisoners. They request a meeting to discuss peace and to trade prisoners. Today, 65 Comanches, including Muguara, and 11 other chiefs bring one prisoner, Matilda Lockhart, to the San Antonio council house. They tell the white representatives, Hugh McCloud (adjutant general of the Texas Army), William Cooke and William Fisher each prisoner must be released through an additional meeting. Lockhart was mutilated while in Comanche hands, and this incenses the whites. Armed men surround the Indians, and tell them they will be hostages until all white prisoners are released. A fight erupts, and seven whites, 33 Comanches — including all of the chiefs — are killed. The other Comanches are captured. Word of the incident gets back to their tribe.
March 20, 1699: Continuing his exploration up the Mississippi River, today, French explorer Lemoyne d’Iberville will visit the village of the Houma.
March 21, 1883: On this date, Chato, Bonito and Chihuahua raid a mining town near Tombstone, Arizona, seeking ammunition and other supplies. This is just the pretext Gen. George Crook needs to mount a raid, attacking Chato’s stronghold in Mexico. By 1886, Chato will be helping Crook pursue Geronimo in Mexico.
March 22, 1622: The first major battle of European colonists by aboriginals takes place. Opechancanough, the Powhatan chiefdom’s dominant leader, leads an assault on Jamestown, Virginia, killing nearly 350 English colonists.
March 23, 2003: Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, Hopi from Tuba City, Arizona, and her convoy are ambushed in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Piestewa dies from her injuries soon after being captured. She becomes the first aboriginal American woman to die while serving in combat for the U.S. military in the 21st century.
March 24, 1989: The Exxon Valdez tanker runs aground of Bligh Reef, spilling nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil and devastating the substanance-based lives of Alaskan natives who have fished, hunted and harvested plants in Prince William Sound for thousands of years.
March 25, 1916: Ishi (“the last of his tribe”) dies of tuberculosis. Believed to be a Yahi, Ishi was the last of his tribe. He had walked out of the hills near present-day Orville, California, on Aug. 29, 1911. Anthropologists housed him at the Museum of Anthropology of the University of
California, where they studied him until his death. The biography “Ishi in Two Worlds” tells the history of his life in the “modern” world.
March 26, 1804: Congress ordered the removal of Indians east of the Mississippi to Louisiana. The U.S. government gave first official notice to Indians to move west of the Mississippi River.
March 27, 1973: Sacheen Littlefeather refuses Marlon Brando’s Oscar as a protest against media and governmental mistreatment of American Indians.
March 28, 1957: A court rules today that Montana state courts “are without jurisdiction to try an Indian for the crime of larceny committed somewhere within the external boundaries of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, although conceivably the offense could have been committed within the town of Browning, Montana, located on the reservation.”
March 29, 1797: The Mohawk treaty is signed at Albany today by five Indians, including Joseph Brandt. All of their lands in New York are ceded for $1,000.
March 30, 1867: Secretary of State William H. Seward purchases Russia’s landholding in Alaska for 2 cents an acre. According to Alaska natives, Russia’s landholding does not include the bulk of their lands.
March 31, 1793: Moses Cockrell and a few whites are leading pack animals across Powell’s Mountain. Today, they will be attacked by Chickamauga Chief Captain Bench and his followers. All of the Europeans will be killed except Cockrell, who will escape after outrunning Bench.