Are the First Depictions of Native Americans in the Vatican?

lucrezia borgiaChristopher Columbus made landfall in 1492 – we all know that – and “discovered” the North American continent.  His voyage was financed by Ferninand and Isabella, the Spanish King and Queen.  He returned in March of 1493 and turned over his journal to his benefactors who attempted to maintain secrecy about what he had discovered.  However, that secrecy did not last and before long, everyone knew.

Also in 1492, Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI, an extremely controversial man who fathered several children and became a symbol of corruption in the Catholic church.  His daughter, Lucrezia Borgia, at right, was reportedly married in the Sistine Chapel.

Her third marriage was to Alfonso d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara.  My Estes family has been rumored for decades to have descended from this family, although it remains unproven as the d’Este paternal line has, ironically, become extinct, so no Y chromosomal DNA testing can be performed.

Borgia’s corruption wasn’t limited to women and sex, but included assassinations, murders in his Papal quarters of his daughter’s husband(s) and marital annulments to suit his fancy.  There were even allegations of incest.

Suffice it to say, no future Popes wanted to be associated or affiliated with him or his memory.

His apartment at the Vatican was furnished in Papal style, including many contemporary paintings.  He commissioned a fresco, The Resurrection, by Renaissance master Pinturicchio in 1494, on the walls of his residence in the Vatican.

After Pope Alexander’s death in 1503, the Borgia Apartments were sealed.  His successor Pope, Julius II, would have nothing to do with Borgia’s apartment and what had allegedly taken place there, and ordered that all paintings made for Pope Alexander be covered in black crepe.  In 1889, 386 years later, the Borgia apartments were reopened and dedicated to the display of religious art.

Recently The Resurrection fresco was cleaned.  After the dirt and grime were removed, you can now see what appears to be naked people with feathers in their hair dancing.  These are directly behind the head of the risen Christ.  Columbus described being greeted by nude Native people.  In addition, he kidnapped between 10 and 25 Indians and returned to Spain with them, although only 7 survived to arrival.


If these indeed are Native Americans, then they are the first depictions.  Until now, the first paintings were believe to be those of John White, painter and eventually governor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke.  White produced these paintings from 1584-1587.  Note that some of his are nude as well.  This painting, if it is of Native Americans, would be almost  100 years earlier.

To see the entire fresco and read more, click here.

Hat tip to Shawn for info about the painting.

Posted in Art, Christopher Columbus, History | Leave a comment

Georgia Land Lotteries – Gold Grabbing

Georgia Cherokee lands 1830

Georgia Cherokee lands in 1830

The Georgia Land Lotteries which spanned from 1805 to 1833 were one of the largest land grabs in eastern US, certainly the largest having to do with the 5 Civilized Tribes.

In Georgia, this land belonged to the Creek and Cherokee Nations, and the Europeans wanted it.  It included gold mines.

The Cherokees did not give up their land without a fight.  In fact, they took it to the US Supreme Court, a case they won their cases, but both the state of Georgia and US President Andrew Jackson chose to ignore the court’s finding and instead forced the removal of the Cherokee, taking their lands to be divided among non-Cherokee citizens.

In an effort to keep their lands, certain Cherokees (and other interested parties)—including John Ross, Samuel Worcester and Major Ridge—took their fight against the State of Georgia to the United States Supreme Court. There were two major cases heard by the Court during the years of 1831 through 1832: Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia. Though the Cherokee Nation actually won the court battles, both U.S. President Andrew Jackson and the State of Georgia chose instead to ignore the Supreme Court ruling.   In a popular quotation, President Andrew Jackson is supposed to have said: “[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”.  Georgia continued its surveying and division of the Cherokee lands through the final “1832 Land and Gold Lotteries.”  President Jackson utilized the U.S. Army, forcing the “removal of the Cherokees in what we now know as the shameful “Trail of Tears,” freeing up desirable land in Georgia.

Land speculation in the lotteries was common, many lots were sold sight-unseen by the winners for other lots or for gold. Real estate agents, individual citizens and even unscrupulous lottery officials attempted to secure promising gold belt lots or valuable Cherokee plantation lots. During the 1832 Lottery alone, some 85,000 people competed for 18,309 land lots to be given away, and at least 133,000 people competed for 35,000 gold belt lots to be given away.

1832 georgia grant 1832 Georgia land grant

To read more about this land lottery system, click here.

Posted in Cherokee, Creek | 2 Comments

The Mouthbow – Making Music on a Weapon

obu man mouthbow

Obu man playing the mouthbow

Do you know what a mouthbow is?  It’s believed to be the oldest stringed instrument in the world.  It’s found in many indigenous cultures around the world.  A French cave painting about 15,000 years old shows an individual dancing toward several buffalo while playing something that looks like a mouthbow.

Mouthbows probably derived from hunting bows.  Someone discovered they were good for more than hunting, made noise, and an artistic spark was ignited in the music lover’s soul.

The mouthbow, also called a musical bow, is a simple string musical instrument that consists of a string supported by a flexible stick 1.5 to 10 feet (0.5 to 3 m) long, and strung end to end with a taut cord. Usually made out of wood. Often, it is a normal archery bow used for music rather than as a weapon

In the US, the mouthbow may have been introduced by African slaves.  Today it’s primarily found in Appalachia.

The usual way to make the bow sound is to pluck the string, although sometimes a subsidiary bow is used to scrape the string, much as on a violin although some sound when struck with a thin stick. Unlike string instruments used in classical music, however, they do not have a built-in resonator, although resonators may be made to work with the bow in a number of ways.

The most usual type of resonator consists of a gourd attached to the back of the string bearer. The bow may also be stood in a pit or gourd on the ground, or one end of it may be partially placed in the mouth. This last method allows the size of the resonator to be varied as the instrument is played, thus allowing a melody to be heard consisting of the notes resonating in the player’s mouth. As well as these various forms of resonators, the bow is frequently played without a resonator at all.

The musical bow is generally played on its own, as a solo instrument, although it is sometimes played, amplified, as part of an ensemble in Appalachian old-time music.

Probably the most well-known artist to use the mouthbow is Buffy Sainte-Marie, an Academy Award winning Canadian First Nations musician, composer, artist, educator and social activist, born on the Cree Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan.

Buffy has created a website about the mouthbow including where to purchase one.  However, my favorite mouthbow site is Buffy’s blog where you can see a video of her performing using the mouthbow and singing Cripple Creek.

Want to make one?  Here’s a link to construct an Appalachian mouthbow and some tips on care and feeding.


Posted in Cree | 1 Comment


jeddore lighthouse

Sometimes a surname is associated exclusively with Native people.  When you see that surname, you immediately know where it, and the family, came from.  This is the case with the Jeddore surname.

Jeddore is a L’nu (Mi’kmaq) surname, that has also led to placenames in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Locations in Nova Scotia that include the Jeddore name are East Jeddore, West Jeddore, Jeddore Oyster Pond and Head of Jeddore.  In Newfoundland and Labrador, we find Jeddore Lake.  The lighthouse photo is at Jeddore, Nova Scotia and was taken by W.R. MacAskill.

The earliest instance of the surname Jeddore known to date is Kji-Saqamaw We’jitu Isidore, (circa 1656-1769). (Saqamaw means “Chief”; Kji-Saqamaw means “Grand Chief”).

In personal communications between Joseph Cope and Harry Piers of the Nova Scotia Museum in 1914, we discover the following information about We’jitu Isidore.

“We’jitu Isidore, (ca. 1656 – ca. 1769) was a Kji-Saqamaw (“grand chief”) of the Mi’kmaq of the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

We’jitu “was a great Indian who died, it is said, at the age of 113 years. In his young days he saw a vision, and afterwards became the most powerful person in the tribe (a Kinap, with great physical strength). [He] made the men of his tribe great in athletic sports, so that they won from men of other tribes, in competitions. His camping ground was on the east side of First Dartmouth Lake, about half way or so up the lake. [The] name We’jitu apparently related to Isidore and the Indians Jeddore were descendents of his. Noel Jeddore of Halifax [?] was his grandson.”

The contemporary surname Isidore may also be related to Kji-Saqamaw We’jitu Isidore.

People commonly known by their family name Jeddore (in rare instances written as Jedor(e), Ledor(e), Geodol, Gietol and Gadole, include:

  • Noel Jeddore (1810 – 1898)
  • Joseph Jeddore (Abt. 1866 – April 11, 1956)
  • John Denny Jeddore (August 1887 – October 14, 1953)
  • Peter Jeddore (May 9, 1892 – May 18, 1970)
  • Saqamaw Noel Jeddore  (December 18, 1865 – May 14, 1944)
  • Victor Jeddore (August 11, 1907 – July 7, 1977)
  • Lawrence Jeddore (November 4, 1922 – 1998)

The National Museum of the American Indian includes a photo of Noel (Joseph) Jeddore (1865-1944) originally from the Conne River Reserve, Nova Scotia.

Noel Joseph Jeddore (December 18, 1865 – May 14, 1944) was Saqamaw at Miawpukek (Conne River) from July 26, 1919 until he was forced into exile to Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, in 1924. He was born at Indian Point, Baie d’Espoir and he died at Eskasoni.

He was known as Saqamaw Geodol to the Mi’kmaq of Miawpukek. “The second chief is Geodol – called in English, Noel Jeddore – who represented Olibia in his absence. Geodol is the owner of one of the two cows on the Reservation, and his brother possesses the second”.

During his leadership the position of Saqamaw within the Mi’kmaw community had become mostly that of a prayer leader, instead of the traditional political and settler of disputes, within the community. In 1923, according to an unpublished document written by his grandson John Nicholas Jeddore, some local residents caused serious misunderstanding between Saqamaw Geodol and the priest of the day, Father Stanislaus St. Croix. Saqamaw Geodol was forced into exile the following year. He never returned to Miawpukek.

Noel’s son, Peter Francis Jeddore followed in the footsteps of his father.  Peter Francis Jeddore (May 9, 1892 – May 18, 1970), (Saqamaw Piel) was the fourth child of Noel Jeddore, (Saqamaw Geodol). Accepted by the Mi’kmaq of Miawpukek as Saqamaw, although never “officially appointed” as such, he served his people from 1954 until his death in 1971. He made many prominent public defenses of the Miawpukek Mi’kmaq’s rights to land and resources.  Saqamaw Piel also served overseas with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during World War I, first in the 9th Regiment, later in the British 29th Division.

Posted in Micmac | Leave a comment

James Manly, an Indian born at Edenton

State of North Carolina, Craven County } To the Worshipfull, the Justices of Craven County

The Petition of James Manly an Indian humbly represents to your Honor that he was free born at Edenton and that he never has been Guilty of any Action by which his Freedom can be forfeited by any of the Laws of this or any other of the United States.

Your Petitioner further begs leave to inform your Worships that he has lived some Time past at Broad Creek and that on or about the [blank] Day of [blank] a Certain John Garland came to the dwelling House of the said James Manly and forcibly drove him away and sold him as a Slave to Colonel Levi Dawson for the Consideration of one hundred pounds Specie. Wherefore as your Petitioner is a Subject of this States; and under the present happy Constitution humbly moves that this worshipfull Court will pass an Order for liberating or Setting him free from the service of Colonel Levi Dawson aforesaid and restore him to his Freedom And as in Duty bound your Petitioner will ever pray.    Jas. Cooke Atty. For the Petitioner.

[On back.] James Manlys Petition  December Term 1782. James Gatlin & Levi Dawson  Read and Granted The Petitioner set Free   Chrisr. Neales C.C.

Thank you to Lisa Y. Henderson for finding and publishing this record.

james manley 1790

In the 1790 census in Craven County, NC, above, James Manley was listed with 1 “other free” in his household, so apparently he lived alone.  There are no other Manley families in Craven County that are classified as “other free.”  There are no white Manley families either.

In 1800, James Manly is again a household of 1 but lived in Beaufort County, NC and is listed as “free colored.”  There are no other Manly families in Beaufort County.

James is not found in the 1810 census.  He petitioned the court in 1782 as an adult, so he was born probably well before 1762.  He would have been at least 48 in 1810 and probably significantly older.

Posted in North Carolina | Leave a comment

The French and the Indians

Fur trader Canada 1777

Have you ever wondered why so many Indians carry French surnames?  This is the case all across the US and Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, literally, but very pronounced from New York through the northern Plains states and along the Mississippi River.

The answer lies in the history of the French businesses – and I’m not talking about a few individual trappers, I’m talking about an industry, largely forgotten or ignored by history.  At a time when most people don’t think about any Europeans living beyond the Appalachian Mountains, the French were traversing this country and where there were French, there were many more Indians.

This article, French Entrepreneurship in the Post Colonial Fur Trade by B. Pierre Lebeau is quite enlightening.  Enjoy!

Hat tip to Marie for this article.

Posted in French | Leave a comment

Red Fox James, Blackfoot, Indian Advocate

Red Fox 1915

Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On Dec. 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed. (Library of Congress)

1915. “Indians, American. Red Fox James at White House.” With the State, War and Navy building as backdrop. Harris & Ewing glass negative.


One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day.

In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.  Indians were recognized as American citizens in 1924.

The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

Native Americans never receivedt a day, per se, but in 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

In 2011, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation as well.

“From the Aleutian Islands to the Florida Everglades, American Indians and Alaska Natives have contributed immensely to our country’s heritage. During National Native American Heritage Month, we commemorate their enduring achievements and reaffirm the vital role American Indians and Alaska Natives play in enriching the character of our Nation.

THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States do hereby proclaim November 2011 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 25, 2011, as Native American Heritage Day.

Posted in Blackfoot | 4 Comments