EARLIEST INHABITANTS

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Osage Warriors including Chief Bacon Rin

Pictures from Mike Dickey collection

This section is adapted from “Discover Cooper County by looking Back”

by Ann Betteridge, 1995 (Edited by Mike Dickey, 2020)

 

Recent archaeological studies and DNA analysis suggests that humans have appeared in North America about 18,000 years ago. This is at least 6,000 years earlier than has been previously believed. New research raises the likelihood that hundreds of thousands of people lived on a land mass stretching between North America and Asia known as Beringia. As the massive ice sheets retreated from western North America this population began moving from Beringia down the west coast on foot and by boat. Beringia is now underwater and the coastlines are now far different than they appeared to the first humans to explore them.  

 

The native population of the western hemisphere prior to 1492 was once estimated to be around three to six million people.  Many archaeologists and anthropologists now estimate that the pre-Columbian population of the Americas was between 54 to 112 million.  The term “prehistoric” is often used to describe the culture of these early people. However, it does not mean they had no history.  The term simply describes the period before written records documented these cultures and their traditions. 

 

THE EARLIEST INHABITANTS

 

The earliest people in North America are known as Pre-Clovis. Their existence was doubted until around 1999. Pre-Clovis sites are rare and some are still considered questionable. Artifacts at suspected pre-Clovis sites are often sparse. Only one site in Cedar County Missouri has been identified as possibly a Pre-Clovis site. 

 

The Paleo-Indian period 12,000 – 9,000 BC is the time when humans were definitely known to be in the Cooper County area. This time period is associated with a specific hunting tool called a fluted projectile point named Clovis for Clovis, New Mexico where it was first discovered. The weapon for delivering these projectile points was the atlatl or spear thrower. In Missouri, Clovis points have been found with the bones of mastodons and giant sloths. The last ice sheet to cover the continent was melting and flooded the river valleys. The Paleo-Indians were nomadic hunters, following the game herds or escaping from the frequent floods and dust storms.

 

The early Archaic period existed from 9,000 – 5,000 BC. The Dalton tradition (9,000-8,000 B.C.) within this period represents a transition in stone tool technology. Smaller animals and plant material became prominent in the diet as the megafauna had become extinct. Gathering plant materials allowed the people to stay longer in one area. Caves, rock ledges and other natural features were often used as shelters.

 

In the Middle Archaic period (5,000 – 3,000 BC) Evidence indicates that prairies expanded and forests declined. Archaic sites show more evidence of birds, fish, shellfish and rabbits being consumed. Gathered plant materials remain an important part of the diet. The diversity of diet allowed people become less nomadic and establish small villages.

 

The Late Archaic period (3,000 – 600 BC) saw a decline of prairies and the return of forested areas. Domesticated plants such as squash and gourds appear in this time. Villages become larger and more permanent and burial mounds appear.  The internments and artifacts associated with them are evidence of a belief in an afterlife.  Pottery begins to appear though it is utilitarian and rather plain.   

 

The Woodland period (600 BC – 900 AD) commonly called Hopewell Tradition saw the widespread introduction of pottery, much of it incised and decorated. Villages became more permanent and many are large. Corn (maize) becomes a widely cultivated plant. By the middle of this period, trade networks span the continent. Finely modeled human and animal figures are crafted from clay, wood and stone for ceremonial purposes. Complex burial and ceremonial mounds are also constructed.

 

Towards the end of this period the bow and arrow appears as a new technology. At this same time there appears to be a breakdown in the trade network and the permanence of the villages. Burial mounds are not as well built and contain fewer artifacts than in the first half of this period. The introduction of the bow and arrow undoubtedly gave some groups a military advantage over others, possibly leading to the breakdown mentioned above.

 

The Mississippian period (900 – 1500 AD) saw the explosive growth of large permanent villages and fortified towns, especially in the Mississippi valley. The cultivation of maize (corn) formed a major part of the diet. The largest towns contain massive temple and burial mounds, plazas and astronomical observatories. Intercontinental trade was revitalized. The traditions and symbolism used by many contemporary tribes such as the Osage, Quapaw, Caddo and Pawnee appear to have identifiable antecedents in Mississippian culture. Smaller Mississippian outposts and villages were found all along the Missouri River. The large fortified towns began declining in the late fourteenth century. The arrival of the Spanish and introduced European diseases in the 1500s hastened the final breakup of remaining Mississippian towns.

 

The Oneota tradition (1300 – 1673 AD) with the decline of large Mississippian towns, the populations dispersed into smaller villages. The Oneota came from a late Woodland culture in the upper Great Lakes. They began moving south and west and appear to intermix with some dispersing Mississippians. Historic tribes that are Oneota descendants are the Hochunk (Winnebago), Otoe, Missouria and Ioway. Seasonal buffalo hunting provided the main source of food, although gardening and gathering was still practiced. The largest Oneota site in Missouri is preserved in Annie and Able Van Meter State Park in Saline County.

 

Archaeological Sites in Cooper County

 

The proximity of the Missouri River and the landscape and resources found in Cooper County resulted in extensive human activity and residency. Some of the major archaeological sites in Cooper County are: the Clear Fork of the Blackwater River, near Otterville; the Hopewell Subsistence Settlement System on the Lamine also known as the Mellor site; and the Wooldridge site. The Mellor site is second largest Woodland (Hopewell) village site known in Missouri.

 

Examples of Indian mounds can be found in Boonville at Harley Park, in the Wooldridge area, and the Mellor site.  Others are scattered throughout the county. Prior to the year 2000, Cooper County had more than 270 archaeological sites recorded with the National Historic Register of Historic Places. Many sites have been destroyed because of construction, farming, population growth and erosion over the past 200 years. However, it is highly likely that some archaeological sites remain undiscovered.  Nearly every spot above the flood plain along the Missouri, Lamine, Blackwater and other rivers and large creeks in Cooper County will yield evidence of prehistoric human activity. 

Map showing location of the Osage Indian

Map of Indian Trails

OSAGE AND MISSOURIA CULTURAL OVERVIEW

 

The Missouria and the Osage nations were the primary native nations living in central Missouri when the first European explorers recorded their presence in 1673. When Euro-Americans began settling in Cooper County (1800 -1820) the Missouria were gone, having suffered a major defeat by the Sac & Fox around 1790. The Osage remained dominant in Missouri almost to 1825. The Ioway periodically established villages along the Grand and Chariton River and are known to have hunted in the Lamine River drainage. The Sac & Fox began hunting north of the Missouri River in the early 1700s but had no permanent domiciles in Missouri until the War of 1812 era.

 

The Osage called themselves Niu-Kon’ska meaning “Children of Middle Waters” referring to the great river systems of the Midwest.  Osage is an anglicized corruption of Wahzhazhe, one band of the tribe. There were two divisions of Osage at European contact. The Big Osage “Pahatsi” (Above the Hills) built their villages on the hilltops in the Osage River valley. The Little Osage “Udseta” (Below the Hills) placed their villages below the hills. The French misinterpreted Osage sign language for “above” and “below” as meaning big and little. By 1719 but perhaps even earlier, the Little Osage established villages on the Missouri River terraces in Saline County.

 

The Oneota ancestors of the Missouria came from the Great Lakes and settled in central Missouri around 1300 AD.  Missouria villages were established on the Missouri River near the mouth of the Grand River.  The Missouria called themselves Ni-uta-chi, “People of the River’s Mouth” because of this locale.  By 1719, they had moved upstream to be closer to their allies, the Little Osage.  The word “Missouri” was derived from an Algonquian Peoria word meaning “People of Wood Canoe” referring to the large dugout canoes they used for traveling on the river.

 

The Osage spoke a dialect known as Dhegihan Siouan. The Missouria dialect is known as Chiwere Siouan. Cultural elements of the eastern woodlands and the western plains met and mingled here in the prairies, savannahs and woodlands of Missouri. The culture of the Missouria and Osage is sometimes identified as “Southern Siouan” or the “Prairie-Plains.” This Siouan language and cultural group encompasses the Dhegihan speaking Osage, Omaha, Quapaw, Kaw (Kanza) and Ponca and the Chiwere speaking Missouria, Otoe and Ioway. In very broad terms, their dialects, cultures, lifestyles and appearance were similar although each would have unique and identifying characteristics to their respective nations.

 

Europeans, and then later Americans, erroneously believed that Indians were simple peoples, savages who were incapable of philosophical thoughts. In reality the spiritual beliefs of the indigenous people were complex and highly sophisticated.  They centered on a Supreme Being, an all-encompassing life force they called Wa-kon-tah or Wa-kon-dah. Animals and forces of nature were often seen as messengers from Wa-kon-tah. The Osage referred to themselves as “Little Ones” to show they were small and humble before Wa-kon-tah. The Osage held a dualistic view of the universe where everything was paired.  For example day and night, summer and winter, war and peace, life and death etc., maintained balance and harmony in the universe. This balance was reflected in the division of clans into moieties; the Tzi-shu (Sky People) and Hunka (Earth People). 

 

Chiefs of the Tzi-shu led the tribe in civil matters whereas chiefs of the Hunka led in military matters.  There were varying degrees of chiefs within the tribal structure. Chiefs led by example or exhortation but they could not enforce their decisions on individuals.  Unpopular chiefs could be simply be ignored or the people would “vote with their feet” by walking off and forming a new village.  A political schism after 1786 led the formation of third Osage band, the Arkansas Osage who settled near the junction of the Neosho, Verdigris and Arkansas rivers in northeast Oklahoma.

 

Ceremonies conducted by clan priests known as Non-hon-zhing-ga (Little Old Men) guided major life events such as hunting, trading, planting, peacemaking, and war. They were the wisest men of the tribe who had obtained all 13 war honors called o’don. The Non-hon-zhing-ga were the true spiritual and political power of the tribe, advising and guiding the chiefs.  Their existence to whites was unknown until the 1850s. Warfare was the main way male members gained stature in the tribe. Killing was not always an objective of warfare; bluffing an enemy to leave the field was a war honor as was stealing a horse or merely touching an enemy (counting coup).  In an organized war movement, the ceremony of preparation lasted for ten days. A successful war party returning to the village while exuberant about their victory also mourned for any slain enemies. In this way, balance and harmony in the universe was maintained. 

 

Missouria culture is not as well-known as Osage culture.  Little of their tribal structure and ceremonies was recorded before they lost their independence as a tribe following the disastrous defeat by the Sac & Fox around 1790.  Survivors dispersed and merged with either the Otoe in Nebraska or with the Little Osage. A few families joined the Kaw in eastern Kansas. However there are indications that the Missouria as well as all the other Southern Siouans also held a dualistic view of the universe similar to the Osage.

THE OSAGE AND EUROPEANS MEET

 

The date of the first meeting between Europeans and the Osage is unknown. However, there is a vague tribal memory of this meeting. The Missouria brought two French hunters to an Osage village. The Osage observed the Frenchmen were hairy like bears and they were sickened by their body odor trapped inside their heavy deerskin shirts. Members of the Panther clan debated on whether or not to kill the abominable strangers, but the Tzi-shu Chief prevailed in giving them sanctuary. The Missouria were more amenable to the French, while the Osage tended to remain somewhat more aloof. 

 

The first documented meeting of Europeans with the Osage occurred in May of 1693. The French in Illinois facilitated a peace council between the Osage, Missouria and Iliniwek (Illinois) nations. Peace between the three tribal entities would foster growth of the fur trade in the region. For decades afterwards, the three tribes would annually gather to “smoke the pipe” confirming their alliance, and would dance, share feasts and exchange gifts. The Osage and Missouria adopted European trade goods into their cultures without adopting European culture. Missionaries found it very difficult to convert the Indians; they were quite happy and contented with their traditional beliefs that undoubtedly had roots going back centuries.

 

References Websites

The Tribes of the Missouria Part 1 - When the Osage and Missouria Reigned 

Osage Nation

Otoe-Missouria

Ioway Cultural Institute - Resources on the Ioway or Iowa Indian Tribe

Books

  • The Osage in Missouri (University of Missouri Press) by Kristie C. Wolferman

  • A History of the Osage People (University of Alabama Press) by Louis F. Burns, Osage Mottled Eagle Clan                    

  • The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains (University of Missouri Press) by Willard Rollings

  • ·The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters (University of Oklahoma Press) by John Joseph Mathews

  • The Osage and the Invisible World: From the Works of Francis La Flesche (University of Oklahoma Press) by Garrick Bailey

  • The Osage Ceremonial Dance I’n-Lon-Schka (University of Oklahoma Press) by Alice Callahan

  • Traditions of the Osage: Stories Collected and Translated by Francis La Flesche (University of New Mexico Press) edited by Garrick Bailey

  • The People of the River’s Mouth: In Search of the Missouria Indians (University of Missouri Press) by Michael E. Dickey

  • The Otoe-Missouria People (Phoenix Press) by R. David Edmunds

  • The Sac and Fox Indians (University of Oklahoma Press) by William T. Hagen

  • The Ioway Indians (University of Oklahoma Press) by Martha Royce Blaine

  • The Ioway in Missouri (University of Missouri Press) by Greg Olson

 

EXAMPLES OF INDIAN LIFE

 

From the time of European contact forward, there were no known permanent Indian villages within Cooper County.  The villages of the Big Osage were in the Osage River valley while the Little Osage and Missouria were on the Missouri River in western Saline County.  However, trails and hunting camps existed throughout the area. Hunting camps were a scaled down version of the larger, more permanent villages. While the men hunted, the daily activities of the women and children would have included butchering animals, drying the meat and preparing the hides for tanning. They also would have been gathering edible and medicinal plant material in the area.

The village layout and lifeways of the Missouria is largely unknown.  Undoubtedly, they were similar to their kinsmen and neighbors the Otoe, Ioway, Omaha, Kaw and Osage. Osage villages were divided on an east to west axis representing the path of the Sun, the giver of life. Members of the Tzi-shu division composed of Sky clans lived in the north half of the village. The south half was occupied by the Hunka division of Earth and Water clans. The lodges of the Tzi-shu chief and the Hunka chief would have been in the center of the village.

 

Osage houses were rectangular or oval in shape, with center posts in the middle. The roof was made of bent poles that were attached to wall posts. The framework was covered with woven rush mats. Fireplaces for cooking and heating were in the middle.  Doorways on the house facing east to greet the arrival of the Sun. Archaeological research indicates that Missouria homes had the same type of layout. The only furniture inside a lodge was a low bench where valuables such as animal skins were stored, and cradle-boards where the babies were strapped. Also, bison robes were spread for sitting or sleeping near the fireplace. 

 

Some of the moveable household items, other than mats, were pottery cooking vessels. Each person had a personal wooden bowl. Food was served with a spoon often shaped from buffalo horn. A knife and fingers were the main eating utensils. Gourds and dried buffalo bladders were used as water containers. Pottery quickly gave way to metal trade pots and kettles which were more durable. Caches were dug in the lodge interior and contained dried meat, corn, beans and other edible plant materials. If the contents spoiled, they were used as trash pits. Personal items and household furnishing were stored in rawhide boxes called a “parfleche” or hung along the walls or from ceilings. Clothing was made from skins but when trade with Europeans began, trade cloth and wool blankets replaced some skin clothing, although trade material was still used in traditional patterns. 

 

DAILY LIFE IN THE VILLAGES

 

Life was geared to the seasons, which in turn, was marked by ceremonies of preparation or celebration. The first hunt in the early spring was for black bears. Women planted crops of corn, beans, squash and pumpkins in spring then the entire village would depart for a summer buffalo hunt. They returned in the fall to harvest the crops and then depart again for a fall buffalo hunt. Late fall was spent by the women and children in gathering persimmons, paw paws, nuts and water lily roots. In the winter months the Indians would disperse in small clan groups to hunt deer, elk and trap smaller animals for the fur trade.

 

The women and girls did the food preparation, food preservation, and cooking. On the buffalo hunts they butchered the meat and packed it for the return to the village. Drying racks for meat and plant materials were set up near the lodges. Groups of women would gather to tan and prepare hides for clothing or prepare rush and cattail mats for lodge coverings, making it a social event.  Girls learned these domestic chores at an early age. The women built and owned the lodges and all the furnishings and equipage they contained. The perception of the Europeans was that the women were chattel, doing all the hard work while the men were lazy did nothing but lounge around or go hunting.

 

While the duties of the men and women were generally separate, both were equally vital to the survival of the tribe. Hunting was not done for sport, although there was a recreational element to it. It was a dangerous but necessary occupation to eat and acquire furs for clothing or for trade. Hunters were occasionally killed by stampeding bison or by wounded animals. The men also had to defend the hunting territory and especially the villages from enemy tribes. If a man were truly idle and lazy in providing for his family, his wife could divorce him simply by throwing his meager belongings out the lodge door.

 

Before acquiring horses around 1680, dogs were used as pack animals. Dogs were never fed but scavenged through the village keeping it clean. They also served as alarms by barking at unknown persons approaching the village. Dog meat was considered a delicacy and often served to visiting dignitaries. The camp dogs could be a source of a quick and ready meal. Bones of butchered canines have been found in many archaeological sites.

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Arrow heads found in the Lamine area.  Private collection

Arrowhead Chart

Each period of Indian culture is noted for its distinctive stone projectile point.

(Source: Missouri Resource Review, Missouri Department of Natural Resources)

OSAGE AND MISSOURIA RELATIONS WITH EUROPEANS

The Osage and Missouria adopted French and the Spanish trade goods without adopting their culture. Metal tools were lighter, more versatile, and more durable than stone ones. Cloth and wool blankets were lighter and often more colorful than skin clothing or heavy robes. But firearms became the most important part of trade. Better armed tribes could wield military superiority over their enemies. In short, trade goods made life much easier for the Indians and for over a hundred years trade benefited Missouri tribes. But trade goods eventually became a trap as the Indians became dependent on things they could not manufacture or repair themselves.

The Osage and Missouria got along reasonably well with the French.  France was interested only in acquiring furs, not land, and French traders and officials made accommodations to native traditions, such as giving gifts and feasts for visiting guests.  The Spanish did not share the French approach to dealing with Indians.  Although the Spanish wanted furs, they found native traditions tedious and expensive to their treasury.  Consequently the Indians viewed them as stingy and miserly. Officials also sought to force the Osage and Missouria to conform to Spanish policy by periodically halting trade with them.  These actions hurt the merchants of St. Louis more than the Indians. As a result, tensions between the Spanish government and the Osage and Missouria ran high and occasionally erupted into physical conflict.  Very few people died in these conflicts, but fear often kept the settlements on edge.

The Osage and Missouria got along reasonably well with the French.  France was interested only in acquiring furs, not land, and French traders and officials made accommodations to native traditions, such as giving gifts and feasts for visiting guests.  The Spanish did not share the French approach to dealing with Indians.  Although the Spanish wanted furs, they found native traditions tedious and expensive to their treasury.  Consequently the Indians viewed them as stingy and miserly. Officials also sought to force the Osage and Missouria to conform to Spanish policy by periodically halting trade with them.  These actions hurt the merchants of St. Louis more than the Indians. As a result, tensions between the Spanish government and the Osage and Missouria ran high and occasionally erupted into physical conflict.  Very few people died in these conflicts, but fear often kept the settlements on edge.

1808 THE OSAGE NATION AND THE UNITED STATES SIGN ITS FIRST TREATY FOR LAND. (Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

As the dominant tribe in Missouri, the Osages had grown increasingly restless as more white settlers were moving onto their lands. The government, too, was concerned about the growing unrest and agreed to establish forts closer to the native settlements for use of various tribes. The government saw this effort also as a way to entice Indigenous people to rely upon the U.S. for trade goods. The government relied on Meriwether Lewis, now governor of the Louisiana Territory and William Clark, superintendent of Indian Affairs along with Indian agent and trader Pierre Chouteau to work out a deal. Clark negotiated the treaty where the Osages gave up most of Missouri to the United States. In return, the government agreed to maintain a permanent trading post with a blacksmith shop and mill for the Osage people, protection to the Osages who lived near it, along with an annual grant of $1,500. Fort Osage, located on a high bluff overlooking the Missouri River in Jackson County, would continue as an important outpost for over a decade.

INDIAN TREATIES

 

On July 4, 1804 Pierre Chouteau was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson as U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs West of the Mississippi. Chouteau was a St. Louis fur trader and knew the languages and customs of several tribes, especially the Osage. On September 14, 1808, William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the West negotiated with the Osage at Fort Osage to receive $1,200 worth of gifts and an annuity of $1,500 and access to a blacksmith and flour mill. The government also promised “protection” from eastern Indians who hunted on Osage land where game was still plentiful while it was depleted in their shrinking homelands. Some Missouria who lived with the Osage also signed this treaty.  In later years Clark expressed remorse saying, “it was the hardest treaty he had ever made on the Indians and if he was damned hereafter, it would be for making that treaty.”

 

The price for the treaty “benefits” was 52 million acres of land in Missouri and Arkansas. A group of Arkansas Osage visiting St. Louis said the treaty was invalid because they had not been at the council. Governor Meriwether Lewis quickly amended the treaty to include another 20 million acres of land north of the Missouri River. On November 8 1808, Chouteau met with the Osage to sign the amended treaty.  He had to pay them another year’s annuity in advance to get them to sign. The treaty was ratified by Congress on April 28, 1810. The region of Cooper County was officially no longer “Indian Territory.”  

 

On June 2, 1825, the Osage signed a treaty in St. Louis ceding any remaining claims in Missouri and Arkansas and large portion of Oklahoma and Kansas. They retained a reservation about 50 miles wide and 150 miles long in southern Kansas. In exchange, they received $6,000 worth of trade goods. Osages still periodically appeared in Missouri to visit government officials in St. Louis or visit the graves of ancestors. As late as 1837, they still went on their spring bear hunts in Missouri, as bears were more numerous here than on the plains of Kansas. Settlers in Cooper County and across the state continually feared these small hunting parities were the forerunners of large “Indian invasions.” The so-called “Osage War of 1837” was a bloodless confrontation between some Osage bear hunters and white settlers in Green County.  

 

The Missouria, Otoe, Ioway and Sac & Fox signed treaties in 1824 ceding their claims to most of the land north of the Missouri River.  In September1836 they signed a treaty known as “The Platte Purchase.” This ceded their claims to what became the northwest counties of the state.  With this treaty all Indian ownership of land within the state of Missouri was terminated.

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Pictures from Mike Dickey collection

AMERICAN INDIAN, INDIAN, NATIVE AMERICAN, OR NATIVE?

The National Museum of the American Indian says: “What is the correct terminology: American Indian, Indian, Native American, or Native? All of these terms are acceptable. The consensus, however, is that whenever possible, Native people prefer to be called by their specific tribal name. In the United States, Native American has been widely used but is falling out of favor with some groups, and the terms American Indian or Indigenous American are preferred by many Native people.”

American Indian vs. Native American.  The term “Native American” according to the U.S. Census Bureau includes all indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere; American Indians and Alaskan natives such as the Aleut, Inuit, Yupik and Eyak.  Most tribal governments and organizations still use “Indian” in their official seal and documents. Younger generations sometimes prefer the term “Native” “Indigenous” “First Nation” or “Amerindian.” Regardless, tribal affiliation is the first and best way to identify a person of native heritage.  Mike Dickey, Historic Site Manager, Arrow Rock State Historic Site.

Missouri Archaeological Society

Site on Collecting and Identifying Artifacts, and also Archeology in Missouri