(Note: Newer questions are now at the top of the
Question: I would like to know about the Talking Feather.
Iam part Cherokee and I'm trying to find more information about the Talking
Feather . So please could you help me? Dale
Answer: The Talking Feather is used in gatherings and meetings
to give one person the freedom to speak without interruption from the others.
It is held by the person who is leading the meeting, and can either be
passed around the circle so that each person who has something to say can
speak, or it can be given just to those who ask for it. It is usually
a feather that has a special meaning to the tribe or village, and its shank
is usually decorated with colors and objects which also have special meanings.
In some tribes, a stick is used in the same way; the Talking Stick.
Question: Some say that the color combination of red and black
on the prayer shawl are a sign of devil worship, and must never be displayed
in the dance circle. This claim comes from persons who are of Cherokee
heritage. It is my understanding that various tribes do have color
themes, but that in recent years the themes are no longer proprietary.
Can you confirm or dispell this claim? Terry
Answer: Well, Terry, I don't know if I can confirm or dispel
anything. The words you use, such as "prayer shawl" and "devil worship"
are the white words of organized religion and would not be common, or even
used, in Native ceremonies. As to red and black being taboo in the
arena, I know many Cherokee dancers, and most of them wear red and black
since those are two of the sacred colors of the Cherokee. Those are
called Cardinal Colors, and they are red for the east, white for the south,
black for the west, blue for the north, brown for the earth below, yellow
for the heavens above and green for the physical center of the points.
The Cherokee do not call their colors a Medicine Wheel as many Nations
do, but black, white, red and yellow are present in Medicine Wheels.
They also represent the four races of man.
Anyone who practices their Native ways, or who honors their heritage,
also honors the colors of their tribe. It's a way of life; a tradition
handed down by the ancients. Everything in Native life has meaning,
and those meanings are not taken lightly.
Question: Did American Indians use trees to mark their migration
trails by tying down the branches so that they would grow straight out
and then untying them so they would grow straight up? Tammy
Answer: I suppose anything would be possible but this seems
highly unlikely since that would mark their paths for their enemies.
Natives followed game, food and the weather vs. "migration" trails, and
they used nature's signals to find their way.
Question: Which Indian group lived in a longhouse? J.
Answer: The member nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, in
the northeast around the Great Lakes. The Natives of the Pacific
Northwest also lived in the same type of structure, but it was not called
Question: Hello Julia,this is a nice web page. I have
heard that people in mourning do not dance for a year or dress in regalia.
Do all tribes do this? Is it a mandatory thing? Are there other
customs regarding this? Thank you for any information you can pass to me.
Answer: Jill, the custom of mourning is something that varies
from Nation to Nation, tribe to tribe. I have taken part in many
honoring dances to mourn the dead. The family members were fully dressed
in regalia and they did take part.
Question: Hi, I went to your site and found it very interesting.
I am especially interested in finding what tribes honored their women by
making them a medicine woman, the healers of the tribe. I seem to be running
against brick walls. Any info you could direct me to would be greetly appreciated.
Your site is beautiful! Bernadette
Answer: I'm very happy that you enjoyed your visit to Innerspace,
and that you found things of interest there. As to your question
about medicine people, it's not an "honor" that's bestowed on anyone.
Some children are born with a gift for empathy and working with people
to lessen their emotional and psychological problems. They have an
inborn talent for knowing just what to say and what's needed at the right
time. These can be both boys and girls; there is no gender associated
with medicine work. If these children also have a talent for working
with animals, have an inborn knowledge of plants and healing herbs, then
they are taken in as an apprentice by the village medicine person and taught
the medicine ways of the tribe. This goes on for years, and is a
lifetime commitment. As these children grow, if they learn well and
are willing to forego their own personal wishes and desires for the good
of their people, then the people of the village begin to trust them.
With this trust and training, medicine people come into their own.
They are born with a natural ability to heal the mind, spirit and body,
and that ability is nourished so that it can flourish for the good of all.
Question: I'm hoping you can help me out. I'm a 6th grade
girl and I'm a member of the Peoria tribe. My English teacher had
a question on a test asking if an Indian chief would be male, female, or
either. I answered either because the chief of my tribe right now
is female and I know about Wilma Mankiller. I thought there were
other female chiefs. My teacher counted it wrong. When I asked him
about those examples he didn't change his mind. What do you think
I should do? Do you have a list of women chiefs that you could send
me? I'd really appreciate it. Madelyn Purgason Tulsa, Oklahoma
Answer: Madelyn, it's very sad that your teacher has so little
knowledge of Native American customs and traditions. It's not unusual,
however, since there are many attempting to "teach" subjects they know
little to nothing about. You are absolutely correct. Stand
your ground! Down through the centuries there have been many female
chieftans among many tribes. No, I don't have a list of them, but
several are written about in the Woman Spirit section of Innerspace.
A little research on your teacher's part would teach him a great deal.
Send him to Innerspace. He might learn something. Feel free
to show him my note if you like.
Question: I need answers so that when I continue visit the
powwows and the reservations, I will know that I belong in one specific
nation. I am of many (~3 nations) but I was told only to follow my
mother's mother's people is that true? Where do I begin since no
one knows where in North Carolina my great-grandmother was born? Sarah
Answer: Yes. This is true. The blood lines, heritage,
customs and cultures follow the mother's family. Do you know your great-grandmother's
name? If you do, can you find her death certificate? The best
hope you have is to trace her backward and this is the best place to start.
Also, there are a number of native rolls on the net if she was registered.
If she wasn't, then you join the millions of us who will never be able
to "prove" heritage. Your trail will come to a dead stop.
There is also a very complete and comprehensive book printed in 1996
by the US Dept. of Commerce, Gov't. Printing Office, called "American Indian
Reservations and Trust Areas".....commonly known as the "Tiller Book".
It was compiled, researched and edited by Veronica E. Velarde Tiller, an
Apache woman from Albuquerque, NM. It is honest, straightforward
and has a wealth of contact information for reservations across the country.
She has an organization called Tiller Research, Inc. This book should
be in any good library in the research department or, if it's not, I would
suggest that you buy a copy. If you have your great-grandmother's
name, you may need to contact each tribal office in NC and SC to find information
about her if all your other attempts fail.
Best of luck to you. I know how discouraging this type of search
is, but don't give up.
Question: Do you anything about an Indian woman with the name
Maria Tallschief?? If you do, please tell me a web site I can retrieve
info on her. Thanks!!! Steffen H.White
Answer: Maria Tallchief was a very famous Indian ballerina.
I believe she's still alive, but no longer dancing. A search under
her name should turn up something. Good luck
Question: My eight year old daughter is presently studying
Native American Tribes. She is asked to pick a Tribe of her liking and
complete a project describing the Tribe, its origins, its past and present
day location, the type of geographic environment in which they live/lived,
as well as a description of their ancestral habitat. We are extremely
excited about this project and have stumbled upon your website by luck.
We have enjoyed much of what we have read, but hoped to find information
concerning The Cree Tribe of Canada. I have looked at other
websites, but unfortunately, I am not finding anything pertinent
to the Cree. We were wondering, if by any chance you might be able to point
us in the right direction? We need all the help we can get!
We appreciate all the hard work that went into your wonderful website,
and look forward to hearing from you via e-mail. With many thanks,
Pascale and Alexandra Poirier
Answer: Information on the Canadian Cree is at http://arcticcircle.uconn.edu/HistoryCulture/Cree/
The Cree were a very large Nation. The Cree of Canada were
known as the Woodland Cree; those who crossed the U.S. border and lived
on both sides of the boundaries into the northern plains area were known
as the Plains Cree. Best of luck.
Question: Do you know of a contact person(s) for the Heida
tribe, of which I'm 1/2. I've been searching the internet for over a year
now, and everywhere I could think of by land post in the past 3 years,
for some contact. I grew up in Seattle, WA. I've heard that there
is a large group of Heidas there now. I've not been able to contact
anyone Heida there. Therefore, I'm up the proverbial creek, at this point,
without a paddle or even a canoe. KeithLee - Swimbear
Answer: KeithLee, I think you're having unusual troubles because
your spelling is different. The records for these people are spelled
Haida. Could that be your problem?
The Haidas are in Alaska - The Haida Corporation, P.O. Box 89, Hydaburg,AK
99559; phone: (907) 285-3721
There is another branch of the Haida who have become mixed with the
Aleut and Eskimo, even though Kasaan was originally one of their main villages.
This group can be reached through Kavilco, Inc., 1 Union Square, Suite
3431, 600 University Street, Seattle, WA 98101; phones: (206) 624-6162
or (907) 542-2214.
Best of luck to you. I hope this information sets your canoe
on a better waterway. :D
Question: Could you email me information on the Thanksgiving
history. I need to give it to my daughter's teacher and I can't find
my information. I don't know if she believes me because she asked
for information about the killings and so on and so forth. Sarah
Answer: The information I have came from a New England newspaper
published in 1993, and telephone calls with the curator of the Pequot Museum
and tribal representatives of the Wampanoag Nation. I don't know
where you live, but the teacher should be aware of the National Day of
Mourning that the Wampanoag hold every year at Plymouth on Thanksgiving
Sago Julia. My name is Jackie and I'm a Cornplanter
Seneca. I just read your page on Pow Wow protocol and the last suggestion
on asking about "how much Indian are you" just cracked me up. It's
funny because I am always asked which Asian country my ancestors come from.
Thanks for inserting that because Native people aren't concerned about
how much you are...you just are. Seems since the government put this
blood quantum thing on us to be able to identify ourselves as Native did
"how much" become so important. But, my elders set the power of example...they
just chuckle and shake their wise beautiful heads. Nya:weh
Jackie - Bearwoman
Comment: Mine is not a question, but a note of gratitude for
posting some of your book. Thank you for telling potential visitors
our outfits are not "costumes". Also, that they should not touch
them. Both have happened to me and it is very difficult to ask them
not to without going into tribal history. They never seem to
believe me anyway. Could you possibly address something else?
DO NOT EVER go up to an Indian with long hair and grab it. It is
seen as more personal than an outfit. Some tribes see it as the outer
extension of our spirit, and you don't go around manhandling them.
I hope non-Natives learn from your site. It is interesting to see
what non-Natives inquire about us. :) Amber
Reply: Well, Amber, I must admit...I have NEVER seen anyone
grab hair! That's a new one on me. Some people seem to have
been born with no sense whatever. :( Thank you for your kind
words about The Pow Wow Trail.
Question: I would like to know if there are any sources of
information on traditional tatoo work of the Iroquioan nation. I am particularily
interested in the Mohawk tribe. I know that this information exists, because
I had some papers on it before, that I lent out & it has been misplaced.
Please send me the info to my email address. Thanks! Bill M.
Answer: Bill, you're looking in the wrong place. The
Mohawk were their own nation, not a tribe of the Iroquois. They were
a member nation of the Iroquois Confederacy -- as were 5 other Nations.
Try looking under Mohawk...not Iroquois. :)
Question: I am very interested in the use of crystals by the
Native American! I am a crystal therapist and user of crystals myself-I
have been an priestess and crystal healer in past lives and also I have
an Indian heritage-namely Blackfoot and possible Lakota-reincarnations.
I was also a child of a Medicine Man and died young never to receive my
heritage as one! I know that some Indians used crystals and I wanted
to know more detail!! Can you help me??! Holly
Answer: No Native nation on this continent used crystals with
the devotion that the Cherokee people did. They placed crystals in
strategic places in their dwelling to catch the rays of the sun at crucial
times during the day: morning, noon and the setting sun. They would
never dream of beginning the business of their day without consulting the
morning crystal; of continuing throughout the day without checking the
noon crystal, or of going to bed without reading the message of the sunset
crystal. Each person had a personal crystal that they carried hidden
in their clothing at all times.
Additionally, each village had two chiefs. The Red Chief oversaw
war parties, raids, confrontations and the like. The White Chief
supervised the business of the village, healings, counseling and the general
well-being of the people. Only these 2 individuals wore their crystals...very
large ones...in plain view.
The Red Chief had an attendant who stayed with him at all times.
If the Chief should fall in battle or become captured, it was the sole
responsibility of the attendant to take that crystal, run into the forest
and bury it deep in the trunk of a living tree. If this was not possible
and he could not escape, it was his duty to crush the crystal so that its
powers could not be usurped by the enemy.
Information on the use of crystals by the Cherokee is in two books
by Thomas Mails: "Secret Native American Pathways", and "The Cherokee People".
Both books are in all large libraries, and are also available at Amazon.com.
There is a link to them on Innerspace in the Suggested Reading section.
Of course, the details of exactly how these crystals were used are never
The Navajo people also use crystals, but I have not researched this
and don't have details on their customs. I'm only aware of their
use because a Navajo Medicine Man made a TV appearance during the hunta
virus scare several years ago. He called upon people of Navajo blood
everywhere to turn to their crystals and medicine ways to pray for the
people exposed to this virus.
Question: Friends of mine invited me to make a sweatlodge,
and they used tobacco with almost everything they to. Each willow branch
which was planted in the ground came first with a little tobacco in the
ground. Before we put the stones on the fireplace, they put some
tobacco on the stones. Why? What does this mean?
Answer: Tobacco is a plant that originally comes from the Natives
of what is now the United States. It has always been used in ceremony
because of it's sweet and pungent smoke as a prayer of thanks to Mother
Earth. Anytime we take anything from the earth, or disturb the earth,
we leave tobacco as an offering of thanks and to show respect. It
is believed that prayers are carried to the Creator and the Ancients in
the smoke of tobacco respectfully smoked.
Question: Wonderful page of information. I'm a high school
history teacher; it should be called Native American History. I would
like to know how to obtain vidoes on Pow Wows to show to my class for a
better understanding of Native American culture. Scott
Answer: Hello, Scott. I'm very pleased that you enjoyed
the excerpts from "The Pow Wow Trail". You would find the book most
helpful, and many schools use the book as historical resource. There
is a section here on Innerspace there called Woman Spirit, about Native
women of history, and a section called Looking Back, about varoius indigenous
peoples. Feel free to print anything that can be of help to
you. Many teachers do.
Also, about the videos. The company that published my book
has several excellent pow wow videos. Their toll free number is at
the spot where I have the excerpts from the book. I'm sure they would
be glad to send you a catalog. In addition, I'm sure that Amazon.com
has such videos as well. I have a link to them on that same spot.
Just click the "to order" button, and when you get there, click on the
video tab and do a search for pow wow videos.
Question: Dear Julia: I am a Choctaw, Hopi & Black
Irish mix and very proud of my heritage. I have done much research and
I am proud to say this is one of the best websites I have found on native
women. I would love to find out more info on these women and others.
Thank you very much. Jerry.
Answer: It's very sad that so little was written about the
Native women of history -- not only here in North America, but the world
over. We must remember the times, and that most historical biographies
were written by European men who did not consider these women significant
enough to document unless something in their achievements was so outstanding
it could not be ignored. My primary reference books are listed in
the Suggested Reading section here on Innerspace, and each of those books
will lead you to other resources.
Comment: I appreciate the real story of Thanksgiving.
I hope we as a people are willing to understand true historical facts such
as this. One can only hope that history does not repeat itself.
I will not forget our ancestors, and our future. Thank you.
Question: I would like to know about religious rituals and
how they are performed and fit into the pow wow format? Jim
Answer: What you refer to as "religious rituals" are sacred
ceremonies which are not open to the public, Jim. What you would
see is the blessing of the grounds, and perhaps some special prayers that
may be offered.
Question: My daughter has to write a paper about the Plains
Indians. This seems to be a large group of Native Americans and not
one particular tribe. Can you give me some general resources relating
to this group including origin and location? Thank you. Tracey
Answer: Hello, Tracey. Whoever gave such an assignment
clearly doesn't know anything about Native history. :) There were
dozens of Nations commonly known as "Plains Indians". Those Nations
had many, many tribes..bands..in each. The largest Nations were the
Sioux, with 8 or more tribes; the Crow, the Hidatsa, the Pawnee, the Comanche,
the Ute, the Blackfoot, the Wichita, the Kansa, to name only a few.
They did share some things in common. They were nomadic hunters
who followed the game, especially the buffalo. They lived in tipis
because they were easy and fast to move. They dressed in animal skins.
They were gifted artisans and crafts people. They were skilled horsemen.
Is she not allowed to focus on one Nation? There is an excellent
article on the Crow on Innerspace in the Looking Back section. I don't
know how one paper under such a generic term would work. I wish her
Question: Do you know anything about Iktomi Sha or red spider
nation? Is this bad? I am asking because I know someone who has strong
strong medicine, but I want to be sure it is good. Any help would be appreciated.
You seem so knowledgeable, I would value your opinion. In the suggested
reading section, you have many of the same books that I keep as reference.
Thank you so much for your time. meegwetch
Answer: Hello, there. You didn't mention which tribe
you're referring to, and I can't find a reference to a Red Spider Nation.
The legend of Red Spider Woman comes from the Pawnee. Red Spider
Woman came to the early humans and showed them how to use the roots of
plants for healing and good medicine. If you could give me a clue about
which people you're referring to, I'll look again. :)
(Note: This question was posted to my Mailing List, and
was answered by a another list member. The question, and answer,
is so timely that they gave permission to post it here. Julia)
Question: This one is a little out if left field for some people,
but I am also a crossdresser. My grandmother told me that a was a blessed
person. What did she mean by this?
Answer: I can answer this one for you. In many Native
cultures, particularly before 'white' influence made homosexuality and/or
crossdressing taboo, homosexuals were revered as being very sacred beings.
It was believed that homosexuals were born being part of both male and
female worlds, and could serve as kind of a liason between the sexes.
Called 'berdache', they were often given as wives to a clan's most valued
warriors. Your grandmother was right...you are blessed. Pam
Question: Are the practices of Pow Wows still present in Native American
Answer: Natalie - I'm not really sure what you mean by this
question. Pow Wows are alive and well, and growing each year.
They are held all across Canada and the U.S. all year long. The dances
are taught parent to child, or relative to child, or through various tribal
offices and organizations. Since I'm not really sure what you were
asking, I'm not sure whether or not I answered you.
Question: Is there really such a thing as the pow wow trail?
Is it a walking tour? I'm trying to get some information. I'm
told it is held every 2 years out of the Mojave Desert. Karen
Answer: Karen, I think someone's pulling your leg in fun. :)
There is a "circuit", much the same as a circus tour, or a performer's
live concerts, for Pow Wow contestants who dance and drum for prize money.
They tour the country in competition Pow Wows, and some do very well.
This circuit they travel is often called "The Pow Wow Trail".
The White Mountain Apache are the easternmost of the western Apache
bands, and they originally lived in an area marked by the Pinaleno Mountains
on the south and the White Mountains on the north. Their ancestral home
was the Canadian/Alaskan territory, and they were Athabascan language people.
For reasons that history does not make clear, they left their homeland
to relocate in the plains areas of Texas and New Mexico in the early 1500s.
The language and customs of the Native people already in this area had
a gradual effect, and they migrated still further west into Apache country.
Their different looks always set them apart, but their "newly" adopted
language and customs won them acceptance into the Apache Nation.
At the present time, the White Mountain Apache live in the Fort Apache
Reservation. Their reservation covers some 1,664,972 acres, with a total
"known" population of 10,500+, a labor force of 3,000+, and an average
per capita income (in 1989) of $3,805. This is probably considerably higher
now, but it would be difficult to "prove". Of the population there, over
48% have a high school education or higher, and there is an unemployment
rate of around 13%. The affairs of the reservation are determined by the
There is a tribal herd of some 15,000 head of whiteface cattle, and
the tribe owns its own feedlot, a hay and grain store, and a 900 acre farm
that grows alfalfa for feed. It also owns the Alchesay Fish Hatchery, the
Fort Apache Timber Co. which controls 800,000 acres of timber land, the
Apache Aerospace Co. which produces prefabricated materials and accessories
for the Apache Helicopter, which is contracted by McDonnell-Douglas.
There is a strong tourist trade with the 500 miles of streams and
30 artificial lakes, campgrounds and all that goes with outdoor activities;
the Sunrise Ski Resort which operates on 3 mountains and which can transport
15,000 people per hour on their chair lift system. There are many historical,
educational and recreational facilities open to the public --- and all
are owned and controlled by the Natives.
The crystals and symbols that will be right for you are the ones
that call to you, or that you have an attraction for. This is purely a
personal choice as there are no "standard formulas" for such items in Native
The eagle will surely be included in the Animal Walk writings. Innerspace
is an on-going and continuing exercise in sharing, and nothing there will
stay the same except The Pow Wow Trail. New things are posted often, and
new sections created, so there is always something fresh and different.
The Mdewakanton are a band of the great Sioux Nation, and is actually
a division of the Dakota Sioux. They are currently living on some 400 hundred
scattered acres of land 30 miles SE of St. Paul Minnesota called the Prairie
Island Dakota Community of Minnesota. There are 160 people living on the
reservation; the total tribal enrollment is 486 (this in no way reflects
the total population for many refuse to enroll); the average income per
year is $3,600.
My question is... Is this wrong? He doesn't feel like it's wrong.
He truly loves the stuff and says he feels a connection to it. A lot of
people would call them grave diggers/robbers. Do you think they are? He's
a very good person and our entire house is decorated with Indian decor.
He truly loves the Native American stuff. He even believes he was an Indian
in a past life. Do you think he's wrong for digging for their artifacts?
I'm surprised that you can live peacefully in your house with the
disturbed spirits of all those who have been desecrated attached to those
artifacts. I would not want to walk into the energy in your house!
The Apache were treated with particular cruelty by the white government,
largely because they were among the last "hold outs", and because of the
strength of their leaders both male and female. They were taken to prison
camps in Florida and Alabama and several other states that were, in actuality,
concentration camps. I believe that it was not unusual for many to be tatooed
in the manner you describe. For a joyful journey into the history of the
Apache, I cannot recommend too strongly the book by Thomas Mails, "The
People Called Apache". It really is a must read for you and your family.
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