Saturday, June 25, 2011

Havasupai Reservation, 1880-1; The Mystery Restated

There is no trouble in drawing the picture of Havasupai life before 1880 from Havasupai testimony, archeologists & anthropologists, visitors; all revisited in the Indian Claims Commission exhibits. As an adaptation to a region of plateau cut up by a canyon, immense in human terms, that life seems similar to that of some of the Hualapai bands. They hunted large and small animals, and were noted by neighbors for the quality of the buckskin they produced for trade. They gathered, including such high-end foods as piñon nuts. They gardened at places with sufficient water: below the rim at Indian Gardens, Havasu creek itself, on the plateau in the Pasture Wash area. They traveled (easily?) between canyon bottom (apparently mostly Cataract Creek/Havasu Canyon), esplanade, and the plateau above the upper rim, maintaining shelter appropriate to the seasons. Access to the river being more difficult than in Hualapai territory, there appears no testimony to northerly, cross-river travel. The extent of their living space went west to mingle intimately with Hualapai, south to the mountains and Rim where they may have contested with the Yavapai, and east to trade, visit, even live with the Hopi, and vice versa. In more recent times, the Navajo/Dine arrival must have complicated matters; the latter were not to be denied in their expansion. So whatever its antiquity and origins, Havasupai life was one enough in scale with the resources & climate that it lasted for some centuries.

The new wanderers, the whitefolk intruders & invaders, started poking around as early as the 1500's. The Spanish explorers had little interest in permanence or even extraction. Though they left behind horses, they did not use the area even for cattle. The XIXth century brought the more determined, imaginative exploiter. Explorers, certainly, perhaps some few hoping for fur, saw in the century. But the open reaches of the plateau laid it open to the railroad builders, the grass brought the cattlemen and their locust-like hordes, then the country seemed to be swarming with would-be miners, and the military returned, more permanently, to fight, keep some sort of order, to organize.

Summarized thus, it feels like a tsunami, this XIXth century episode of human spread (see Limerick characterization of the West also). The Hualapai, like many, were so closely pressed that they fought back. The Havasupai, perhaps more remote or warier, never got the reputation of fighters, and did not suffer the kind of removal that the Hualapai and Navajo did. Indeed the contacts with them were so ephemeral or unrecorded that there appears in the record none of the usual drama of conquest. Which makes what happened to them a mystery, unclarifiable as to whether it is one of perversity (ignored because they did not war) or inertia, corruption, or simply lack of enough interest to record information. 

The Havasupai Reservation mystery is simply put: Why were the Havasupai given such an inappropriate reservation, instead of one similar to that of the Hualapai? An 1875 newspaper report suggests the start of the path into this puzzle of the miniscule or missing Havasupai reservation of 1882.  That report, of prospectors talking about mineral in Cataract Canyon, led four years later to a claim for silver-bearing ore being staked in December 1879. So, being in and around Cataract and vicinity for four years, the prospectors were either summer-only operators or blind not to have known of Havasupai seasonal movement from canyon to plateau and back.  
Meanwhile, starting at least as early as 1877, the military was thinking about a satisfactory reservation to deal with Hualapai restiveness. One suggestion in early 1877 was to put them near Cataract Creek “where they could be united with the Supais, who have never been under control”. So the military too had encountered the Havasupai, perhaps knew about their being on the uplands, and  thought them somehow related to the Hualapai,. 

Just three months after the claim-staking, John C. Fremont, Arizona Territory governor, kindly wrote to the Interior Department, commending the Havasupai and warning of prospecting activity in their area. His solution was a reservation with a 2-mile-by-12-mile straight-line boundary running along Cataract. And another three months later, June 1880, the Indian Office went further, recommending 5 by 12 miles. The starting point of both was 2 miles downstream (north) of the lowest of three waterfalls. The lines, however, did not come up onto the plateau, suggesting the limited purpose of protection for the Havasuapi from prospecting intrusion or, mirror-like, protection for the prospectors to lay claim to Havasupai land. An executive order based on this recommendation was issued 2 Jun 1880, accompanied by this map ( it is the marked rectangle): 
The map however says "10 miles lg & 5 miles wide". Moreover, the orientation of Havasu Creek is too narrow and too north-south; it actually slants upstream to the southeast. So the map implies the reservation took in more of the canyon than it did. An error in direction in the Order led to a corrected one being issued on 23 Nov 1880. The map seems not to have been changed, and shows what the map drawers in Washington, who had never been near the Grand Canyon, had to deal with. Anyway, this was fast work, though all on paper. But already in August the prospectors had complained, wanting to “reap the fruits of their toil”. The Indian Office then asked the army to straighten things out, since it was already working on a reservation for the Hualapai.

When Lt. C. R. Palfrey rode across a June-hot plateau in 1881 and down into Cataract, he may already have thought setting down a geometric boundary in that canyon was an impossible task. He certainly knew about the prospecting activity. When he arrived, whom did he meet? He saw some Havasupai certainly, but although summer was the time for Havasupai being resident along the blue of Havasu Creek, Palfrey mentions only two in his report. Also, he certainly met and spoke with (chats with, laughs with, eats with?) the whitefolk prospectors who were convinced, as always, of the great riches to come from their toil. And would these prospectors not have made their case to Palfrey that their claims (and future ones?) should not be encumbered by having land withdrawn for the Havasupai? And surely they argued that nothing should interfere with access so that equipment could come into the canyon and mineral out. Yet, and strangely to a cynical American mind, Palfrey’s report made no mention of such considerations for shrinking the rectilinear reservation down to a wiggly strip along the creek. His mention of the mining was even dismissive; indeed, the prospectors were giving up three claims. Could this have been only naïve, indirection, evidence of corruption? All he wrote was that marking the boundary as proclaimed would present great difficulties. Here is the overall view of what he produced, with a somewhat more closely approximating 5x12-mile rectangle, though still not a perfect one, for comparison:
Put on one map, the shrinkage is difficult to swallow as just "surveying problems". 

The mystery is only deepened by the arrival of Lt. Col. W. R. Price in July. He had just come from a conference with the Hualapai in which a few days before they had agreed to a million-acre reservation running, again on straight lines, from the railroad up to the Colorado River, where it ran along the river. No funny business here (that would come afterwards); the Hualapai needed, Price knew or was told, plateau and canyons to provide for their extensive way of life, which was more or less the same as the Havasupai’s, hunting & gathering using the plateaus, with some gardening, either at springs up above or down in canyons. So, fresh from this win-win triumph, Price rode over the July-hot plateau and down into Cataract. And although in his report, he opined that the miners will give up, given the difficulties, he didn’t draw the obvious conclusion that there was no impediment to an appropriate, Hualapai-like reservation for the Havasupai. What makes this lack of corrective action even more mysterious is that he knew the true situation, since he wrote that the Havasupai occupy lands abandoned by prehistoric Hopi (he calls them Moqui), going up in the fall to the eastern plateau to hunt and then make buckskins, which they use in trade to the east and west.  Yet, having this accurate picture of an extensive life similar to that of the Hualapai (though without the war), he didn’t disturb Palfrey’s arrangements, accepting the lieutenant’s lame notion of difficult boundaries, instead of using his own knowledge to say: We had better recommend a reservation that really protects them.  And here is what Palfrey arranged, up close:
Surely the miners were pleased.  

So now we come to the hapless and misconstrued Navajo (or Ko-hot'; see my 9 Sep 2009 post for a more admiring entry), an older Havasupai who bears history’s burden of cringeingly wanting only security for his own little patch of arable land in the canyon bottom. He is not recorded as making complaints about miners’ intrusions or water conflicts. The scene is absurd. Price counted over 200 Havasupai, and yet the only person he & Palfrey talked to, using the medium of Charley Spencer (a cattelman on Hualapai land), was this caricature of servility. And Price was careful to dismiss the miners as misguided about their prospects and “gratified” at the contracted boundary. Well, there is no evidence silver crossed anyone’s palm; the miners were probably not rolling in wealth. Yet somehow Lt. Col. Price, accurately knowledgeable about Havasupai way of life, and having just consulted the Hualapai in a mass meeting to get their approval for an immense tract, didn’t think to consult with any of the other 200 Havasupai, who were, in their seasonal pattern, down along Havasu creek. 

Im dubious of Hirst's gloss (p.59, Life in a Narrow Place), accepting Price's account of Ko-hot''s dread of removal.  He and Price were talking right there, face to face. Price had just come from the Hualapai reservation meeting; it would have been a simple and obvious step for Price to have explained to Ko-hot' that a reservation was protection of the lands they needed just like for the Hualapai and without the need for war or removal. He could easily have called a Havasupai meeting. If Ko-hot', to use Knapp's hypothesis, was using accommodative strategies, surely it was Price's duty to explain that good will would not be  enough; there had to be the protection (granted, too often too weak) of whitefolk boundary lines. Certainly Ko-hot''s statement to Frank Cushing (who arrived in the canyon the next week) was accommodative, and not anxiety-ridden. The Havasupai, Ko-hot' said, would not steal nor insult the whitefolk; friendliness was his policy: "We shall look upon each other without anger, and our children will greet each other pleasantly and as friends." 

Conspiracy theories have been built on much less than Price & Palfrey's actions. They knew what the Havasupai needed and used; they claimed they were dubious about the mining. Were they culpable in some corrupt fashion? Or perhaps cowardly, or just lazy; perhaps dazed by the heat? But minimally, the explanation for the reservation boundaries ought to be lifted from Ko-hot'’s shoulders. What he actually said, translated and recorded by whitefolk, should be well-salted in the telling. However motivated—and ignorance was not part of it--, the lieutenant and his colonel are front and center in responsibility for setting the lines down and the debate up that would plague the Havasupai for almost a hundred years.

+++++++++++                         ++++++++++++++                      ++++++++++++++

I am tantalized by the thought of what the soldiers might have recommended as appropriate, had they drawn an obvious conclusion that the Havasupai needed something very like the Hualapai. A line going east from the eastern Hualapai line would have gone across Cataract, including important springs, and at some point turned north – surely so as to include Pasture Wash, but what about Indian Gardens?-- and run down “to the Colorado River and along the river” to the Hualapai eastern boundary. Here is that "1885 Fantasy Map" including a more appropriate reservation and a what-if GCNP from the contemporaneous Powell-Harrison proposal: 
Would such a Havasupai reservation – and note that the Havasupai would have been in actual possession and use, unlike most of the Hualapai who had been driven way off the land they ended up with – have protected their established way of life, alternating canyon & plateau through the year?  As with the Hualapai, there would have been pressures from cattlemen over water and land. The prospectors might have acted up more vigorously. Eventually, there would have been trouble over deer hunting, too, and perhaps squabbling over places to homestead. But the Hualapai persevered successfully. And of course the Havasupai did too, winning repatriation of land. And it only took a century. 

Most importantly, would an appropriate Havasupai reservation have avoided a fight with Park advocates entirely? Or would the latter have been so entranced by the wonders of the Havasu Canyon area that they would have attempted a land grab, both above the rim and below it, even including some of the waterfalls? And no matter what the final Park-Reservation boundary would have been, how differently would relations with the NPS have developed, especially in employment, tourist facilities, and education? Would an eastward instead of a west-side tilt have developed in Havasupai/Indian Affairs travel and administration? Is it conceivable that over the decades the parties would have come to an accommodation that combined sovereignty and visitation with advantage for all? With no century-long effort to gain some of their land back, would the Havasupai have developed on their own path, or have followed the Hualapai or still another template? Could they have maintained a way of life more attuned to the land and its resources, have resolved conflicts with their neighbors in a creative or deadening way, have worked out a way of life now inconceivable?

 NARA, DC, Indian Office, Special Case I; microfilmed Letter Books by Division (L, E, W) & date; also, file on Executive Order of Jun 2 1880. Missing are some letters, e.g., Fremont’s.
 Digests of exhibits for Havasupai and USA before Indian Claims Commission, n.d.
 Dobyns & Euler, “A Brief History of the NorthEastern Pai”
 Hirst, Stephen, Life in a Narrow Place, David McKay Co., 1976
 Schwartz, Douglas, W. , “Havasupai 600 AD – 1955 AD, A short cultural history”
 Service, Elman, 1947, “Recent Observations on Hav Land Tenure” in SWAnthropology, 3-4-360
 Casanova, Frank, “ Trails to Supai in Cataract Canyon”

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