Original Boise Valley People descendants on the April 29 panel.
By LORI ANN EDMO
BOISE — Respect of the tribal people and their ways was emphasized in a panel discussion April 29 regarding enhancing relationships between the Original Boise Valley People and Boise State University.
BSU Anthropology Professor Erick Robinson organized the event telling the audience of numerous university staff, “For so long we’ve been going work on these people’s land – how do we start building a two-way street — ask what do you need from us and how can we help you?”
He’s interested in doing a program in collaboration with tribes as there is a golden opportunity at BSU. He would like the panelists to talk about their vision for productive interaction.
Lionel Q. Boyer, Shoshone-Bannock tribal elder, was the first to speak introducing himself in the Shoshone language. “We are here today on the ancestral lands of our people, today I understand, speaking to enhance the relationship of or people with BSU.”
He said anthropology is a broad approach to understanding the many aspects of a human experience, which is called a holism — definition of a philosophic theory where a whole system of beliefs must be analyzed, I believe the educational process is a continued practice of what the federal government and the United States targeted when they became frustrated with how to deal with the “so called savages.”
“The first peoples of this land they removed our people through many treaties and agreements to lands beyond where they found us. They tried to exterminate us by killing us – they even placed bounties on the scalps of our people — an Idaho newspaper had a full page ad of a bounty $100 for an adult male, $50 for an adult female, $25 for a minor male or female. That didn’t work so they initiated a treaty reservation for the removal process,” Boyer explained.
He said the federal government along with the Christian ideals worked with the churches and began the process of trying to remove the Indians. The government had the military and the police remove the children from their Indian families by force under the guise of education. “This was the boarding school area, where the process was a forced indoctrination or assimilation of these children. They were forced to leave their homes and families — forced to learn customs and practices that were foreign to them. And forced the people that were left to try and make it in a society that had no room for them. If they went back to their tribes and reservations many were left out. Some were successful in merging with the dominant society but many were not. This effort to make people assimilate to the American culture has been occurring for over 300 years or more,” he continued.
He said because of the type of education the children receive and the lack of education and the influence of social media. “It is working, some of our society looks to other cultures such as the Latino, the Mexican cultures, the black culture — our younger people are adopting their cultures and some are integrating those cultures with our tribal identities.” He added many times when we voiced our concerns about this “we were told forget it, that’s old time, live with it, this is today. Our tribes tried to maintain our traditions, our languages and our culture to maintain our identity. Our kids today have no real knowledge in education of our countries history.
Boyer said today in the news many states are pushing to limit the information that can be taught instead of stating the facts that they are – it is easier to skip those events that could put a critical light on the people at that time. “Look at the conflict between Russia and Ukraine – a country trying to impose its will on another by force that is what happened to our Indian people it seems by knowing and teaching our history good and bad we will repeat those actions that are kept in the dark.”
He said kids used to be taught civics —what it means to be a citizen of this country as it’s important to know how our government came into existence and how each of the branches of government was supposed to work with each other. It was important to know the responsibility that each citizen has to their local government city. It is important to know that many of the federally recognized Indian tribes have treaties with the federal government not with the states – there is a trust responsibility between the federal government and the tribes and that the Indian tribes have a separate standing than the state. These are things that used to be taught to the students but not anymore.
Boyer noted the curriculums have removed the civics so our people don’t learn about themselves, “They don’t learn about who we are, where they live, what they do, who represents them and why. Our Indian people need to preserve those teachings – our cultural practices, the languages and use the education through anthropology, anthropology is a very important word, an important access to our continuation as Indian people. It is also important the anthropologists understand the weariness of sharing of certain information and practices are not for public knowledge. This cultural appropriation of dress, language even medicinal practices, materials and uses have been a problem for a long time.”
He explained Indian people — the visionaries – the readers of the stars, the plant usage, for healing for health, for strength for power, our words as to who they may pass this information on to are they ready to commit the time, the perseverance to maintain our traditions, culture and knowledge of the older ones?” “I’m talking about our Indian children to carry on all of those practices that important to our traditions — that is key to the information that is written in many areas that the marks are left on the rocks, in the caves, the ledges of the rocks, shelters along the trail of our ancestors. These need to be protected from the many who belittle the purpose of the messages left by the ancient ones.”
Boyer said anthropologists, archaeologist and others who search for the great mystery need to be conscious of the importance of these gifts. “We are concerned today it seems that the words of the president when he told his staff take the Indian out of the Indian and save the man, those are becoming true many of our young people do not speak their mother tongue – they prefer to speak the English language rather than their own.” Our young, many were forced to attend boarding schools where they were punished when they used their language among themselves. He noted the technology of today doesn’t help. The schools doesn’t care about the child’s mother tongue. So today we see more of take the Indian out of the man. For our children to educated we have to let our own language be diminished. “That isn’t right. For our young to be able to practice our traditional use activities they have to be able to attend interpret the English language to their own understanding of their traditional concepts of their own culture. To be able to understand how to understand their traditional activities, the English meaning compared to the traditional language. We have people who do not understand the people they represent.”
He explained what he presented is his own observation and concerns.
Justina Paradise of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe said her tribe is also part of the Return of the Boise Valley People because her people were also in this area. She’s worked with archaeologists, “What I’ve seen archaeologists do in the past, I did not like at all. I heard an elder in my tribe say one time, we aren’t archaeologists, we don’t need anybody to tell all those things out there. Those things should be left alone they have a meaning, and when the archaeologists pick up all the artifacts that they’re removing, it’s what reminds the people that the ancestors were there. If they remove all the artifacts – all the prints off the land then what’s going to happen maybe 20, 30, 40 years from now.”
Paradise said she’s hoping things will change in working with Erick Robinson from BSU that she views as a blessing. “He is the one that came to the Return of the Boise Valley People and told us about these things here. Some of the things here we already knew from our ancestors the stories that they told us. The stories that were handed down to us from our ancestors being here. Every season our ancestors would come here and they would hunt wherever they were.” “I’m hoping a lot of that will change. Fort McDermitt Tribe has never really had any complication with Boise State. “I think this is the very first when Erick came to our tribe and introduced himself to our chairwoman and council.”
She said her tribe needs someone such as Erick to help as they don’t have the teachings of an archaeologist for their youth. She would like to see them use their own traditions to help them understand. What’s important is the mountains, Mother Earth, they don’t waste especially the water because water is life. She believes it’s the first time Fort McDermitt is representing at BSU, “I agree with Lionel I want things to change for the better for our people. Some of you would learn if you attend the ROBVP, can learn what our ancestors used to do, we gathered, we shared.”
Lynneil Brady of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe said her ancestors traveled throughout the area and were strong. “We come from tough people, our ancestors traveled on foot, we didn’t have tipis, they built shelters, they knew how to survive.” She said a lot of her ancestors tools are out there, you see them out there. Her grandfather always said if you find something leave it there, you don’t know what that is intended for. Arrowheads if that person was thinking they would harm someone or if they were hunting. “Whatever medicine is put in that arrowhead you are going to pick it up and take it with you, she continued. “We were always told unless it was given to you, you don’t bother it.”
Brady talked about how her Native language was her first language in her home. When she went to school her parents said to listen to the teachers or coaches if she played sports. She recalled her and a friend were playing on the playground at recess and were speaking their Native language. A teacher told them to not speak their language anymore. She took them inside and washed their mouths out with soap that traumatized them. She talked to her grandfather and a spiritual leader and they advised to be careful what you say and pray to your kids. She visits classroom and goes out on hikes with kids. She advises they may find a lot of things but you have to leave it out there and don’t pick them up. “You may harm yourself or take something bad back to your family.”
She was reminded by an elder to let anthropologists know when they’re out there destroying our ancestors burial place, ask them do you want us to go to your cemetery and dig your ancestors bones up and study them? If you come across our remains leave them alone, she advised.
Brady’s worked in her tribe’s culture department with Ted Howard and they have recordings of tribal elders who talked about the Boise Valley way back when there was plentiful fish as they visited and gathered. Then the Gold Rush came in and they didn’t want our people in the valley so they were forced marched to Fort Simco in Washington and Fort Vancouver in the middle of winter. If an elder got sock along the way and the younger people tried to help them the soldiers would tell them to leave them. “We don’t do that to our people, our elders are precious,” she said. “That’s our history reminding to be respectful when you are out there with our peoples stuff.” She’s read books that talk about our people in prehistoric terms. “We aren’t prehistoric, we’re not dinosaurs, we’re here, we’re living history and we will continue to be here.” She advised the tribal people to sit down and record their elders if they’re still living because they waited too long with her mother who passed away last year. She’s proud of the tribal people, if artifacts are found that signifies our ancestors were here – they were everywhere. When boundaries were put in place then the people started fighting amongst each other.
Diane Teeman, Burns Paiute, is her tribe’s Culture and Language Director and also chairwoman of her tribe. In addition, she’s a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Nevada Reno. She’s worked in the field for the last 34 years starting out as an archaeological technician. She learned while doing field surveys her tribal people were everywhere and developed a deeper understanding. She asked her father a lot of questions as he also worked as an archaeology technician. She became disturbed after learning about the Numic expansion an anthropologist wrote that told a story about her people that wasn’t true. It said they were recent arrivals to the land, “We’ve been here since time immemorial.” She had a discussion with her crew leader and he told her if you don’t like it then go to school so she did.
She’s realized, colonization, generational trauma and academia come in to study us, go and talk about us that is foreign and it’s led to those ologists becoming the experts on us. Papers are written, courses are taught, careers are made based on our tribes, “We may have never been given information what was written about us. There’s a lot of non-tribal narratives created about who we are.” Step back look at a culture foreign to land then recreating a past through these stories being born out of observation through western science, she continued.
Teeman said anthropologists are taught not to be ethnocentric (evaluate other peoples and cultures according to the standards of one’s own culture), but she sees them being ethnocentric, documenting and interpreting writing about tribes, from a philosophical perspective. The knowledge systems of western science that create narratives doesn’t take into account our tribal knowledge systems, “Our knowledge systems are just as valid as any other knowledge system.” What it says is that we are in the past. That the people today are enlightened, they have a better understanding, “We know ourselves that’s just not true that is where the ethnocentrism comes in,” she said.
She explained if you look at knowledge systems equally, the epistemology is what we know and how we know it. “Then you have to confront the fact western academia and the universities that create and perpetuate knowledge from western scientific bases that’s just one knowledge system that is having its way because of colonialism. If you take away that power that colonialism has given western science really what is there is just one knowledge system it doesn’t have any authority or any way to show that it is better than any other knowledge system.”
Teeman said what she finds fascinating when she stands back that somehow most of the universities are perpetuating this ethnocentrism and not taking into account the people they study have valid knowledge systems of their own. “Tribes have their own science and their own ways of knowing the world — their own ways of showing what’s valid and what isn’t but the anthropologists don’t come out to look at that because they’re fearful we have that. We have philosophy, we have science. They want to study us, write a book to become experts, There’s something terribly wrong about that. What many of us are trying to do is try to decolonize that system,” she said.
There was a time when archaeologists were getting afraid because tribes are getting more power because NAGPRA is coming along. They wonder what’s going to happen to our discipline, is it going to disappear, what’s going to happen to my career?
Teeman said instead coming to speak to tribes concerning NAGPRA there could be a relationship built — it might not always be a good conversation but maybe you could come to terms with the understanding that we both have values and needs that need to be addressed.
“I think for the future if I were to say what can BSU do is start to work on how you can decolonize your university, she said. Sadly her tribe works with four states and “sadly Idaho I feel like, has the most work to do.
She’s encouraged that this day is happening as they’ve all been given the opportunity to speak up but she really feel like there is a lot of work to be put in. “Hopefully people will be willing to do that and put those partnerships in. Everything each of the other panelists said spoke to my heart. I feel like there’s a lot of conversations that can happen and hopefully they will,” she concluded.