History Books Gold

What Happened This Year, Historically Speaking: 12 Popular Stories


This was a big year for history, including important anniversaries for the signing of the Dawes Act and the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. There was also some fascinating research that further debunks the Bering Strait Theory, and ICTMN took a hard look at artifact collection and talked a lot about why Andrew Jackson is still honored on the $20 bill.

A Dawes era poster. (Wikimedia Commons)

The anniversary of the Dawes Severalty Act being signed into law got readers talking in February. The act, which introduced private land ownership to American Indians, was signed into law by U.S. President Grover Cleveland in 1887. Also known as the General Allotment Act, it was arguably one of the most devastating U.S. laws for Natives, slashing millions of acres from the existing land base, breaking up many tribes, and threatening tribal sovereignty.

RELATED: Native History: Dawes Act Signed Into Law to ‘Civilize’ Indians

What if someone like Sequoyah replaced Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill?

In 2012, Andrew Jackson was ICTMN’s top pick for worst U.S. president—this year we nominated 10 Natives who could replace him on the $20 bill, including Sequoyah, who came up with a written syllabary for the Cherokee language and Seminole leader Osceola.

RELATED: 10 Natives Who Should Replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 Bill


New scientific discoveries rekindled the debate over the Bering Strait Theory this year. Alex Ewen wrote about Vine Deloria Jr.’s book, Red Earth, White Lies, and the scientists who question the theory. The Bering Strait Theory continued to unravel this year as dendrochronology—a dating system using tree rings—poked holes in previous radiocarbon data. A 22,000-year-old mastodon skull and tool (a stone blade or spear point) dredged from the seafloor of the Chesapeake Bay by fishermen in 1974 came to light this year, and raised more questions about the validity of the Bering Strait Theory.

RELATED: How Linguists Are Pulling Apart the Bering Strait Theory

RELATED: 22,000-Year-Old Mastodon and Tool Discovery Raise Questions

RELATED: Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 5: The Theory Comes Crashing Down

FBI agents work around a home in Rush County, Indiana on April 2, 2014, to confiscate thousands of artifacts from a private collector. (AP Photo)

A vast collection of artifacts that took a 91-year-old Indiana man eight decades to amass was seized by the FBI on April 2, suggesting that U.S. law enforcement might finally be taking this issue seriously.

RELATED: FBI Seizes Thousands of Artifacts from Indiana Home

RELATED: Huge Black Market in Native Relics Slowed By FBI Seizures

The caption reads: WOUNDED YELLOW ROBE. HENRY STANDING BEAR. CHAUNCY YELLOW ROBE. SIOUX BOYS AS THEY ENTERED THE SCHOOL IN 1883. THREE YEARS LATER. This image appears in John N. Choate's Souvenir of the Carlisle Indian School (Carlisle, PA: J. N. Choate, 1902). (Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA)

Did you know it is still legal to withhold food and clothing from Indian children who don’t attend school? Or that Indian children can be placed in reform schools without parental consent? While they are unlikely to be enforced, these and other boarding school laws are still on the federal books.

RELATED: 6 Boarding School Laws Still on the Books

Divers use lights to illuminate Hoyo Negro, an underwater cave in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where the remains of “Naia,” a teenage girl who lived 12,000 to 13,000 years earlier, were found. (AP Photo/Roberto Chavez Arce via Science)

The discovery and scientific examination of one of the oldest human remains found in the Americas confirms what Native people have known all along, that they are the original inhabitants of this hemisphere.

RELATED: New Discovery Confirms Native American Views on Their Ancestry

Buffalo still roam a pristine landscape that must be protected for future generations. (Christina Rose)

Values and integrity have always been respected by traditional Native peoples, but when colonization swept across North America, dishonesty and treachery took a terrible toll. Even many mainstream Americans are tired of it, but still don’t understand where they went wrong.

RELATED: 9 Things America Needs to Understand About Native Values

Estimates about the age of Serpent Mound are changing. (AP)

Serpent Mound in rural Adams County, Ohio, is one of the premier Native American earthworks in the hemisphere. Estimates of the age of the earthwork were radically revised as the result of a new radiocarbon analysis, suggesting that the mound is about 1,400 years older than conventionally thought.

RELATED: History Got it Wrong: Scientists Now Say Serpent Mound as Old as Aristotle

Sea floor scan showing one of the missing ships from the Franklin expedition. (Parks Canada/Canadian Press)

Inuit oral history proved correct when a ship, missing since 1846, was discovered in shallow waters in an area called Utjulik, just as Inuit oral accounts had maintained. The Inuit had an oral account of what had happened to the two ships under the command of Sir John Franklin, which had been discounted for decades.

RELATED: The Inuit Were Right: Shipwreck Find Confirms 168-Year-Old Oral History

Four horses wearing regalia designed by a youth program in Rosebud. (Keith Brave Heart)

Horse regalia has begun a comeback as a means of cultural revitalization. This was an idea that came to James Star Comes Out when looking at historic images of the Oceti Sakowin (Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota) and seeing many photos of horses dressed in regalia. Horse regalia disappeared within the Lakota culture for many years. “After the time when tribes were placed on the reservations, the use of horse regalia dwindled out,” Star Comes Out said. “In the parade in 2011, the response to seeing horse regalia was pretty awesome because a lot of people hadn’t seen that in years. I had never seen it in Pine Ridge.”

RELATED: Horse Regalia Making a Comeback in South Dakota [17 Images]

George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth Bacon Custer-Brady-Handy. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

In his book, Bloodshed At Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull, Custer, and the Destinies of Nations, Rocky Mountain College history professor Tim Lehman wrote that George Armstrong Custer had a son with a Cheyenne woman. Recorded Native oral history has several sources that say Custer had a son named Yellow Swallow with Meotzi.

RELATED: Did Custer Have a Cheyenne Mistress and Son? Native Oral History Says Yes

The site of the Sand Creek Massacre as seen today. (National Park Service)

November 29, 2014 marked the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, a tragic event of 1864 that forever changed Indian relations with the U.S. government. Many commemorative events were held to honor those lost, and remember the events of the past.

RELATED: Native History: Ways to Remember Sand Creek on the 150th Anniversary

RELATED: The Sand Creek Massacre: 8 Hours That Changed the Great Plains Forever

RELATED: What Led to the Sand Creek Massacre? Check Out This Timeline

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page