Manataka American Indian Council
MANATAKA AMERICAN INDIAN COUNCIL
The Manataka American Indian Council, Inc. is open to American
Indians, descendents of American Indians, and persons of all races who may come
on religious pilgrimage to this place known for thousands of years as Ma-na-ta-ka
(Place of Peace).
For thousands of years, American Indians of many nations knew Hot Springs
National Park, Arkansas as Manataka. It is said that tribes from across the continent visited the
“Valley of the Vapors”. Tribes
came on regular pilgrimages to one of the most sacred places from the
four-corners of the Western Hemisphere. The
Cherokee in the east and the Hopi in the west came.
The Cheyenne in the north and the Mayan in the south came.
The people of the Plains came. The
people of the Great Lakes came. Sometimes
the gathering for peace at Manataka was so large, the circle around the
sacred fire covered the entire valley.
The people of the land came to Manataka for many reasons.
They came to bathe in the healing sacred hot waters of Nowasalon (Breath
of Healing). They came to gather
the healing herbs, the healing red clay and the healing crystals.
They came to trade for salt and whetstones.
They came for many reasons, but the primary reason they came was to
perform sacred ceremonies, offer prayers, sing, dance and ask for the blessings
of the Great Creator. The American
Indian considered Manataka to be the most sacred gathering place on the
After the time of the first invasion into the Valley by Hernando Desoto and his Spanish Conquistadors looking for the "Fountain of Youth" in 1541, gatherings at Manataka began to wane. Disease, hunger, warfare, and forced relocations all conspired to prevent the large gatherings of the past to take place. Despite this, indigenous people continued to make long pilgrimages to this sacred site for approximately another 200 years. The ‘Keepers of Manataka’, the Tula of Tanico had been nearly decimated by disease and war brought by the Spanish army. Travel became increasingly more difficult and dangerous as indigenous populations rapidly declined due to genocidal policies of the federal government.
After the Louisianan Purchase in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commission Lewis and Clark to find the Pacific Ocean. During the same time he commissioned Dunbar and Hunter to find the mythical and precious hot springs of Manataka. There are roughly 10,000 hot springs in North America, so why was Jefferson so preoccupied by the hot springs at Manataka?
In 1818, greedy government agents duped the Quapaw Nation into ceding the hot springs and Manataka -- land they never claimed belonging to them. In 1820, The Territorial Assembly of Arkansas approved a petition to the U. S. Congress asking for "...Sections be granted to the local Legislature...”, to include all the hot springs. There was no doubt the government wanted to occupy this sacred site -- not to protect the "Place of Peace" and its water resources, but to discover the reason why so many indigenous nations gathered here.
In 1828, President Andrew Jackson came to power. Jackson's record regarding Native Americans was not good. He led troops against them in both the Creek War and the First Seminole War and during his first administration the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830. The act offered the Indians land west of the Mississippi in return for evacuation of their tribal homes in the east. About 100 million acres of traditional Indian lands were cleared under this law. As a military strategist, Jackson saw the strategic location of Manataka, the great gathering place of indigenous people, as a potential threat to the Removals because it was located only a few miles between the major "Trail of Tears" routes. So, Jackson pushed a ‘provisional law’ through Congress designating the hot springs and most of Manataka as the very first federal reservation created by the U.S. government. The purpose of the reservation was not to keep Indians in, but rather to keep them out. Settlers poured into the area and changed the landscape.
From Desoto to Jackson, powerful white Europeans and their descendents clamored to know the secrets of Manataka. Why?
Before the time of the genocide by relocation Removals of the 1830’s, when indigenous people were forcibly removed to Indian Territory, very few American Indians were able to come to Manataka for prayer ceremonies. Regardless of extreme hardships and severe persecution, a succession of small indigenous groups continued ceremonies in secret under the cover of darkness high on the mountain for the next 100 or more years. The notable Choctaw Chief, Louis LeFlor, came to Hot Springs and conducted ceremonies at the sacred Manataka site until his death here in the early 1830s.
In the early 1880's, a small group formed the Manatakau Indian Association in Hot Springs that covertly and sometimes overtly fostered the continuation of sacred ceremonies at the Hot Springs (Manataka) Mountain. In 1901, members of the Manatakau Indian Association petitioned for a charter from the Improved Order of Red Men, a national patriotic fraternity founded in 1887 and its Great Council of Arkansas and became part of thirty IORM tribes or lodges scattered throughout the state. The local group changed its name to Manataka Tribe No. 6 of Hot Springs and became part of the larger national organization. Many of the groups' meetings and events continued to be held at Fourche ă Calsat - Gulpha Gorge Park, then owned by the City of Hot Springs.
The focus and activities of the local Manataka Indian Association changed after they were adopted by the IORM. The new Manataka Tribe No. 6 lost its original spiritual aspects and became a civic organization.
About the time the Manataka Tribe No. 6 of Hot Springs ceased to exist in the 1930's, a new ‘Keeper of Manataka’ emerged who single handedly created a bridge between the previously inhospitable local community against American Indians and Indian spiritual leaders who came for prayer ceremonies.
Benito Altaha Gray Horse, a Chiricahau Apache, sometimes referred to as ‘Chief Gray Horse, moved to Hot Springs in 1927 and lived with his wife and family at the foot of the sacred mountain in Gulpha Gorge for the next 19 years. Benito Gray Horse was well-educated lawyer and doctor who lived in a hogan, made crafts to sell to the tourists and led visitors on tours of the mountain both on foot and horseback. He built a sweat lodge and dance circle and invited American Indian spiritual elders from many nations to return to the mountain. He learned many stories of the mountain from the elders and passed many of those stories on to his family and others. As a good communicator, Gray Horse won the respect and admiration of the local population and was chosen Grand Marshal of the Hot Springs Parade for two years before his death in 1946. See Chief Benito Gray Horse
A number of American Indian ‘Keepers of Manataka’ followed Gray Horse in quick succession until 1979, when Lee Standing Bear Moore moved to Hot Springs and formed a friendship with Louise Henrietta Napanee Gray Horse, wife of Benito Gray Horse, that lasted until her death in 1992. Napanee foretold that Manataka would once again emerge as a great spiritual site among American Indians. She gave Bear many of the stories of Manataka and led ceremonies that transferred the Story of Manataka, the Song of Manataka, and its many secrets to him.
In 1997, Bear began efforts to form an American Indian organization that would later become the Manataka American Indian Council. MAIC immediately began hosting Summer and Fall Gatherings at Manataka that have continued until 2004.
Amidst the fast moving changes at Hot Springs, a small but dedicated
group of “Keepers Manataka” have performed ceremonies
at Fourche Ă Calsat - Gulpha Gorge and on the sacred mountain under the cover of darkness for
This tradition continues to this day.
FOURCHE Ă CALSAT - GULPHA GORGE
In 1804 it was named Fourche ă Calsat, now it is called Gulpha Gorge. The deep canyon between Hot Springs Mountain and Indian Mountain is rich in history and legend. Gulpha Gorge is now a campground and picnic area located on Gulpha Creek just outside of downtown Hot Springs. (over the mountain from Hot Springs) If you were to go behind the bathhouses and walk over the mountain, you would be at Gulpha Gorge.
Before 1930, the city of Hot Springs owned the area and maintained a “swimming pool” at Gulpha Gorge. (postcard courtesy of Donna Smith)
When the National Park Service bought the property in the 1930’s they took the dam out and let the water run. Today the area has a creek of running water to refresh the picnickers and campers.
Legend states that the Caddo Indians camped in this area when going up to the quarry on Indian Mountain. Some called the creek the River of Soft Water due to the calcium content of the water.
The Legend of Sleepy Water states that a great Indian Chief came to Hot Springs to find relief from pain, and did not get results from the hot waters. His daughter led him through Gulpha Gorge and took him to a place of cold water. When he drank the water, he fell into a sleep, and when he woke up he was healed. The water at Gulpha Creek was the sleepy water. View the whole story at: http://www.manataka.org/page98.html
The creek is run-off from the mountains as well as being spring fed. Remains of the Big Iron Spring of the Gorge can be seen from the campground. (look for a pipe and cement wall near the creek) The creek and picnic area have become a favorite for local residents, and the campground is enjoyed by tourists from around the world.
Courtesy of http://www.hsnp.com/zz-guplhagourge.htm
We are here to welcome and serve those who return to perform ceremonies and bring honor to this sacred place. That is our primary purpose. Our mission is to teach. To be visible and help those who keep the culture and spirit of the American Indian alive and growing.
"Through Indian Eyes - The Untold Story of Native American Peoples, Reader's Digest Association (1995), pp27.
The Manataka American Indian Council was founded by four incorporators at Hot Springs Reservation, Arkansas on August 17, 1999. It was a call for many people to become Keepers of Manataka again. Lee Standing Bear Moore wrote the MAIC Constitution and organized three other incorporators Dr. Robert Eagle Horse McFarlin, Chairman; Paul Rhino Belden, Treasurer; and Bill Silver Fox Przewoznik, Senior Elder. Later, Robert Many Hawks Foy joined as an Elder by was forced to resign due to poor health.
In August 1999, McFarlin and Moore traveled to Tahlequah, Oklahoma
for a meeting of the Tribal Council of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee
Indians in Oklahoma. The two Elders
informed Chief Henson of MAIC efforts in Arkansas and asked to assist needy UKB
members. Many trailer loads of
clothing and other household items were delivered to Oklahoma over the coming
months and years.
During the next fourteen months, the Longhouse cultural center became a
vocal point of activity for local American Indians at Hot Springs National Park.
During that time, hundreds if not thousands of people heard the Story of
Manataka told on the wide veranda of the Longhouse.
MAIC established a community outreach program, teaching classes and
sponsored events. An effort
began to establish an Indian grave preservation and repatriation program (NAGPR)
in Arkansas. Between 1999 and 2000, MAIC presented over 100 programs to schools,
civic groups, and churches.
In April 2000, MAIC held its first Gathering at the Gulpha Gorge National Park Campground. It should be pointed out here that MAIC was not the first American Indian group to conduct ceremonies at this sacred site. Approximately 350 persons attended the first Gathering. Ceremonies were officiated by Lyman Weasel Bear.
In June, MAIC sponsored the “Full Circle Celebration of Native
America” at the Hot Springs Convention Center attended by over 4,500 people.
Forty-five expert Indian crafters and artists from many Indian nations shared
their work. Forty-five
members of the Cherokee Select Children’s Choir serenaded guests in the halls
and lobby areas before the main musical event.
The Great American Indian Dance Company, Echoes of Earth and Sky Dance
Troupe, and recording artist Bill Miller told the Story of Manataka in song and
dance. Cherokee storyteller, Gale
Ross directed the stage performance and presented several traditional stories.
Chief Jim Henson of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in
Oklahoma and Councilman Everett Waller of the Osage Nation honored MAIC with
special presentations. Chief Bill
Little horse was there. Chief Selma of the Ocali Nation and many other Indian
dignitaries attended the event. Governor
Huckabee of Arkansas declared it “Manataka - American Indian Day in
Arkansas” and the Mayor of Hot Springs presented a special proclamation.
MAIC released a video entitled, “The Story of Manataka” featuring Lee
Standing Bear Moore, MAIC’s Secretary, Historian and Storyteller.
The Elder Council of MAIC continued to operate the Cherokee Longhouse
until July 2000 when the lease on the building was not renewed.
In October 2000, MAIC sponsored the second Gathering at Manataka
at the Fire Circle in Gulpha Gorge National Park Campground.
Approximately 360 people attended. Woableza
and Lyman Weasel Bear officiated ceremonies.
Inducted were one hundred and two new MAIC members.
The University of Arkansas enlisted MAIC to begin a long series of
special presentations to varied groups on the history and culture of Hot Springs
The Elders developed a plan to build the Manataka American Indian Village
in five stages over a 10-year period.
An ambitious plan to increase membership was launched and the Elder
Council launched a new website at www.manataka.org on at 12:01:01 on January 1,
2001. During the next year,
over 123,000 visitors read the Manataka website.
Efforts began to increase school programs and community outreach efforts.
Correspondence by U.S. Mail, email and telephone calls increased rapidly
and membership applications increased.
In March 2001, MAIC members painted the new 20’ Manataka Lodge tipi donated by Dennis (Chief) Joseph of the Seneca. The Great Arkansas Barbecue Championships features MAIC members cooking buffalo and deer over an open pit. Over 1000 people watched and listened during the day as members danced in full regalia and demonstrated native crafts.
In April 2001, the Gathering at Manataka was held at the Fire Circle and brought together approximately 400 people. Elders and distinguished guests held council inside the new twenty-foot, painted Manataka Tipi Lodge at the Spring Renewal Gathering. Woableza officiated ceremonies. Inducted were over 100 new MAIC members, including people from three foreign countries.
A group of members in Sedona, Arizona petitions MAIC for recognition as a
chapter. A group in
Westminster, England sent a similar request.
The Council deferred action on this issue until chapter guidelines can be
MAIC organized the Arkansas American Indian Education Task Force
comprised of representatives from other American Indian organizations located in
Arkansas. The goal of the
Task Force is to develop an American Indian education curriculum for public and
private schools. The meeting was
the first time in history when all the organizations in the state met for a
common purpose. Over forty people,
including teachers, counselors and people from many occupations joined the Task
In May 2001, The Arkansas Farm Bureau invited MAIC to present a
special program during their annual convention. Approximately 750 people attended the event.
By mid-year, MAIC had presented nearly 64 programs to schools, civic
groups and churches. In June, the first formal elections were held during the
Summer Solstice Gathering. Relected
to the Elder Council were: Dr. Bob
Eagle Horse McFarlin, Chairman; Paul Rhino Belden, Treasurer; Lee
Standing Bear Moore, Secretary; Bill Silver Fox Przewoznik, Senior
Elder. Newly elected Elders; Dr.
Bob Tsalagi Digadoli Swindell, Mike Quite Walker Hundhausen, Joe Gray Ghost Chunn, Cuchi Davila, Linda
Appointed were: Sharon Kamahmah Baugh, Chair of Manataka Women’s Council; Rick BlackWolf Smith, Chair of Warrior Society; Ernie Eagle Water Bird Garza, Song Keeper; John Red Eagle Rucker, Fire Keeper.
In October 2001, the Fall Gathering was hosted by MAIC at the Fire Circle. 275 members and guests were treated to a special ceremony in addition to the Fire, Flag, and Pipe ceremonies officiated by Woableza. A traditional Indian wedding took place and was officiated by the wife of John Lone Hawk, Maybelle Minerich and Woableza. Two members, Messochwen Teme and White Owl from Tennessee were married under the canopy of the Manataka tipi and gave vows in the Fire Circle during the Rite of the Seven Steps. Over 100 new members were inducted in 2001.
MAIC members participated in ceremonies proclaiming November “American Indian Heritage Month” with the Commander of Pine Bluff Arsenal representing the United States government and Chief Bill Little Horse representing American Indians in Arkansas. Appointed were Mike Talking Eagle Unger and John Red Eagle Rucker to fill vacancies on the Elder Council.
Members built a 4’ X 24’ tipi trailer, called the Red
Elders submit a Chapter Development bylaw for consideration in January.
MAIC applied for and received formal 501(c) (3) nonprofit exemption
status from the Internal Revenue Service.
During the year, MAIC and its members presented history and general
cultural programs and participated in American Indian events all over Arkansas
and in many states.
Currently MAIC meets monthly during open session at the Fire Circle
located at Gulpha Gorge Campgrounds at Hot Springs (Manataka), Arkansas.
MAIC’s office is in the Secretary’s home.
Throughout 2002, wedding, naming
or blessing ceremonies were taking place on a weekly basis. Frequently,
spiritual elders from various tribes were coming to pray and perform private
ceremonies at the Manataka. Robert
Woableza LaBatte, a Lakota Spiritual leader, ggg-grandson of Sitting Bull and
Grand Chief of the World Council of Spiritual Elders of Mother Earth became
Manataka’s official Spiritual Elder.
Seven elders journeyed to the sacred mountain
and two Gatherings were sponsored by MAIC. The last Gathering in November,
2002, Zintkala Oyate,
MAIC sponsored an “Encampment” at the McFarlin Cherokee Ranch in April. About a dozen or so elders had journeyed to Manataka to pray in 2003. In June, the annual Summer Gathering at Manataka will be led by Grand Chief Woableza and Omeakaehekatl, a Maya high priest and Day Keeper who will conduct ancient rites. The Painted Horse War Dance Society of Oklahoma acted as color guard and performed dance exhibitions. Chief Gray Wolf Henson (ret.), former chief of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians led the Fire Ceremony. MAIC continued with the same leadership after elections in June. The entire elder council was unanimously re-elected with over 398 votes counted.
Also in 2003, the Bear Society of Arkansas began to perform the Bear Dance Ceremony at Gatherings and other events.
By June Gathering of 2004 twelve spiritual elders came to Manataka to perform ancient ceremonies completing the requirements and setting the stage for a cleansing of Manataka to take place. The Saginaw Chippewa Warrior Society came with their families to join hands in the sacred circle at Manataka with other indigenous peoples. Charles Doc Davidson, David Quiet Wind Furr, Hervie Chisum, Garl White Horse Neel, and Nell Beautiful Basket Hampton, were newly elected to the Elder Council. Bob McFarlin, Bob Swindell and Lee Standing Bear Moore were reelected. Becky Moore was elected Chair of the Women’s Council and a seat on the Elder Council after Sharon Kamama Baugh was forced to resign do to ill-health.
Bonnie Delcourt of New Hampshire was appointed administrator of the newly created Manataka Red Road Message Board.
By the end of 2004, MAIC website had grown to nearly 700 web pages and over 2,600 printed pages. MAIC enjoyed 3.8 million hits between June 2003 and June 2004. For the first time since the website came online, prospective members could apply online. A new website Trading Post area was created to give members an opportunity to sell their hand-made crafts and to generate funds for expanding programs and services. Bonnie Delcourt of New Hampshire was appointed administrator of the newly created Manataka Red Road Message Board.
Immediately after the June Gathering a political movement began outside the Elder Council to replace the secretary and appoint a new Treasurer from outside the ranks of the duly elected officers. A movement was begun to replace the MAIC Constitution by two insurgents and they attempted to take control of the website, post office box, bank account telephone lines and email accounts without the knowledge of the entire Elder Council. The coup attempt failed and one Elder was forced to resign and three others voluntarily resigned.
During this time the newly appointed superintendent of the Hot Springs National Park Service was encouraged by the insurgents to deny MAIC a permit for its annual Fall Gathering based on nefariously incorrect information. The new superintendent claimed the government did not consider Manataka a sacred American Indian site and attempted to thwart Gatherings by dissecting the ceremonies and called some activities non-religious in nature. In November an "Un-Gathering" was held at Gulpha Gorge despite harassment by government employees.
It is believed by some that the new superintendent of the National Park Service conspired with insurgent members to create dissention and take over control of the organization. In October, another insurgent was discovered lingering within the ranks of the Council. Steps were taken force his immediate resignation.
Regardless of past internal strife and illegal government actions to deny members of Manataka the Constitutional rights of religious worship , the organization experienced an upsurge in new memberships and support started pouring in from dozens of spiritual elders from across the country. Newly elected Elder Council members aggressively began efforts to reorganize and revitalize the organization.
In January 2005, Charles Doc Davidson was elected chairman. Doc "Chanter" Davidson has led sweat lodge ceremonies in the Yokuts tradition for several decades and leads the Bear Society of Arkansas. He is a counselor and is a coordinator for the South Arkansas Drug Court. David Quiet Wind Furr, Cherokee, elected Vice Chairman, is a minister and conducts sweat lodge ceremonies on his property on Locket Mountain. Quiet Wind is also MAIC's Public Relations Elder. Betty Grand Mother White Moon Frey, a Cherokee from North Arkansas a former bookkeeper for 14 years, was elected to the position of Treasurer in February. She quickly assembled the 2004 financial records and declared in March that the books of MAIC were completely "balanced to-the-penny". Bonnie Rides the Wind Cloud, Choctaw, was elected Membership Elder and made great strides in improving membership services and communication. Bonnie worked in Indian Health Care Services in Arizona and New Mexico for many years and is a registered nurse. Jim Path Finder Ewing, Cherokee, is an editor of a major newspaper and practices ancient shamanic medicine. He was elected Elder of the Grave Preservation and Repatriation Committee. Rick Wind Call-er Porea is an Little Rock businessman and Gourd Dancer. He has been a teacher of the Ocali Nation traditions for many years. Wind Call-er was elected Elder of Events and Ceremonies.
The new Elder Council moved with agility and renewed dedication to bring about a more efficient and responsive organization for the benefit of all its members. The principals and goals of MAIC were preserved and a bright future lay ahead.
In March 2005, Otto Riollano Caballo Blanco Davila of Puerto Rico was appointed to the newly created office of Ambassador to Spiritual Elders of Latin America. Read his impressive biography here:
In April 2005, MAIC hosted the Manataka Encampment at a new location -- Bald Mountain Park and Retreat in Hot Springs. The encampment enjoyed the largest crowd in its history.
By May 2005, www.manataka.org increased the total number of web pages to over 856 and over 3,453 printed pages. Manataka was gifted with a number of tribal flags to add to those already received.
In June 2005, the new superintendent of the Hot Springs National Park, Jose Fernandez, refused MAIC, for a second time, a permit to conduct spiritual ceremonies during the Summer Gathering at Manataka at Gulpha Gorge Campgrounds. No reason was given for the denial. Regardless of the lack of a permit, approximately 270 members and supporters of Manataka went to the sacred circle and performed ceremonies and left without incident. (Park Rangers were blocking the entrance to the campgrounds, but our people found a way in and out without being seen.)
The year 2006 has been one of the best yet. David Quiet Wind Furr was elected Chairman; Lee Standing Bear, Secretary; Rick Wind Call-er Events Elder; Gayle Sexuaer, Public Relations Elder; Patti Blue Star Burdette, Ceremonial Elder; and Rebecca Moore, Women's Council Elder. This Elder Council is in "sync" with each other. They are all dedicated and perform well under stress. The Manataka Smoke Signal enlisted correspondents from many parts of the country and many tribal backgrounds. The Manataka Ambassador to Spiritual Elders of Latin American project began developing solid goals and developed many contacts in Latin America.
In May 2006, MAIC produced 10,000 copies of the "American Indian Spirituality" booklet Manataka was invited by the National Association of Chaplains to present 18 hours of intense lectures on "American Indian Spirituality" during their annual convention in Atlanta. Lakota Spiritual Elder Peter Catches (the Enemy), a 38th generation leader of the Spotted Eagle Sun Dance in South Dakota assisted Manataka Elders in the presentations.
The Women's Council grew in 2006 and hosted a number of events, including Women's Healing Retreats, and trips to Toltec Mounds archeological sites and the Turpentine Creek powwow. The Manataka Drum Society, headed by Melinda Musical Healer Smith, began the process of recruiting and teaching new members. MAIC participated again in the Hot Springs Christmas Parade and several local, state and national events. Civic organizations, churches and schools all across the country received presentations about American Indian culture.
Members now participate in 7 committees, programs and projects: NAGPRA, Drum Society, Smoke Signals, Counseling, Women's Council, Website, and Education. More programs and services are planned for 2007. Manataka's membership increased in 2006 and over 4.3 million guests visited the website. The Smoke Signal opt-in subscribers increased over slightly over 26,000.
The Spring Encampment, Summer Gathering and Fall Gathering all experienced a drop in attendance due to the change of location from our traditional grounds and intimidations from the National Park Service employees. Regardless of NPS harassment, we remain peaceful and loving in spite of these things and continue to perform ceremonies in the sacred Circle under threat of physical harm and arrest. Magdala Rameriz, a Maya Priestess; Mario Conroy, an Apache Pipe Carrier, Sundancer, and Spiritual Elder; Qua ti si, a Cree singer and Standing Bear, a Lakota flute player and singer, participated in the Fall Gathering.
More will be added later...
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