Manataka American Indian Council






Gorge dig yields ‘significant’ finds

By: Jim Newsom - The Sentinel-Record - Published: 03/30/2011


Last week’s shallow-shovel archaeological dig in the Gulpha Gorge Campground in Hot Springs National Park has yielded “important” and “significant” evidence about human life here thousands of years ago, National Park Service archaeologist Bill Hunt said.

“We found some evidence of a prehistoric occupation there,” Hunt said. “In one hole, we got a point, like a dart point, that would date somewhere around 3,000 to 4,000 years old.”

He said the dart point and other unearthed artifacts indicate “that the place was being lived in by these people.”

“People have been living here quite a long time, back at the beginning of the Holocene Epoch when there were mammoths and horses running around. There were people here then,” he said.

Hunt said the findings are important archaeologically to the park “because it gives them a broader understanding of the prehistoric occupation of the park area.”

“It’s a significant find because we didn’t really have anything on that side of the park at all other than the prehistoric quarries,” he said. “We didn’t have any living area, either a campground or a village or anything like that. This is the first time that we’ve actually recorded something like that in Gulpha Gorge within the park.”

According to textbooks, the Earth is presently in the Holocene Epoch, which spans from about 10,000 years ago to the present, and is the time in which humans became the dominant life form on the planet.

He said the Gulpha Gorge site “was one of a small number of prehistoric occupations, like a little campsite or village, in the park.”

“There’s not too many of those; there’s a few over on Bull Bayou and this one on Gulpha Gorge,” Hunt said. “That makes these pretty significant sites as far as the park’s history and the interpretative history goes.”

Hunt said that although fill debris deposited over the years at the site largely prevented access to older soil levels during last week’s dig, “we did find some flakes here and there, stone flakes for making stone tools.” He said the dart point “helped us date the time when prehistoric Indians were living in that particular location.”

He said the shallow shovel digs at the campground also unearthed pieces of a bath house present when Gulpha Creek was dammed up years ago to form a swimming pond.

“We’ve got tiles and things like that from the bath house,” said Hunt, who is affiliated with the Midwest Archaeological Center in Lincoln, Neb. “You can still see some of the remnants of the pond there today.”

The shallow digs began March 21 and continued through March 25.

“The shovel tests give us a chance to peek into the ground here and there,” Hunt said during the dig. “We’re just doing it with a shovel. We’re only going a couple feet deep in each hole.”

He said the items unearthed will be taken to the Midwest Archaeological Center for analysis, cleaning, photographing and cataloguing.

“At the end of our analysis, we write a report telling the park what we found and where,” Hunt said. “All of the artifacts come back to the park and are held in the park’s curatorial facility.”

Hunt said the unearthed artifacts are valuable for their archaeological context.

“You have to know where the things come from and what kinds of things are found with them to be able to do some interpretation about what people were doing at that particular location,” he said regarding the discoveries.

Hunt said that in their archaeological contexts, the uncovered prehistoric artifacts comprise “brand new information that we didn’t have before.”

“That’s pretty good information. I think that’s important. That makes it a pretty significant kind of thing.”

Hunt and his team of diggers, comprised of Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and Arts students and volunteers from Indiana, have moved from the Gulpha Gorge area to Whittington Park “doing the same thing” in hopes of other area archaeological discoveries.




Editorial Comment:

From Elders of Manataka



This story is nothing new

By Takatoka  


For nearly 25 years Elders of the Manataka American Indian Council told the Hot Springs National Park Service and anyone who would listen, that our beautiful sacred grounds bears evidence of our ancestors.  Yet, NPS bureaucrats yelled, "These are not sacred grounds!"


In 2008 a publication about Hot Springs [Manataka] called, "Indians Came Here... Didn't They?", commissioned by Josie Fernandez, superintendent of the NPS, the author points an ugly finger and slanders all indigenous people and those who listened when our Elders spoke.  The book laughs at the true meaning of Manataka (The Place of Peace -- literally, the Unbroken Circle). The author laughs at the prospect that our people consider the beautiful places found within the area of Manataka sacred.  The book goes to great lengths to prove that indigenous people did not come here and do not believe these grounds to be sacred.


Time and evidence will prove otherwise.


The book, paid for with tax dollars and some donations, has received little to no attention and is full of inconsistencies and out-right fabrications -- not worth a dime.  The book is full of local history, but is written through the eyes of a racist plan to turn Manataka into a myth.


For several years in public meetings and private conversations, Fernandez ridiculed Manataka Elders, then outwardly and systematically denied our freedom of worship.  She stood up in a meeting and called the Elders of Manataka pagans and heathens.  [No matter to her that four Elders are Christian ministers.] She denied our right to worship at the Gulpha Gorge campgrounds while demanding a tremendously large ($100,000.00) insurance bond -- in a way no other religious body has been denied access. 


The recent finding of ancient artifacts by an archaeological survey at Gulpha Gorge is not new.  We have always known they were there. 


In 1996, Lee Standing Bear Moore helped commission the painting of a (80' X 20') outdoor wall mural on the grounds of the Quality Inn at the foot of the Manataka (Hot Springs) Mountain.  The painting depicted a Tula tool-making camp that once stood in that same exact spot.  Another wall mural on the main building next door depicted the Mother of the Mountain (Rainbow Woman - Ixchel) sitting beside the healing waters of Nowasalon.  Both murals were destroyed in 2009 to make way for the newly renovated Red Roof Inn. 


There was only one thing wrong with the beautiful mural.  While spending some time in India that year, the artist decided without permission of Grandfather Bear to add a few more characters to the planned painting -- specifically Hernando Desoto and his white horse standing next to a Christian priest with his black horse -- they looked like Gods among the savages,


The altered mural completely ruined a truly beautiful picture of the calm and blessed view of village life before pre-European invasions.  Instead, we were reminded of a butcher named DeSoto in the post-invasion era.  We let the picture stand because it was accurate history, even if tainted with ugly reminders.


[Standing in the parking lot during the day, the shape of the mountains behind the village shown in the mural are evident behind the building - showing this Tula tool-making camp in the exact spot where it once existed. The camp stretched from that point, across the creek, wrapping around the mountain to Gulpha Gorge - and further upstream. (We could only find one nighttime picture.  Anyone got a day time shot of the mural?)]


The artifacts recently removed from Gulpha Gorge will allegedly go to the National Park’s curatorial facility -- which means they will be buried in a pile of neglected history, dusty bins and tag numbers.  Inside the ground the artifacts bring spirit and part of the life force of the sacred grounds.  Waiting inside a government box, they do nothing. 


Of course, it is curious that we have told them for many years that our ancestors live in that gorge, yet they did not come to ask us where they are buried.  Wonder why? 


Then there is the matter of over a half-million Hot Springs (Manataka) artifacts

Fernandez's is in possession of over 600,000 artifacts hidden from public access at the curatorial facility.  They were all removed by government agents from the sacred grounds and areas surrounding Manataka.  The larger portion of this treasure trove is comprised of mostly flora and fauna, but the evidence we know exists proves indigenous cultural features to this land -- specific to the story of Manataka we have retold a thousand times. 


The public is denied access to these artifacts because government bureaucrats craftily refused for decades to catalog the collection and therefore, hundreds of important artifacts are gone -- possibly to private collectors, maybe destroyed.  Fernandez is expected to deny this allegation but she cannot deny that she is personally responsible in having hundreds of American Indian artifacts and information removed from public view and hidden in the curatorial facility.


[The so-called "curatorial facility" is nothing more than an old drafty house with mold growing everywhere located near National Park offices.  The house was renovated once upon a time -- to look good on the outside.]   


According to one former Park Ranger, there are many wonderful pieces that are locked up away from the prying eyes of even the most trusted government employees.  Thousands of artifacts are gone from the original collections seized or received by the National Park Service over the years.  A great number of artifacts were shipped at various times to the Smithsonian Institute and still others went to the University of Arkansas. Allegedly, there is no record of some of the most valuable pieces. 


Several years ago, we asked the Superintendent a question, "When will the archives be open to the general public?" 


"We do not have the money or time to catalog and display everything," was the curious response. 


The sacred grounds have been under federal control since around the time of the Trail of Tears in 1832 and the Hot Springs National Park Service has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since it took up root in Hot Springs in 1916.  95 years and millions of dollars later they still do not have the time or money to catalog artifacts.  NPS decision not to allow public access is a matter of low priority.  Or, it is a high priority to bury the truth.  This is nothing new.


Fernandez will refute this by saying that thousands of artifacts are cataloged and properly safe-guarded.  She will defend her actions saying qualified researchers are allowed access.  Even partial truth is truth, but not the whole truth. 


Fernandez busied herself in the first months of coming to Hot Springs in 2004 to stripping downtown Hot Springs of plaques, voice recordings, pictures, video films, and a plethora of other evidence of indigenous occupation of these grounds -- evidence of our ancestors. The once large collection of Indian artifacts displayed in the Fordyce Bathhouse disappeared from public view.  A small museum case is all that remains on public view of the magnificent Fordyce collection.


In 2005, Fernandez commissioned a new walk-around display enclosed in the oval scenic room at the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. 96 percent of the display space is consumed by history created within the last 200 years.  Only 4 percent is allowed for history created over 10,000 years. 


Wiping our history away does not mean she can wipe us away as easily.


One of the display panels depicts a copyrighted picture of Manataka's Rainbow Woman, and the word Manataka, a licensed trademark Fernandez misappropriated from our website  This display prominently shows the word "Myth" next to the word Manataka and the accompanying text gives visitors false history.  Bad history is another attempt to wipe away Indian claims.


Fernandez's theft of our trademark symbols to make a point against Manataka is highly amusing.  It is especially funny because she was threatening the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission for copyright infringement for using the words, "National Park" in its famous logo --- during the same time she stole ours.  Its a whacky world.


Fernandez has been systematically erasing the history of our people at Manataka (Hot Springs) for several years.  It reminds us of pre-war Nazi Germany when Jewish contributions to German history and economy were wiped from history.     


Fernandez did not stop with exterminating Indian historical presence.  She sent packs of National Park Rangers armed with Billy clubs and guns against Manataka spiritual gatherings in Gulpha Gorge.  She threatened grandmothers and grandfathers with federal prison if they did not leave.  She had her uniformed goon squad stop and harass people even if they looked a little bit Indian.  It became very clear that Fernandez did not want 'pagans' worshipping their false gods in Gulpha Gorge. 


Manataka Elders never stopped conducting ceremonies in Gulpha Gorge despite physical and legal threats.  Every week there are one or more blessing ceremonies, dedication ceremonies, weddings, memorial services, naming ceremonies, birthing rites, earth ceremonies, prayer vigils, healing ceremonies and dozens of other types of spiritual gatherings held on the sacred mountain or in Gulpha Gorge.  These ceremonies are invisible to the Park Rangers as many are performed at night.  Others happen when Park Rangers are elsewhere. 


The pressure was mounting against Manataka Elders.  Dozens of good members came forth and demanded retribution.  They wanted the Elders to file a federal law suit.  Evidence was assembled, testimony was taken and briefs were written.  Several Washington law firms wanted the case.  But, the Elders refrained from attacking.  Then, a new attack from Fernandez began.


Josefina Fernandez in her capacity as Superintendent of the National Park Service, helped start a new pseudo Indian watchdog group with the help of a former NPS employee living in Northwest Arkansas.  This group (less than four people and Fernandez) created a new website that immediately started attacking Manataka and its Elders, friends and supporters.  The Chief of the World Council of Spiritual Elders was singled out for attack when it became known he was a strong supporter of Manataka.  Large portions of the website were dictated verbatim from Fernandez.   It is not know how the group was funded.


From 2005 to 2010, as Superintendent of the National Park, Fernandez was invited to speak at local civic groups and was heard on more than one occasion lambasting local American Indians. 


There is no doubt, if the Elders of Manataka desired to prosecute Fernandez in federal court under many violations, the cases would be successful. 


However, the Elders decided not to file federal charges against Fernandez and the NPS because we knew that truth would prevail in time.   A cleaner, clearer truth would be revealed.  We knew evidence of our message would appear -- we said so twenty years before it did.  The Elders decided not to file a lawsuit or bring anger to Fernandez because this is the Place of Peace, Manataka, the Unbroken Circle and we try our best to keep our anger and to be peaceful in this sacred place.  Patience is our job. 


The recent discoveries in Gulpha Gorge and more to come in the future will create the path for major changes. 


However, there are many good people in responsible places who are not so patient and they prepared to bring reasoned pressure, legal recourse and retribution against racist attitudes and bureaucratic abuse of power.  What will Fernandez do now to tip the patience of the people?


Regardless of our issues with Fernandez at the National Park Service, there is a much bigger concern.  A much bigger question than anyone realizes. 


As we learn more about the past, we learn more about the present and the future.  The future is what we all want to know, but how is it  possible to know the future?  One can peek around the corner of time by remembering and knowing the past.  It is possible because we use the present to affect positive sustainable and predictable changes that move us closer to tomorrow.  The future of these sacred grounds is told in prophesy.  It is told in our stories.  It is told in our hearts and deeper spirits.


Manataka Elders have letters from many spiritual elders from indigenous people across North, Central and South America who proclaim the sacredness of Manataka.  Would anyone like to see the letters?


What more does the government need to declare these grounds sacred?


The people need to know because federal law says all the requirements were met years ago.


The least they could do is open a museum with the thousands of artifacts they stole to honor our people, instead of erasing us like so much dirt.


How about that?  A museum at Manataka to honor all indigenous people and their philosophy of life?


The time has come.



From Chaplain Fred D. Wilcoxson PhD, PC, BCCC

Osage - Manataka Elder


It is a very interesting and informative article that likely minimizes the value and extent of discoveries. Our editorial reply is direct, inclusive, and straight forward, yet humble, peaceful, and not provocative. Only those who harbor great guilt will be offended; so be it.


Historically, the foremost of discoveries where made by the least likely only to be followed by hoards of ‘professionals’ financed by governments or rich men to take over the fruits of ancient labor. That which furthers the agenda of the day is displayed, flaunted, and exploited.  That which reveals the unwanted truth is hidden in archives.


Humankind has since the beginning of time preserved truth by word of mouth from generation to generation. In most all cultures there is a remnant that provides the yeast for the bread of tradition. We will do likewise.


We have taken upon ourselves a great responsibility to support that remnant with information and truth. Our Creator, Great Mystery, Great Spirit, God Almighty Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will reckon with the unjust. We therefore must faithfully and steadfastly walk a righteous path, the beauty way. We must continue to tell the story of the sacred mountain to all who will listen, respect these truths, and love our neighbor.


I stood in my front yard last night and watched as the clouds talked to one another. The magnificent glory and power displayed was totally awesome. Believe me, no man or government has that power or deserves that glory.


Be blessed one and all. I am anxiously looking forward to the Powwow.



From Rev. Linda Two Hawk Feathers James

Choctaw - Manataka Elder


Regarding the religious bigotry

A prominent idea is that all natives who participate in ceremony are dualists, deists or universalists (at best).  As long as strong prejudice is held against a people, the oppressed can remain "they" instead of "we."  That's why a government employee can get away with degrading remarks.  Native people's heritage is in archeological "finds", but the church/Europeans have holy remains and relics.  The second question is - if all people are created/emerge from a common female ancestor, what makes some "holy" and others "heathen?" 


Along with some theologians who are thought to be "out there", I can see the empire all around - empire loves freedom of speech as long as you don't say anything//  empire loves lifting up the oppressed as long as those receiving help are tearfully and eternally grateful//  empire loves people who live peacefully and quietly on the "special" reserved space they have been "given".


People who might read what I have said would laugh or out-right dispute these ideas  - why, because this is the twenty-first century.  Prejudice is gone.  More and more people every year attend events where native ceremony are "performed."  BUT, Sundance is not proper behavior, although the holidays that are being celebrated this week venerate the sacrificial death of a man or the sacrificial system of the ancient Hebrew culture.  These concepts are at the heart of faith that creator God cares and participates with humankind.  My third question is, Does believing in a creator God's redemptive plan exclude honoring and making sacred the very earth that provides all we eat, drink, breath, see, smell, taste, feel and know?


Some questions are just "groans"


Regarding the archeology

Also, archeology is not a real science because most of the fantastic finds happened by accident - example, dead sea scrolls, mastodons, Nordic man, - too many to count.  Funny thing about this is, there has not been one piece of evidence found for some foundational epic basics of civilization:  creation, a worldwide flood, the exodus, parting of red (or reed) sea, fall of Jericho - yet, all are part of worldwide belief system. 


The point is:  the men who found important proof of native culture in Gulpha Gorge can only discover, but cannot fully know the meaning of what they find.  Their interpretation is based on conjecture and imagination, this is the argument any empire would make to discount any of their findings.  Those who are closest to understanding the meaning are those who have some remnant of the culture from which the items emerged. 


One scientist was convinced that the sharp item he found was used to spear small fish - oooops - it was a ancient porcupine quill - oh how embarrassing!  Then, more research showed those quills, which are hollow had been used by that culture to "bleed" animals to make a special drink, to "bleed" people to get rid of evil, to harvest sap from trees, and about 100 other uses - they didn't even eat fish!!!!!  In fact, in their culture, they were afraid of the fish in their rivers - they were mostly parana.


Here is where I find a strange irony about wisdom - Jesus taught that those who seem foolish will be proven to be wise, and those who work to be called wise will be shown to be foolish.  These relics of a time somewhere between 600 and 6000 years ago prove that people made tools out of resources which were close at hand.  Those people knew where to find all that they needed and were not reliant on foreign oil or hydro-electric power - they used solar, water and wind power.  duh!  - who is wise and who is foolish?  (the last question I can ask before I fall asleep. 




Gulpha Gorge digs aim to protect past

Area would have been prime spot for toolmakers

By: Jim Newsom - The Sentinel-Record -  Published: 03/22/2011


SHOVEL TEST: Hot Springs National Park Curator Tom Hill, left, and volunteer Dave Wolf, of Indianapolis, dig into the ground at Gulpha Gorge, conducting a “shovel test” to see if historic artifacts exist in the area.

Who knows what will be dug up?

That’s what National Park Service archaeologist Bill Hunt says regarding “shovel tests” under way in Gulpha Gorge Campground in Hot Springs National Park. Hunt is affiliated with the Midwest Archaeological Center in Lincoln, Neb.

“The shovel tests give us a chance to peek into the ground here and there,” Hunt said. “We’re just doing it with a shovel. We’re only going a couple feet deep in each hole.”

The shallow digs began Monday and will continue all week.

Hunt said an assortment of volunteer students on spring break are assisting in the tests. The students include some from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, as well as students from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

“We have a volunteer from Indiana, an older guy, who’s in his 70s,” Hunt said. “The rest of the people that are working out here are employed by the National Park Service.”

Hunt said dirt excavated in the shovel tests is sifted through a quarter-inch screen “to see if there are any artifacts in it or any kind of stone flakes from tool manufacturing, sharpening, that sort of thing.”

“We make notes as to what we found in that particular hole and then we have a GPS unit that we come along with and record its location,” he said.

Hunt said he would love to uncover “a nice prehistoric site” at Gulpha Gorge.

“We only had a couple places in the park where prehistoric people could have camped. The rest of the park is pretty rugged or it’s been built upon quite a bit.”

There is great importance to finding such a site, he said.

“Just the fact that it’s prehistoric is not important. What we’re trying to do for the park is identify as many archaeological sites for them as we can; tell them which ones are significant, how old they are, where they are, if they’re being threatened by natural or cultural actions, whether they are eroding out or are being vandalized,” Hunt said.

Hunt said knowledge of prehistoric sites in the area would assist officials in future planning for the park.

“If they want to put a new trail or a road or a kiosk in, they can plan knowing where archaeological sites are and they won’t be damaging them,” he said, adding that the search has already uncovered some potential artifacts and evidence of an old road and concrete walk.

“Those are both down below the surface. You can’t see them from the ground surface,” he said.

Hunt said the road and concrete walk “are from early in the history of the campground, probably around 1900, plus or minus, something like that.”

He said Gulpha Gorge’s significance is heightened by its proximity to one of the largest prehistoric, and historic, novaculite quarries in Arkansas. Prehistoric tools and weapons were often crafted from novaculite.

“This would be a good place for people to camp when they were going up to get the stone to make their tools,” he said, noting that the campground is a prime site for archaeological exploration.

“We know that there are some historic sites in here. We don’t quite know where they are,” he said.

Hunt said the campground’s unique geography as one of the few relatively flat places that has water next to it had lead archaeologists to think “there might be some sort of prehistoric site here as well.”

“Gulpha Gorge Campground has been a place where people have come to stay for their holidays since the late 1800s,” he said. “At one time there was a whole string of little cabins down through here that people would come and stay in up until the 1920s when the National Park Service acquired the grounds and the Civilian Conservation Corps came in and built the park more or less as we know it today.”






EMAIL   |   HOME   |     INDEX    |   TRADING POST