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Native Americans are a Colorful Cover Topic

by Marjory Sente

One of my favorite topics, although I have only collected it catch-as-catch-can, is Native Americans on stamps and covers. I don't make it a mission to find new material, but when I see an interesting cover, I will buy it or trade for it.

Recently this collection came to mind when an acquaintance sent my husband and I a couple of first-day covers issued last year by the Marshall Islands. On Feb. 1, 1999, the Marshall Islands Postal Service released 12 stamps celebrating Great American Indian Chiefs. These chiefs represent a wide variety of tribes once scattered throughout the United States. The 60¢ stamps were issued in a se-tenant pane of 12 (Scott 699). They depict Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief who is one of the most respected and best-loved Native American leaders; Powhatan, a chief who was the father of Pocahontas; Hiawatha, fundamental in the creation of the League of the Five Iroquois Nations; Dull Knife, a Northern Cheyenne chief; Sequoyah, the well-known leader of the Cherokee Nation; Sitting Bull, a Teton Sioux chief who fought against Custer; Cochise, a Chiricahua Apache chief; Red Cloud, an Oglala Sioux warrior and statesman; Geronimo, a Bedonkohe Apache who led the Apaches after Cochise died; Chief Joseph, noted Nez Percé leader; Pontiac, the warrior chief of the Ottawas; and Crazy Horse, recognized as a visionary leader among the Oglala Sioux.

Figure 1 above shows a cacheted Marshall Islands FDC for the Chief Joseph stamp from the pane. Many of these Native American leaders have been honored on the stamps of this nation. For example, Sequoyah was the first Native American to be honored in the Great American series. This Cherokee chief, the inventor of the tribe's alphabet, was honored on a 19¢ definitive released on Dec. 27, 1980, at Tahlequah, Okla. A number of the cachets prepared for the issue included the alphabet as part of the design, such as the Gill Craft cacheted FDC shown in Figure 2.

Other stamps in the Great American series of definitives honoring Native Americans are the 13¢ Crazy Horse stamp issued on Jan. 15, 1982, at Crazy Horse, S.D.; the 10¢ Red Cloud stamp issued on Aug. 15, 1987, at Red Cloud, Neb.; and the 28¢ Sitting Bull stamp released on Sept. 14, 1989, at Rapid City, S.D. A painting by Cyrenius Hall of the great Nez Percé warrior Chief Joseph was the source of inspiration for a 6¢ U.S. commemorative released on Nov. 4, 1968. The painting used for the stamp hangs in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the first-day city for the issue. While many categories of Indian artifacts, such as the Pueblo pottery, Indian masks, and Navajo blankets, also have been popular subjects for commemoratives, the chiefs have received recognition on only one set of stamps.

In 1990, the subject of a Folk Art series booklet of five 25¢ commemoratives was American Plains Indian headdresses. They were released at Cody, Wy., on Aug. 17. Special event covers are another excellent source for items for a Native Americans collection. Sometimes you will be lucky and find one like the Norpex 89 cover which includes a cachet picturing the three Sioux chiefs ? Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Red Cloud ? a cancel showing tepees and the 28¢ Sitting Bull Great Americans definitive.

Collecting topically can be a great experience, but you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Chances are that some one else is collecting the same topic as you are, and has done the spade work on developing a checklist. The American Topical Association might have published a checklist. articles or even a full-blown book on the subject. So before you spent too much time assembling a topical collection, check out this organization as one of your best potential resources for information. Founded in 1949, the American Topical Association is the only all-topical general philatelic society in the United States. Its journal, Topical Time, is filled with a variety of articles and checklists. Also associated with the ATA are a large number of topical study units, which may prove to be a goldmine of information on a specific subject, topic or theme. You can contact the organization by writing to the ATA, Box 50820, Albuquerque, NM 87181-0820, or visit the ATA home page on the Internet at:www.home.prcn.or/~pauld/ata Two ATA study units are directly related to Native Americans. One is the American Indian Philatelic Society, which publishes Council Flames on a periodic basis. You can contact the unit by writing to Charles Eason, Route 1, Box 339, Altmont, NY 12009. The other is the Mesoamerican Archeology Study Unit, which publishes a bimonthly journal, Codex Philatelica. The contact for the unit is Chris Moser, Box 1442, Riverside, CA 92502 (or e-mail him at cmoser@ci.riverside.ca.us). The study unit's Internet home page is at:www.masu.web.com