Monday, December 17, 2012

Movies In Lakota

So, I've been on this kick where I've been taking pop culture things, namely movies, and re-imagining them in with Lakota text. 

So, here's how I kind of imagine The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as a Lakota story. "Wangi" is the Lakota word for the little people, or little spirit people. "Kin" is a Lakota word but its origin lies more with the Jesuits and other missionaries who've used it as the word "The." "Canku Okokipe" is the "Road Dangerous."

Here's a famous quote by Arnold from the movie "The Terminator." Arnold says, "I'll be back." In Lakota, the term toksa [dohk-SHAH] is a future tense word that is most often meant to mean "Next time." Ake [ah-KAY] means again, and po, is a suffix men use to finish what their statement. 

"Move yourself, my day is good."
"Dirty" Harry Callahan from the movie Sudden Impact.

Star Lodge-Door
Stargate, one of my all-time favorite movies.

The Day Is Good: A Difficult Death
A Good Day To Die Hard

"...and monkeys out of my butt will come!"
Wayne Campbell [Mike Myers], from the movie Wayne's World.

"Luke, it is so, here I am, you're father."
Darth Vader, from The Empire Strikes Back.

Always Be Prepared Mother Russia
Yippie-Kai-Yay Mother Russia, A Good Day To Die Hard

With-Energy The Fifth
The Fifth Element

"On behalf of my little friend say 'hau.'"
"Say 'Hello' to my little friend," Tony Montana, Scarface

The famous quote "You Shall Not Pass," Gandalf The Grey [Ian McKellen], The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings.

Friday, December 7, 2012

No Smoking in North Dakota: Local History and the Atlantic World

By Aaron Barth for The Edge Of The Village
My commentary is in italics.

This evening from my post office box I retrieved several envelopes, one of which was the “SmokeFree!” announcement to inform North Dakotans of the latest smoke free Century Code 23-12-9 to 23-12-12. This got me thinking about tobacco in both a local and global historical context. Tobacco as a cash crop is one of the reasons Great Britain continued colonizing Virginia, and tobacco was cultivated by Native America long before the Columbian Exchange.

Sometimes, I find myself thinking of history-related things. I probably would have stood out there beside Aaron with glazed eyes and a far off gaze until a pressing need brought me back to reality. I received not just the smoke-free mailer, but an e-newsletter. I didn't realize that I signed myself up for that until Monday.
As for a local historical context, tobacco appears in a variety of sources. One of them is through Guy Gibbon’s thorough work on the Sioux. Gibbon indexed the word “tobacco” seven times in The Sioux: The Dakota and Lakota Nations (Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2003). Gibbon notes the archaeological sites around Mille Lacs Lake in east-central Minnesota as yielding a variety of botanics, or plant remains, including locally cultivated tobacco.

The native varieties of tobacco on the Northern Plains are maybe a quarter to half the size of the commercial tobacco which is grown today. One leaf is about as big as my open hand. 
From Paul Goble's "White Buffalo Cal Woman"
A cultural and socio-religious story concerning tobacco in the Lakota historical record comes in the form of “The White Buffalo Calf Woman,” a story set down by Black Elk, an Oglala wicasa wakan (“holy man”) and Catholic catechist. In 1931 and in the late 1940s, Black Elk embraced a hybridized version of Euro-American Christianity and Native ways, and he narrated a story where “the sacred messenger of the Great Spirit, brings the People the peace pipe, tobacco, and seven rites.” Students of American literature have considered this story for quite some time, and as Gibbon also notes, “A popular current trend is to devalue Black Elk’s teachings because they seem compromised by Christianity.” (Gibbon, 2003: 149) Whether it is used in customs on behalf of old and new ways, the role of tobacco remains central throughout Native America.

There are variations of the story of the coming of Pte Hincala San Win, The White Buffalo Calf Woman, and Black Elk shared one. In one variation I've become familiar with, the pipe was first seen by the Cheyenne, Tsitsistas as they name themselves, at the sacred site Mahto Tipila, Bear Lodge, popularly known as "Devil's Tower." When a Cheyenne was made to choose between the pipe and seven arrows, he took the arrows back to his people, and when he turned back to look the pipe and the tunnel in Bear Lodge had vanished. The Cheyenne heard later that the pipe was brought to the Lakota.

The story of the pipe is different than the story of tobacco. The Teton Lakota, or Western Sioux, didn't cultivate tobacco but traded it from the Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan. 

I don't smoke, but I always carry a bag or twist of tobacco in my car in case I need it to express gratitude or if someone renders a traditional prayer. In the long ago days, when the northern lights filled the night skies, the Lakota people would burn incense. On foggy mornings people would leave a pinch or twist of tobacco for the relatives who've taken their journey. Once I gifted someone from Fort Berthold a tie of tobacco and his relatives whispered, "That's a Sioux thing," but he and they graciously received my gift in the spirit it was given. Maybe it is a "Sioux thing," but I'm happy to carry the tradition. 
The second history of tobacco text to come to mind upon receiving the update to the new ND tobacco free century code was from James VI and I, a primary source from 1604 entitled, “A Counterblaste to Tobacco.” As the English found ways to bring this cash crop across the Atlantic from the new to the old world, King James felt provoked to respond for the sake of the mainland British common wealth. The paradox remained: England profited financially from tobacco on the one hand, and yet the aristocracy critiqued it on the other. Keeping in mind his use of elitist language, and his complete and raging mischaracterization of the use of tobacco throughout Native America, in 1604 the King of England, verbatim, said,
“…For Tobacco being a common herbe, which (though vnder diuers names) growes almost euery where, was first found out by some of the barbarous Indians, to be a Preseruative, or Antidot against the Pockes, a filthy disease, whereunto these barbaous people are (as all men know) very much subject, through the intemperate heate of their Climat: so that as from them was first brought into Christendome, that most detestable disease, so from them likewise was brought this vse of Tobacco, as a stinking and vnsavourie Antidot, for so corrupted and execrable a Maladie, the stinking Suffumigation whereof they yet vse against that diesease, making son one canker or venime to eate out another.

And this goes on for some length.

Don’t smoke cigarettes, kids, because yes, they do stink, they are unhealthy for you, and they no doubt will cause and/or contribute to cancer. Yet also remember that not every culture uses or has used tobacco the same way, individually and throughout history. Every cultural historical perception toward tobacco is always in flux. And also there is a difference between cigarettes and leaf tobacco: the former are jammed with additives (even with fiber glass, they tell me!) while the latter is not.

I don't smoke as a recreation or past time. I tried it once down by the Missouri River after school with some friends when I was in the sixth grade and coughed so bad I nearly threw up. It was such an awful experience I never tried again. In high school, I never kissed a girl who smoked either. So, to reiterate what my friend Aaron said, don't smoke. If you do, grow your own tobacco, there's less additives. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter's Kiss Reminds Me Of My Grandfather

A lovely dusk just north of Fort Yates, N.D.
A Reflection:
Childhood Remembered 
By Dakota Wind
FORT YATES, N.D. - The morning arrived on the Missouri River valley with a slow swell of purples and reds. The air hung heavy with a thick curtain of fog which slowly dispelled as early morning became go-to-work morning. The fog had turned to frost and heavily clung to every surface. Windows became frosty effigies of stained glass with fantastic whorls and impossible leaves. The trees had clothed their bare winter branches with thick delicate coats of frost. The trees were so heavy with frost that the morning shadows they cast were as the summer shade again.

I started the car, my little beast, and he came to life rather reluctantly, as though he would rather sleep in. “I feel the same,” I said and patted him on the roof. I imagine another man in the days of warriors in the same spot I stand, rousing his horse and talking to it in a like manner.

In the old days, when fog smothered the land with its cool, almost tangible embrace, it was an in between time and an in between place between our world and the next. Some might leave a pinch of tobacco or an offering of food for the spirits visiting the people. My grandmother shared a tall glass of water with the world and gave thanks for living.

There’s frost on my windshield and for a moment I regret that I must scrape away winter’s kiss on my little beast. I spend a minute tracing the stitches of frost on my window, lost in thought, and I am reminded of my lala (grandfather) just then. Though we lived maybe six blocks from school, he insisted on giving my brother and me a ride on the coldest days, sometimes even when it was warm too. Wordlessly, we did a lot of things without words it seemed but I cherish the memories, he would rouse his car and scrape its windows and I would watch him scrape from inside the car and we would share smiles when he cleared my window.

...for a moment that I am my grandfather and he is me...

I felt the sweet heavy pang of memory in my heart as I cleared my son’s window. He’s eleven now. When he was a toddler and sat in a car seat in the back, I scraped the windows in wintertime and we would share smiles and wave as I cleared his window. For a moment, I saw that little boy again waiting in my car and I wonder if that’s how my lala saw me, a juxtaposition of past and present sharing the same space. By looking at me and smiling, did he see the future? Did he see my son reflected in my eyes? I like to imagine, in the in-between times like dawn, and the in-between spaces created by the fog, that for a moment that I am my grandfather and he is me, and I can feel love surrounding me, holding me, lifting me, as I look on my son. Maybe, just maybe if look carefully I’ll see my grandsons as he looks to me and see his grandfathers.

I hate measuring time, but the world I live in draws me from that place of fog and frost and memory. I get in my pony and put on some Def Leppard. I indulge my imagination once more, and see a warrior dusting off his blanket and settling it on his horse’s back before getting on. I settle into my seat and buckle up, and he straightens his pony-drag (travois). I am ready for the day and my work is the hunt.

It’s my turn to take my son to school. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Lost Daughter of The Mandan

A mural of the Yellow Earth Village, a Mandan Indian village, known today as Double Ditch State Historic Site, north of Bismarck, ND. The mural is painted by Robert Evans, and can be viewed in the Early Peoples Gallery of the North Dakota Heritage Center.
The Lost Daughter Of The Mandan
Long Ago Battle Separates Child
By Dakota Wind
DOUBLE DITCH, N.D. - A reader came across my blog and took me up on my offer to look tackle a story or subject. Thank you for reading!

Sue writes:

I have visited your blog, and wanted to submit an article that was written in 1864 about my great-great-great-great-great ??Grandmother, Charlotte Boucher. (I do not know her Indian name) Her story is very interesting, although its hard to tell how much is true.

I was told growing up, that she was the daughter of the Mandan Chief, and this article also states that. I have not been able to verify that, as her date of birth is hard to verify. One article I found online showed her birth year of 1781, while the attached article said she lived to the ripe old age of 125, which would have made her birth year 1739 (one of the harder things to swallow). However, she was taken from her tribe, by the Sioux, before the smallpox outbreak of 1781 at the age of 4.

Her husbands name was Joseph Boucher Jr., who was a French Canadian Fur Trader. Joseph Boucher Jr. was born February 9, 1760 in Riviere-des-Praries (Island of Montreal).

If by chance, you should be able to verify her year of birth, or who the Chief was in 1781, or any other pertinent information, I would love to hear from you. If not, enjoy the article.

What follows next is the article, stated in character, unaltered from the language of the original article about Mrs. Charlotte Busche which Sue sent me. My commentary within the article is bold and my commentary following the article is italicized.

The Green Bay Advocate, January, 28, 1864

sketch [sic] of the Life of Mrs. Charlotte Busche'- We mentioned two weeks ago, the death of Mrs. Charlotte Busche' in the town of Bellevue, near this city, at the age of 125 years and called upon the old residents to furnish us with a sketch of her eventful life. This was found to be a very difficult task. The old lady had bee in her socond  [sic] childhood for more than six years previous to her death, and during that time it was only occaionally [sic] that her mind would brighten up sufficiently to enable her to talk coherently of her early history, therefore all that can be written of her is from the memory of her friends and relatives, gleaned from her before her imbecility. the Chicago Journal calls upon us to extablish [sic] by proof this extraordinary case of longevity. This we cannot do-having always lived among the Indians until her marriage with Busche she had no idea of dates, nor of her own age, and those who might have told her age with tolerale certainty in connection with the events she remembered, had passed away long years before to "that country from whose bourne no travelers returns" In stating her age at 125 years, we did not pretend to exactness, but gave the generally received impression. She wa [sic] "old Charlotte Busche" 45 years ago, which is abouta s [sic] far back as any of our old residents can remember. (If Charlotte were 125 years of age, then she would have been born around the time of Pierre La Verendrye’s first contact with the Mandans, ~1738.)

Mr. John Dousman of Bellevue who was well acquainted with her, gave the following incidents of her life. Gathered from conversations with her descendants.

The late Mrs Charlotte Busche' was born in the far West, near the headwaters of the Missouri River (This would place her birth at what is today known as Three Forks, MT. Perhaps either the author or Charlotte herself meant where the Heart River and Missouri River converge which is where the Mandan Indians lived until smallpox forced them to abandon their villages and move north to Knife River – which is where Lewis and Clark encountered them in 1804). She was of full Indian Blood, of the tribe of Mandans, her father being the Chief of that nation. When a young woman, a great battle occurred between the Sioux and the Mandans, in which she was taken prisoner by the Sioux (The John K. Bear Winter Count recalls a major battle between the Ihanktowana Dakota, also called the Yanktonai, and the Nu’Eta, who are also called Mandan, in 1781 at Yellow Earth Village, presently known as Double Ditch Mandan Indian Village, located north of Bismarck, ND on HWY 1804). Her Mother being dead. she was at that time in the care of her Grandmother, who hid her during the fight in a clump of bushes. This was before the use of fire-arms was known to the Indians, and being discovered by a Sioux warrior, she was dragged forth and dealt her a heavy blow on the head with his bow, leaving her senseless and would have killed her but for the interference of another of the tribe, who claimed her as his prisoner. She carried the scar of this wound through her life. After the battle, she was put on a horse and carried to the Sioux country, near the Mississippi River (this could be any one of the Santee Dakota villages at that time along Minnesota River, near the Mississippi River), and the next day after her arrival at the Sioux village was compelled to run the gauntlet. Two lines were formed of women and children armed with sticks and sharp arrows and stripped naked she was compelled to run through between them, enduring their stripes and arrow thrusts. She came out fearfully lacerated and covered with blood (this torturous process seemed to be the practice of the Huron and Iroquois; in Thomas E. Mails Mystic Warriors of The Plains, he relates the brutal treatment of captives, but also, not all captives were tortured) .

She was then submitted to other tortures too horrible to narrate, and afterward adopted into the Sioux nation, becoming the slave of her captor. About a year afterward, her father came to ransom her by purchase with a drove of horses, but owing to a superstition of the Sioux that once adopted into the tribe would die if taken away, they would not give her up and her Father left her. She lived with captor until his death, when she was sold to the Winnebago Indians, on the Wisconsin River. Here she lived for many years, enduring much cruelty, and had a child in that nation. The Winnebagoes, however, finally sold her to a French trader , who took her to Mackinac, and gave her as a present to the wife of an Ottawa Chief by the name of Na-o-kau-ta (or four legs), who proved to be fiend incarnate and where her worst suffering commenced (Four Legs had fought beside Tecumseh against the United States in the War of 1812 at Moraviantown, Ontario – he was against US land treaties and purchases). she was held as his slave, and by every cruelty that this devil could invent. But all this she survived, and met with an unexpected deliverance. One day her mistress had a son dying, and she came out to the field where the unhappy slave was at work, and told her to hurry and finish hoeing that corn, as she intended to have her accompany her son, as soon as he should lie to make fires for him on his way to the land of spirits.

The hint was enough, it was her sentence of death: so as soon as her mistress was gone she ran away. (The Ottowas were not living on the island of Mackinac, but at Little Traverse Bay, on the main land.) She had not gone far when she was missed, and search was made for her. She crept into a hollow log, and had no sooner got in than her master came to the spot, with his rifle in his hand, and actually stood upon the log in which she was hidden, but did not discover her. She remained there all night, and in the morning came out and went to an Indian Lodge, where she threw herself on her knees and besought the Indians to protect her from those who sought her life, but,instead of befriending her, they took her back to her mistress. On her arrival, her mistress remarked that she must be hungry and she would give her something to eat. She seized a knife and cut off both her ears, scorched them a little in the fire, and commanded her to eat them, on pain of instant death if she refused. She tried to eat the disgusting morsel, and made several attempts to swallow them, but could not. She was then condemned to die the next day, bound hand and foot, and placed in a camp.

Sometime in the night, a friend, she never knew who, came and unbound her, and she made her escape she walked through the woods, following the lake shore for three days, and on the fourth day saw and saw an Indian canoe on its way to Mackinac. She hailed its occupants, and they had pity on her, took her on board and carried her to Mackinac Island. There she told her story and the people of the Island offered her protection, telling her that the marks she bore were sufficient proofs of her suffering. (Was she walking on the shoreline of Mackinac Island on Lake Huron or did she swim to the shoreline – just over two miles – and then walked through the woods and followed the lake shore? Following the lake shore of Mackinac Island for three to four days would have taken her around the entire island which is about 3.8 sq. miles.)

To get her out of the way of this savage tribe of Indians, a trader offered to take her on his Mackinac boar to Green Bay. She accepted his offer, and embarked with him, but had not gone far when they met a canoe of Ottawa warriors bound for Mackinac. The trader hid the old woman beneath the baggage. The warriors hailed the trader, and told him they had heard that their escaped slave was at Mackinac (Mackinaw?), and asked him if he had her on board. He denied all knowledge of her, and preceded on his way to Green Bay, and the canoe to Mackinac. (The previous paragraph mentions that Charlotte saw an Indian canoe on its way to Mackinac. If she swam, she would have risked hypothermia but could have made it to the shoreline – the nearest mainline point from Mackinaw is St. Ignace which is over two miles away. If Charlotte escaped by canoe, why would she need to flag down a trader and get a ride from him to Green Bay? Maybe she took a canoe, then abandoned it.)

Arrived safely at Green Bay, she was taken up to Portage, (now Portage City) and given to a Winnebago [sic]

a [sic] Winnebego woman, Mrs Lequya. Here she lived many years, during which time the Winnebagoes made several attempts to kill her, but were foiled. Mrs. L. compelled her to marry a Winnebego vy the name of Dashba, but she still lived with Mrs. L. She had 2 children with Dashna (Frank Dashna; 1803-1805).

Finally the same French trader who had taken her awa from the Winnebagoes several years before, came and took her away from Dashna and started, with her for the Ottawas, near Mackinac, to restore her to Four Legs. He got as far as Green Bay, where he sold her to Mr Joseph Busche' (1807), with whom she lived until he died (in 1838), and by whom she had 9 children, and since his death, which occurred more than thirty years ago, she had lives with her children, until death came to close hr eventful life two or three weeks ago. (After the death of Joseph Boucher/Busche, Charlotte made an attempt to return to her natural tribe, the Nu’Eta, or Mandan Indians, but she was mis-informed that her tribe had passed into history after smallpox hit them in 1837.)

By 1838, Charlotte was either about fifty-six years old if she were born in 1781, or ninety-nine if she were born in 1739. The average life expectancy of women in 1840 was about forty-five years of age (Daniel Perry, Executive Director of the Alliance for Aging Research). Charlotte applied for and was given permission for her to be enrolled as a member of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. As such, she was permitted access to Indian Health Services and received a small subsidy from the Department of War (of which the Bureau of Indian Affairs was then a part) for illegal seizures of Menominee land from the 10 million acres it was to the 235,000 acres reservation it became. A curious circumstance is, that after the death of old Mr Busche', over thirty years ago, as we have stated, which occurred on the old Rouse farm, known as Private Claim No.10, now Judge Cotton's farm, the old lady never lived upon the farm until about two weeks before her death, when her son with whom she resided moved up on it, and the old lady consequently died upon the same farm where her husband did (Joseph Boucher/Busche’s role somehow moved from purchaser to husband).

In the above sketch (no sketch available), Mr Dousman had omitted mention of many of the barbarities to which this sufferer was subjected, which are too revolting for print.

Thus has passed away another of the connecting links between a past age and the present-the children of the subject of this sketch are now becoming old men and women and will soon have passed away, and if, mayhap, in after years, a stray copy of this tale of woe should chance to be found and read, the reader will think it altogether to preposterous of credence. Even now, the very name of the tribe of which she was born are memories nearly forgotten, and te powerfl tribes of Indians who peopled this country in the days of her youth, have dwindled down to mere handfuls. the unbroken forests through which she made her journeys are now studded thickly with cities, villages and farms, and the iron horse courses on the ancient war paths. The birch canoe and the "Mackinac Boat" have given place on the waters of Lake Michigan to floating monsters propelled by steam, the idea of which was not conceived until she had laid aside all the [sic]...

are among the curiosities we see in museums, and yet she has but just gone to her rest. With her has perished much valuable information with regard to the face of this country, which will be sought for with laborious research by the antiquarian, and perhaps never found. The old lady had a distinct remembrance of the fox River, upon the banks of which we now live, when it was a mere creek, so narrow at the point at Mr Lewis (now Peter L.) Grignon's farm, and the southern line of the city of Green Bay, that a canoe could readily be pushed across it. The river is now about 80 rods wide there (About 1300 feet; 400 meters). This would seem almost beyond belief, were it not confirmed by the testimony of other old citizens who have now gone to their rest. (In the 1850s, the Fox and Wisconsin Improvement Company built a series of locks and dams on the Fox River, then a canal connecting it to the Wisconsin River at Portage, WI.)

One of the most pleasant thoughts that now occur to us is that the Ottawa tribe of Indians, then one of most barbarous, and with whom the old lady suffered the greatest indignities became one of the most Christianized, nearly all having embraced the Catholic, or some Protestant faith, and education among them has reached a high standard. (As a result of reaching such a high standard in education and faith, Michigan citizenry called for dismantling the Ottawa reservations and began to settle on Ottawa homelands. Many Ottawa feared removal to them as President Andrew Jackson did to the Cherokee and other tribes. Some Ottawa who had sold their lands in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio were removed to Kansas. The Ottawa there were removed to Oklahoma in 1867. The Ottawa who remained in Michigan retained some recognition by the state, and in 1994 the Little River Band of Ottawa’s federal recognition was restored. Today five Ottawa bands have state recognition and many struggle to regain their federal status.)

Charlotte Busche’s story in regards to her long struggle to return to her Nu’Eta (Mandan) Indian people went unrealized. She never again saw the sun set on her people’s earthlodge villages, never again saw the sun rise over the Missouri River. However, the (Nu’Eta) Mandan people are still alive today and many reside on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. 

There is the tradition of lineage among the (Nu’Eta) Mandan Indian people which was not at all mentioned in the story above. The Nu’Eta (Mandan) are matrilineal. Charlotte’s daughters, granddaughters, great-daughters, and so on would be regarded by the Nu’Eta (Mandan) as Nu’Eta (Mandan). Discovering who her father was is a start, but knowing who her mother was at Yellow Earth Village and her clan affirms any relations that Charlotte’s descendants may have among the Nu’Eta (Mandan) today.

Enrollment is another issue entirely.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Legend Of Standing Rock

William A. Rogers engraved this image he called "Standing Rock, The Sacred Stone Of The Sioux." It appeared in Harper's Weekly, January 25, 1879.
The Legend Of Standing Rock
A Look Behind The Name Of Reservation
FORT YATES, N.D. - According to the John K. Bear Winter Count the legend of Woslata Inyan, or Standing Rock, happened not so long ago. In fact, the entry of the legend happened in the 1740 A.D. There are many different stories of the stone and how it came to be, but all involve a woman who turned to stone. The Cheyenne and the Arikara Indians also have Standing Rock stories. The stone can be found today along the western bank of the Missouri River, in present-day Fort Yates, ND, in front of the Tribal Administration.

In one version of the story, a Dakota man took an Arikara woman for a wife, and together they had a child. Sometime later he took a second wife, as was a custom of Plains Indian men.

The first wife took offense at the attentions her husband gave the second wife, and she grew resentful and jealous. At this time, the Yanktonai Dakota were camping along what today is called Stone Idol Creek, a tributary of the Cannonball River. When the time came to break camp, the angry woman refused to move from her place on the lodge floor. The lodge was taken down around her, and still she refused to move and there she sat on the ground with her baby on her back and remained there as the camp and her husband moved on.

Sometime towards the middle of the day, her husband halted the moving camp when he noticed his wife wasn't among them. He called out to his brothers and said, "Go back to your hankansi [sister-in-law], tell her to come along, and we'll await for you all here. Inahni yo! [Hurry!] I fear she may become desperate and take her own life."

The two brothers mounted their horses and made the best possible speed to their previous camp, arriving that evening. They saw that she was still sitting on the ground where they left her.

The older brother called out to her, "Hankansi! [Sister-in-law!] Inajin yo! [Rise!] We have come back to get you. The camp and our brother, your husband, await you." But she did not answer. they came up close they saw for themselves that she was now a figure of stone.

The elder brother reached out to her when she did not answer and put his hand on her head. She had turned to stone!

The two brothers immediately mounted their horses and rode them furiously back to rendezvous with their tiyospaye [extended family; camp; band] and shared what they had seen, but no one believed such a story. "Ohk, duwahle! [an interjection of disbelief]," as they might say today.

The husband immediately thought something foul happened and braced himself for the worst news. He believed that his wife had indeed taken her own life, and his brothers refused to tell him how they found her.

Though  the camp had already traveled half a day, their interest was roused enough that the entire tiyospaye broke camp and made the journey back to their previous campsite. When they drew close they saw a figure sitting on the ground where they left her, and as they came up close they saw for themselves that she was now a figure of stone.

The stone was considered holy by all and was given a place of honor in the center of camp...

The tiyospaye couldn't leave her behind again, and believing that the stone itself was now sacred, they chose out a fine horse and painted it, and mounted a travois with streamers unto it. Then they carefully placed the stone, the rock which stood in place of the woman, into the catch of the travois.

The stone was considered holy by all and was given a place of honor in the center of camp and whenever the tiyospaye moved, so to did the stone. In the days when the bison began to disappear, when the Iron Horse on his iron road traveled from sunrise to sunset across the land, when the permanent Sioux reservations were established, and the people were utterly driven to settle and move no more, the stone, Woslata Inyan [Standing Rock] made the journey with them. The stone was placed on a brick pedestal when the reservation era began, and Standing Rock now stands in silent vigil overlooking Mnisose [The Missouri River].

Inyan Woslata rests in the middle of a parking lot in front of the Administration Building in Fort Yates, ND these days. A few bricks are missing from the pedestal and the mortar is much cracked or missing entirely in places. 

In another story, the Dakota and Lakota generally believed that the stone was once a young and beautiful maiden among them, whose intended love was slain in battle. She mourned for him with a deep and constant sorrow. Many suitors sought to win her heart in marriage but she only had room in her heart for her one first and true love. She turned away all suitors and died an old maid.

Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit some say, looked upon her old and broken body and transformed her body into stone, rather than allow her to decay return to dust, so that she might remain a memorial of her love and faithfulness.

The Dakota and Lakota would frequently gift the Standing Rock with tobacco ties, food, or other demonstration of veneration, others would paint Standing Rock in loud shades of red or blue.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Calling A Horse

My youngest son out in the field.
Calling A Horse
A Kind Of Magic

By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS - Today I offer a short reflection of a kind of magic I witnessed.

This evening, as the sun was setting and some fluffs of clouds cast a light pall over the evening light, my youngest son ran a fleet sprint to the fence in the back yard. Upon reaching the prickly barrier, he began to whistle as loud and as high as he could, almost birdlike like a meadowlark with short bursts of tune, then a short breath, then the same whistle again.

From over the hill and around the neighbor's fence came a brown horse with black socks and a shiny black mane, one of three horses of the neighbor's. A few years ago, our immediate next door neighbor declared to us "to be careful. That one horse bites." I've never had a horse bite me and we've not had issues with the neighbor's horses before, so I let my son finish calling the horse.

My son stood right at the fence, careful not to let the barbed wire prick him or his blue GAP hoodie, and he held his right hand up, palm out. All the while his little high-pitched whistle carried in the crisp evening air.

The horse charged across the field of dead brown grass, short to medium native prairie grasses, leftovers from last summer's growth. It slowed to a trot when it reached the fence line and tossed its mane proudly to and fro before reaching its neck over the top wire and lowering her head to Elijah's hand.

Magic? Yes it is. There's something strong and magical beating in the innocent heart of my son that calls to the pure and natural world around us, and to witness it, that was to witness something mysterious and sacred.

He called the horse and it answered.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

His Red Nation: A Tale of Little Crow

Little Crow's village on the Mississippi by Capt. Seth Eastman, 1846.
His Red Nation: A Tale of Little Crow
Dakota Leader And The Struggle For Survival
By Jerome Kills Small
GREAT PLAINS - Note: This was written for an issue of the North Dakota publication "On Second Thought" in 2012. Taoyate Duta, His Red Nation was born the winter that Little Beaver’s cabin burned down (1810), in the Dakota village of Kaposia, Not Encumbered With Much Baggage (St. Paul, MN), where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge. His Red Nation was named so by his father, a prominent Mdewakanton Dakota chief by the name of Cetan Wakhuwan Mani, Hawk Hunting Walks. Due to a mis-translation, and probably because of His Red Nation’s status as son to Hawk Hunting Walks, His Red Nation is more commonly recognized as Little Crow.

Little more than a toddler, His Red Nation's mother took him to the frozen Minnesota River in the middle of winter. There she broke the ice, took her son and proceeded to dunk him into the icy waters, and as she did so, she told him that he would grow into a man who would become a great leader. It sounds cruel, however, but His Red Nation never forgot his mother's words. Even as a man years later, he remembered what she did and as a result, what she said, as clearly as if it happened only yesterday.

His Red Nation, a pencil sketch by Frank Blackwell Mayer in 1851 at Traverse de Sioux, Minnesota Territory.

His Red Nation will forever be associated with the 1862 Minnesota Dakota Conflict, but the conflict was only the latest of terrible events. To understand the conflict and its consequences, one must examine the precarious circumstances in which the Eastern Dakota found themselves.

The Santee Dakota, or Eastern Sioux, had actively traded with the French and English since about 1640. The English pushed west, of what was considered then the Northwest Territory, or present-day Ohio. Colonel Robert Dickson, a British Trade Agent at the turn of 1800, became good friends with the Santee. His Red Nation was still a toddler when the War of 1812 broke out. Dickson recruited hundreds of Chippewa and Dakota and led them into Ohio to fight against Americans. Hawk Hunting Walks, was among those who fought for the English.

Taoyate Duta's father, Cetan Wakhuwan Mani (Hawk Hunting Walks) as painted by Charles Bird King, 1824. The painting is called or titled "Chetaii Wakan Mani, The Sacred Pigeon-Hawk Which Comes Walking."

After the War of 1812, England and the United States signed the Treat of Ghent, ending warfare between the two countries. The treaty also gave control of Minnesota to the United States. The Santee would now have to deal with an unforgiving country they had initially fought against. Hawk Hunting Walks was honored with several gifts and accommodations from Colonel Dickson, but Hawk Hunting Walks refused them and was said to have kicked them, saying, “Now after we have fought for you, endured many hardships, lost some of our people, and awakened the vengeance of a powerful nation, our neighbours, you make a peace for yourselves, and leave us to get such terms as we can. You no longer need our services, and offer us these goods as a compensation for having deserted us. But, no-we will not take them; we hold them and yourselves in equal contempt.”

Traditional warfare between the Santee and Chippewa resumed regardless that they briefly fought alongside each other in the War of 1812. In 1823, Colonel Leavenworth led the Missouri Legion in a campaign against the Arikara on the Missouri River. About 750 Dakota and Lakota warriors fought for the United States under Leavenworth against an age-old foe in the first US led military campaign against a Plains Indian tribe. It was an absolute crushing defeat for the Arikara, who abandoned their earthlodge villages and fled west. Their fields of corn, squash, and beans, were plucked clean by the Dakota and Lakota who recalled the year as “The Winter Corn was Taken.”

"The year corn was taken," or 1823, from the Long Soldier Winter Count.

Hawk Hunting Walks’ image was painted by Charles King Bird on a visit to President James Monroe in 1824. Monroe congratulated the Sioux for their participation in breaking the Arikara out west, this, as sentiment grew in DC that Indians should all be moved west of the Mississippi River. Hawk Hunting Walks returned to Minnesota, perhaps a little wary, and signed the Treaty of Prairie Du Chien of 1825 under the watchful eye of General William Clark, former captain of the Corps of Discovery. The treaty formalized tribal territories and sought to end generations of inter-tribal conflict.

In 1830, General Clark brought several bands of Sioux together to sign another Treaty of Prairie Du Chien, which ceded three large tracts of land to the United States for westward expansion into Minnesota. It was a treaty that the Dakota were hard-pressed to keep.

Little Crow, photo by Whitney, 1862.

The Sioux, Dakota and Lakota, had other concerns throughout the 1830s and 1840s. There was warfare with the Crow, Arikara, Pawnee, and Shoshone west of the Missouri River, and continuing warfare with the Chippewa up north. Smallpox took the lives of thousands of Indians across the Plains. A massive star fall is remembered in nearly all winter counts. In 1846, Hawk Hunting Walks had a gun mishap in which he accidentally shot himself and died.

Chieftanship of the Mdewakanton Dakota, whom Hawk Hunting Walks led, was in dispute. Hawk Hunting Walks had children with three wives. His Red Nation’s mother was a Wahpekute Dakota, and so his brothers from his father’s other wives conspired to keep the chieftanship within the Mdewakanton. All of Hawk Hunting Walks’ sons met at a tribal get together. His Red Nation’s brothers attempted to assassinate him, at the last moment however, a young man knocked the gun with his hatchet causing the bullet to strike His Red Nation in the arm, breaking it – it was never set properly and healed crookedly, and left an awful scar. The conspiring brothers were condemned to death and His Red Nation became the chief.

"Execution Of The Thirty Eight Sioux Indians" by John C Wise.

As a boy, His Red Nation engaged in sham fights to learn stealth and leadership. To gain a victory in a sham fight, a mock war party had to take the village by surprise, or it wasn’t a victory at all. When he was ten, His Red Nation took his village by surprise when he crept into it unseen with the aid of his dog. A few years later, a friend of his fell through the ice and His Red Nation risked his own life to save him with a line. He fell through the ice as well, but managed to save his friend. His Red Nation became known in his youth as a trusty messenger and a great hunter.

In 1851, after years of preparation, the untimely death of his father, and an attempt on his life, His Red Nation received his first test in American bureaucracy at the Treaty of Traverse De Sioux in which the southern half of Minnesota was ceded to the United States, and the Treaty of Mendota, in which permanent agencies were established for the Dakota in Minnesota. The Dakota were to receive payments for their land cession, and food supplements while they adjusted to a completely sedentary lifestyle.

"Mass Execution of 38 Dakota on the Day After Christmas" By John Stevens.

His Red Nation tried his best to placate the settlers and new Minnesota government by adopting the white man’s clothes. He also converted to Christianity and became an Episcopalian. His Red Nation even took up farming. In his best efforts to ensure peace in his homeland, which had become an island in the middle of non-native settlement, in 1860 His Red Nation went east to visit with President James Buchanan to remind him that the Dakota fought for the US under Leavenworth and had willingly signed and followed treaty stipulation.

The United States had other concerns. The Civil War.

Sibley-Indian-Expedition, Harpers Weekly 1863.

By 1862, the Civil War was drawing on all the resources of the states from able men to fields of crops. The Indian agents and traders were suddenly faced with little supervision in their work and as the saying goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Indian agents in Minnesota were selling their wards food, supplies and seed when it was supposed to have been distributed according to treaty. Meanwhile, a combination of drought, disease and infestation nearly put an end to the growing season leaving little to harvest. The Dakota began to starve while warehouses stood full. The situation became desperate and in bad times the only choices left are bad choices.

His Red Nation could not reassure his people, ease their anxiety, or feed them and his ability to restrain his people weakened.

"The Siege of New Ulm, Minn.", a painting by Henry August Schwabe. Schwab depicts an attack on New Ulm on August 19, during the Dakota War of 1862.

On August 4, 1862, a desperate and hungry party of Dakota men broke into the food warehouse at the Lower Agency on the Minnesota River. The Indian Agent, Thomas Galbraith, ordered the soldiers under his command not to fire and immediately called for a council with His Red Nation and his people. At this hastily called council, His Red Nation reminded Galbraith that the Dakota were owed money to buy food and supplies and warned the agent that “when men are hungry, they help themselves.” A representative of the traders, Andrew Myrick, smartly retorted, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry let them eat grass or their own dung."

With hunger abated for the moment, the Dakota returned home. A few days later, August, 17, five Dakota men were returning from an unsuccessful hunt and goaded one another to steal from a farmer on their return home. The theft turned into a gunfight which left five settlers dead. The hunters returned home and told of their exploit which rattled the Dakota community. Some were for turning in the five hunters, others were for outright war. His Red Nation was for keeping the peace but he was still their chief, and when an overwhelming number of his people wanted to fight, he reluctantly prepared for war.

"Attack on New Ulm during the Sioux Outbreak, Aug. 19-23, 1862," by Anton Gag, 1904.

His Red Nation led the war party to Myrick’s house. They killed Myrick and then stuffed his mouth with grass for his cutting words. His Red Nation led them on a campaign along the Minnesota River with victories at New Ulm, which they burned to the ground, but only a month into their campaign against the settlers and soldiers, His Red Nation took a severe defeat in the Battle of Wood Lake, September 23. The defeat was such that His Red Nation broke for Canada. Men who fought under his leadership in a war he did not want to fight, either fled for Canada as well, or journeyed west to Dakota Territory to live among their Teton relatives.

Internment camp at Pike Island on the Minnesota River below Fort Snelling, Minnesota by Benjamin Franklin Upton, 1862.

The Dakota who surrendered after the Battle of Wood Lake were taken to Mankato, MN. There, 303 Dakota men were convicted of murder and rape. The trials for many lasted five minutes or less. No one explained the proceedings, nor were any Dakota men represented. President Abraham Lincoln personally reviewed each case and commuted the death sentence of 264 of the Dakota men, and ordered thirty-nine to hang in the largest mass execution in US history on December 26, 1862. On January 1, 1863, just one week later, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Condemned prisoners in prison at Mankato, MN, 1862.

According to Kills Small, His Red Nation spent the winter and spring petitioning the Teton Lakota, petitioning even the Arikara, the Hidatsa, and the Mandan Indians to take up arms against the whites. The Teton Lakota had other concerns with warfare on other tribes, and defending their own lands. The Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan were too few and did not have the strength nor heart to take up arms against a country that they depended on since the last smallpox epidemic.

The following summer, His Red Nation decided to risk a return to Minnesota with his seventeen year-old son, Wowinape, Haven or Sanctuary but often translated as Place Of Refuge. His Red Nation and Haven decided to stop in a farmer’s field to gather raspberries. The farmer, Nathan Lamson, and his son engaged His Red Nation and Haven mortally wounding His Red Nation. His Red Nation shot and wounded Lamson. His Red Nation told his son to run, even as Lamson’s son ran to get help.

A Yanktonai Dakota camp is being invaded by Sully's brigade during the Dakota Wars at the Battle of White Stone Hill, North Dakota, September 3, 1863, Harper's Weekly, Oct. 31, 1863, p. 693. Killing and mutilating His Red Nation's body wasn't enough. General Sully was called in to attack a group of Sioux who had nothing to do with the 1862 conflict.

Lamson’s son ran about twelve miles to Hutchinson, MN, and returned with a posse. At first the posse didn’t recognize that the dead Dakota man was His Red Nation, but as realization dawned on them that they had the body of “Little Crow,” they mutilated his body, brought it back to Hutchinson where they dragged it down Main Street. The citizens placed firecrackers in the body’s ears and allowed their dogs to chew on the body, which was tossed in an alley where refuse was typically discarded.

The 8th Minn Infantry, again led by General Sully. This time, Sully and his command attacked an encampment of Teton Lakota who were led by Chiefs Sitting Bull and Gall. As was the case this time around as it was at Whitestone Hill, this group of Sioux had nothing to do with what happened in Minnesota, 1862. Painting by Carl Ludwig Boeckmann.

Haven ran to Spirit Lake, Dakota Territory. He was captured around Fort Totten, tried and sentenced to hang. Haven was sent to prison in Davenport, Iowa. There, he converted to Christianity and took the name Thomas Wakeman. He was pardoned in 1865, after the Civil War, and settled in Dakota Territory.

In 1971, His Red Nation’s remains were returned to Jesse Wakeman, Haven’s son, for internment.

Jerome Kills Small, Sisoka (Robin) pictured here. Image from his CD Inikagapi.

Jerome Kills Small, Sisoka (Red Robin) is an Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, SD. Kills Small is the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award from the South Dakota Humanities Council, a Reconciliation Award from the Governor of SD, George Nickleson, and was selected by the University of South Dakota as the Poet of the Year in 1994. Kills Small has portrayed Tecumseh and Dr. Charles Eastman in the Chautauqua venue across the country. He is a traditional singer and storyteller. Kills Small can be heard on the CD "Inikagapi." Support a native author, storyteller, poet, and singer. Get your copy on Amazon or whatever.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Life's Journey - Zuya, A Review

Add White Hat's wonderful book to your library.
Life's Journey - Zuya, A Review
Oral Teachings Contained Within Book

By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK , N.D. - Instruction in Lakota oral tradition began at home with food, an exchange of pleasantries and conversation, and an offering of tobacco. Albert White Hat Sr. wistfully recalls the days when the elders of his youth remembered the days before the reservation and shared the unbroken cycle of stories.

White Hat carefully, yet concisely, renders a summary of the swift changes, both good and bad, which have deeply impacted how the Lakota people interact with one another and the land, their philosophy, and how they pray and speak.

Life’s Journey is part history, part language instruction, part biography, and through it all is the strong first-person narrative of story and tradition carefully crafted and preserved through the editing efforts of John Cunningham. Cunningham took White Hat’s recorded lectures with the idea to transcribe them for the original draft of what became Life’s Journey, and delicately retains the character and voice of the Lakota speaker for the English reader.

A great black and white photo of White Hat.

Throughout Life’s Journey readers will encounter White Hat’s attribution to the elders and medicine practitioners with the words “they say” or “they always say.” This is a cultural practice, a way of respect White Hat demonstrates for those whom he heard a story. In other parts of White Hat’s narrative, he uses “them” or “they.” It is these times in which White Hat is referring to relatives who have taken their journey.

White Hat’s stories are repeated or referenced to throughout the different chapters. In the Lakota tradition, if something is very important it is worth sharing and hearing several times again. According to White Hat, there are connections that are not apparent in the first telling.

Natan Tokahe, The First One To Charge, is White Hat’s traditional name. White Hat grew up on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, but the people call themselves Sicangu, Burnt Thighs. He beautifully articulates in the first chapter who he is and where he comes from in the Lakota tradition. As part of sharing who he is and the people he belongs to, White Hat touches on the story that the Sicangu originated as the Sicangu near present-day Bismarck, ND.

Nine years of visits, listenings, and edits went into creating White Hat’s Life’s Journey. Each chapter, including the appendices, has a Lakota heading and translation. Each story includes Lakota words and clear translations in the cultural context.

Order yourself a copy of White Hat's book from "Prairie Edge" in Rapid City, SD. (or where ever man). This is one of my favorite spots to stop for beads and stuff.

The only criticism of this work is that so much effort has gone into preserving the “flavor” and cultural nuances of the Lakota language, that one wonders if the work should have been published bilingual, page for page, in Lakota and in English. The very subtitle of Life’s Journey, “Zuya” literally translates as “To Go Out,” but carries with the Lakota context of going out with a war party. A Lakota reader may look at the title and step away with the impression that life’s journey is comparable with making war, but that may have been White Hat’s intention all along.

For the Lakota reader whose first language is English, Life's Journey's strength is the fact that it is in English and retains the cultural context, and includes translations. Edify yourself and go get yourself copy today!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ely Parker: Seneca Chieftan, American General

Parker wears his grandfather Red Jacket's medal. President George Washington gave the silver medal to Red Jacket in 1792.Seneca Chieftain, American General
Drafter Of Civil War Surrender Terms
By Dakota Wind
Note: The following article originally appeared in the North Dakota Humanities Council's publication On Second Thought, the Civil War issue. Reuben Fast Horse wrote the original draft, this author edited and expanded upon it. The story of Parker is an amazing one, and shows how far up the chain of command the efforts of Indians who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Ha-sa-no-an-da (Leading Name) came into this world in 1828 on the Tonawanda Seneca Indian Reservation in upstate New York. He was the sixth child of seven, born to Jo-no-es-sto-wa (Dragonfly) a.k.a. William Parker and Ga-ont-gwut-twus or Ji-gon-sa-seh (Lynx) a.k.a. Elizabeth Parker. Both Dragonfly and Lynx walked with one foot in the Seneca nation and the other in the United States. They immersed their children in the language and heritage of the Seneca Nation and the Iroquois Confederacy. Dragonfly was also a Baptist minister who baptized all his children and gave them Christian names.

When Lynx was pregnant with her son Leading Name, she received a vision about the future of her baby: A son will be born to you who will be distinguished among his nation as a peacemaker; he will become a white man as well as an Indian, with great learning; he will be a warrior for the palefaces; he will be a wise white man, but will never desert his Indian people or 'lay down his horns as a great Iroquois chief'; his name will reach from the East to the West–the North to the South, as great among his Indian family and the palefaces. His sun will rise on Indian land and set on the white man's land. Yet the land of his ancestors will fold him in death. When Dragonfly baptized Leading Name at Ely Stone’s Baptist church, he gave his son the name “Ely Parker.”

The Grand River Valley as it could have been in 1781. Painting by Michael Swanson. The original is at Laurier’s Carnegie Hall, Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Learn more about this image and the War of 1812.

Parker was educated at Elder Ely Stone’s Baptist School early on in life and was later sent to an Iroquois settlement along the Grand River in Ontario to learn traditional hunting and fishing when he was ten years old. When Ely turned thirteen, he became extremely homesick and left for home in New York. On the road from London to Hamilton in Ontario, some British officers ridiculed him for is his poor speech. Parker could understand what they said but was unable to comprehend the humor at his expense. Parker came away from the experience determined to master English.

Parker’s parents approved of his initiative to learn the English language and sent him to back to the mission school. His studies excelled and he earned a tuition waiver to attend the Yates Academy in Orleans County, NY. At the academy he also studied Greek and Latin, which he also mastered. Parker became so well versed in the studies and proficient in English at the age of fourteen that his people selected him to serve as their interpreter in their exchange with President John Tyler.

Here's a map of where the Tonawanda River (Creek) converges with the Niagara River in New York. The Long House on the map shows viewers where the Tonawanda used to live, which is the city of Tonawanda today.

As a teenager, when young people begin to develop and explore their interests, Parker became heavily involved in drafting and interpreting in their correspondence with the Ogden Land Company. The land company struck a private deal with the Seneca at Cattaraugus and the Seneca at Allegheny. Quaker missionaries advised these other two Seneca bands to sign over the lands of the Seneca at Buffalo Creek and Tonawanda. From 1842 to 1845, the land of the Tonawanda was seized and settled.

Parker finished his studies at Yates Academy and enrolled at the Cayuga Academy in Aurora where he faced some hostility from classmates, though generally he was treated well. In 1846, the Seneca at Tonawanda called him back to defend with words on paper the right for the Seneca to stay at Tonawanda. He was eighteen years old when the Tonawanda Seneca took him with them to appeal their case with President James Polk.

President James K. Polk, whom Parker met when he worked on the Seneca's appeal.

The Tonawanda Seneca appeal took five years to fight, and in the end, Parker was credited with saving 3/5ths of the Tonawanda reservation from the Ogden Land Company and was given fifty acres of land for his personal use.

Parker’s academic pursuits received a boost in motivation when he visited Washington DC in 1847 when he viewed a series of paintings of explorers, traders, and settlers in their meetings with the natives such as the Pilgrims receiving food from the Indians, Captain Smith and Pocahontas, and Daniel Boon fighting Indians. When he went to church, he was asked to remove himself to the seating above.

Harvard, an engraving by Paul Revere. While the institution of the 1800s repeatedly turned down Parker's application, its a different story today. Today, Harvard has "The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Developing." Check them out, they focus on why sovereignty matters:

The slights he received and Parker’s own reflections about the injustices of all Indian peoples moved him to become a lawyer. He applied to Harvard, but received no word on his application. Parker applied for a clerkship in Washington DC, but no position opened up for him. Parker applied to take the bar exam in New York, but was denied when he was told he was not a US citizen.

Parker had made become friends with Lewis Morgan who tapped his network to get Parker a job as an engineer on the Genesee Valley Canal project. As he gained work experience as an engineer, he learned to country dance from a fellow’s wife. By 1850, Parker’s contacts, unparalleled work ethic, knowledge of the land and engineering landed him a job in Rochester as a civil engineer on the New York canals.

Lewis Henry Morgan, the father of modern anthropology.

Parker’s friendship with Morgan grew out of Morgan’s keen interest in documenting the changing or disappearing cultural traditions of the Seneca. They worked together and produced Morgan’s League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois which was published in 1851. Morgan’s research and methodology has led many to regard him as the father of American anthropology. Morgan’s book was dedicated to Parker.

Parker’s work with Morgan and legal fight with the Federal court system on behalf of the Seneca came to a head in September, 1851. The council of the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) met and called on Parker to return, where they installed him as one of the fifty sachems of the Iroquois Confederacy. Parker was then selected as the Grand Sachem of the Six Nations. The new sachem was also given a new name: Do-ne-ho-ga-wa, “Open Door.” The sachem who traditionally carried this name was also the Keeper of the Western Door, the one whom all approaches by other tribes were made. Parker was twenty-three.

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

Parker applied for a position with the US Treasury Department in hopes of getting an assignment in Chicago, IL, but when he was brought on, he was appointed to work on lighthouses on the Great Lakes in Michigan. His work on lighthouses on the lakes eventually brought him from Detroit, MI to work on a public buildingsl in Galena, IL. There in Galena Parker became friends with Capt. Ulysses Grant.

Politics in Illinois took a turn for the worse for Parker. The locals called him a stranger and resented his assignment there without their consultation. Petitions called for his removal, but his support from congressmen on the east coast and his engineering associates in the canals overwhelmingly supported his work assignment in Illinois. Parker resigned after the construction of the Galena custom house was complete.

The Galena Custom House and Post Office, Galena, Illinois. The building is still there.

Throughout Parker’s engineering career, tensions between the North and the South escalated into impending war. At an appearance in Dubuque, IA Parker was called on to speak about the state of the country. He rendered a short speech about the founding of the country and the beliefs of the founding fathers then Parker reached into his pocket and removed a medal for all to see. The medal was gift to his great-grandfather Red Jacket from President George Washington. Parker’s speech and the medal “awakened the spark of patriotism” of everyone present.

Parker returned to Tonawanda and raised crops while he made every effort to enlist with the Union army. He sought commissions as an engineer, but was repeatedly declined because he was an Indian and not a US citizen despite the dire need for engineers. Several of his tribesmen found ways to enter the service, but Parker wanted a commission because of his education and experience. Parker waited two years.

Brig. Gen. John E. Smith, pictured above, was a Swiss immigrant. His father served under Napoleon Bonaparte. The Smith family moved to the US after Bonaparte's fall.

Brig. Gen. John E. Smith, a friend of Parker’s in Galena, knew of Parker’s desire to enlist as an officer. Smith got an endorsement from General Grant, another of Parker’s friends, and was commissioned as Grant’s staff as Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers with the rank of Captain. The Seneca honored Parker’s commission with a feast and blessing before he went off to serve in the war.

The Battle of orchard Knob, by Kurz and Allison, 1888.

Parker was barely under Grant’s command a few days when he took ill and nearly died, but he recovered after to accompany Grant on the Chattanooga Campaign at the Battle of Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain. When Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General and went east to Washington, Parker went with him.

The Battle of The Wilderness. This image appeared in Harper's Weekly, May 28, 1864. Union soldiers are depicted here charging against Confederate forces.

In General Grant’s move to cross the Rapidan River in Virginia, which precipitated the Battle of the Wilderness, 1864, Parker saved Grant from capture. On May 7, 1864, Grant was heading toward Confederate General Roger Pryor’s line. Parker sensed a trap and led Grant’s command away from Pryor’s line.

Grant used Parker’s engineering skill to plan and dig entrenchments and post batteries. On one occasion a Southern woman refused to vacate her home and told Parker that her husband was in command of nearby Confederate forces, and that he’d never fire on their house. Parker told the woman she could stay and he quickly ordered the line behind her house.

General Grant and his staff of fourteen. Parker is featured in this image, fourth from the right, seated.

In September, 1864, Grant promoted Parker to Lieutenant Colonel and served as Grant’s personal secretary the remainder of the war. After the war, Parker continued to serve General Grant as his personal secretary, retiring in 1869 as Brevet Brigadier General.

One of the most famous and beautiful paintings of Lee's surrender is this Tom Lovell image called "The Surrender at Appomattox," 1987. It currently hangs at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia. Lovell even included General Custer, far right, next to Parker.

On April 7, 1865, General Grant was closing in General Lee’s command. Grant began a correspondence with Lee through Parker’s hand and on April 9, Lee met with Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House to discuss the terms of surrender with Grant who took Parker with him.

This image of the Surrender at Appomattox is by Keith Rocco. Parker stands behind Lee at the surrender desk. General Phil Sheridan purchased the table and gave it to General Custer. It is now at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

Grant’s staff met with Lee’s staff in the parlor of William McLean’s house where both staffs were formally introduced to one another. Lee was said to be courteous and cool, offering no further remark to Grant’s staff other than a salutation. When Parker was introduced to Lee, Lee paused for several seconds, startled, then extended his hand to Parker and said, “I am glad to see one American here.” Parker took Lee’s hand and replied, “We are all Americans.” Grant then had Parker compose the surrender papers, which Lee signed.

Parker as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Parker was President Grant's architect in the new Peace Policy in relation to the Indians in the west. While Parker was the commissioner, and probably because of his friendship with Grant, military actions against Indians were reduced.

After the war Grant appointed Parker as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He was the first American Indian to hold this post and resigned from this position in 1871. Parker's initial optimism of reshaping the BIA, one of the most corrupt branches of federal government (and some say it still is), led to a tremendous pressure on him to resign. Parker was faced with false charges of fraud that wouldn't go away.

Mahpiya Luta, Red Cloud.
While Parker was the BIA Commissioner, he initiated contact with the Lakota chief Red Cloud and Spotted Tail to meet President Grant in an effort to bring an end to the conflicts out west, but it was a peace that lasted until the confirmation of gold in the Black Hills.

Although Parker was recognized more for drafting the terms of Surrender at Appomattox, his accomplishments in his life let us know that he was a formidable man, despite his difficulties and heritage he set out to achieve whatever he put his mind to.

Often we hear or read about heroic figures in our past yet we don’t always hear about the person themselves. Who they were, what they were like, why they did what they did, and what remains are the facts left for us to decipher about a person. Parker signifies the change we all have to make at some point in our lives to accept, to adapt, and to overcome not just our obstacles or enemies but ourselves. This is what America is, and to be American is to honor the sacrifices of those who gave and believed in what they so desperately lived, bleed and died for.