One hundred years ago, in 1914, Indians were supposed to have totally assimilated into the great American melting pot like other immigrants and yet Indian people and their tribes continued to exist. Listed below are some of the Indian events of 1914.
President, Congress, Supreme Court:
In Washington, D.C., President Woodrow Wilson met with a delegation from the Society of American Indians (SAI) to discuss Indian affairs. The SAI had been founded in 1911 by six Indian intellectuals: Arthur Caswell Parker (Seneca), Dr. Charles A. Eastman (Sioux), Sherman Coolidge (Arapaho), Thomas L. Sloan (Omaha), Charles Daganett (Peoria), Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai-Apache), and Zitkala-sa (Sioux). The group hoped to create a new relationship between Indians and non-Indians.
Congress heard testimony on the conditions and administration of the Blackfeet reservation in Montana. Robert Hamilton, Sr., a mixed-blood graduate of the Carlisle Indian School, testified that
“it looks as though the white man, in many instances, was the beneficiary of the reservation rather than the Indian.”The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that defined a “mixed blood” as an Indian with any amount of “white blood”.
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs:
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs was the head of the Indian Office which was a part of the Department of the Interior. In 1914, Cato Sells was appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Like most of the people who had been appointed to this post, Sells had no prior experience with Indians, nor did he have any particular interest in Indians. Cato Sells told the Indian superintendents:
“I hold it to be an economic and social crime … to permit thousands of acres of fertile land belonging to the Indians and capable of great industrial development to lie in unproductive idleness.”Sells telegraphed the Uintah-Ouray Reservation in Utah and ordered that the Ute Sun Dance be stopped. He said:
“this dance is a great detriment to moral and industrial interest of the Indians and cannot be allowed.”The dance had the support of non-Indians in the area and a Salt Lake City newspaper ran an editorial in favor of the Sun Dance. However, Sells did not agree and warned the non-Indian people of Vernal not to encourage the dance because
“I do not wish to subject your community to the indignity of sending troops.”Sells ordered a United States marshal to stop the dance, but the marshal arrived after the dance had taken place.
On the Southern Ute Reservation in Colorado, the superintendent was reprimanded for allowing a Sun Dance to be held. Even though the dance was held without his permission, the superintendent did observe it. He reported:
“It was conducted orderly and no barbarous or immoral practice was engaged in” and “I realize fully that it does not have a christianizing effect upon these Indians, but I do believe that it does not have any immoral effect upon them.”The Commissioner of Indian Affairs received reports from the Omaha reservation in Nebraska and from the Sisseton Sioux Agency in South Dakota regarding the impact of competency commissions. These commissions determined if individual Indians were competent and could, therefore, sell their allotments. For the Omaha, 80% had nothing left and for the Sioux, only 9 out of 222 still had their lands. In spite of these findings, or perhaps ignoring them, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs announced a more liberal fee patenting process.
Lake Mohonk Conference:
A group of influential, wealthy, non-Indian men met annually at Lake Mohonk to discuss the Indian “problem” and to present resolutions to the government. As wealthy men, they had a great deal of influence in forming federal Indian policies.
At the 1914 Lake Mohonk Conference there was an impassioned plea for more federal protection for the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma. Indian reformer Kate Barnard spoke to the group. Historian Angie Debo, in her book And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes, reported:
“A perfect storm of emotion swept her audience as, with considerable inaccuracy of detail but deep sincerity of feeling, she told of the destruction of her work and her personal struggle with disillusionment and a sense of futility.”the Board of Indian Commissioners began to work for increased federal protection for the Oklahoma tribes.
Winnebago educator Henry Roe Cloud addressed the annual Lake Mohonk Conference:
“Education unrelated to life is of no use. Education is the leading-out process of the young until they themselves know what they are best fitted for in life.”The Lake Mohonk Conference took up an anti-peyote campaign and suggested that the federal prohibition of intoxicating liquors be expanded to include peyote.
Native American Church:
The federal government and various state governments continued their battle against the Native American Church on the grounds that: (1) the church was illegal, and (2) Indians should not be allowed to use peyote in their church services as this was an addictive drug.
In Oklahoma, the Firstborn Church of Christ was organized. The fact that strong Christian elements were used in this peyote ritual were reflected in the name of the group. Many peyotists, however, were uncomfortable with the name of the group.
The Society of American Indians published an editorial about peyote in their quarterly journal. Unlike most news reports about peyote which tended to be inflammatory, this editorial suggested that people using peyote should be studied for any mental and/or physical disorders that might be associated with peyote use.
In Wisconsin, Potawatomi medicine man Medicine Neck introduced the Menominee to the peyote ceremony. The reservation superintendent arrested Medicine Neck for violation of the 1897 prohibition against the introduction of intoxicating substances onto Indian reservations. The federal judge found Medicine Neck not guilty. The judge ruled that the federal laws against furnishing Indians with intoxicants was a clear prohibition against alcohol and could not be applied to peyote.
In Utah, Sam Lone Bear (Sioux) arrived on the Uintah-Ouray Reservation to introduce the Ute to the peyote ceremonies. In response, federal employees on the reservation began to exert political pressure on the Colorado and Utah state legislatures to outlaw peyote.
In Oklahoma, the Talihina Indian Hospital was established for the Chickasaw and Choctaw.
Indian Shows, Movies, Art, Books:
In Florida, the non-Indian owner of Tropical Gardens began charging a fee for the tourists who wanted to visit the Seminole village on the property. The Seminole were not paid, but were allowed to sell dolls, toy canoes, and other artifacts.
In Montana, the manager of the Grand Theatre in Great Falls asked Little Bear to have some Cree in traditional tribal regalia on the platform of the Great Falls train depot to greet Broadway actress Gabe Deslys. In return, Little Bear and his people passed the hat among the crowd to get donations for their camp. In addition, Little Bear presented a speech at the theater, which was followed by Cree dancing. The Cree raised enough money over two days to tide them over until spring.
Photographer Edward Curtis produced the motion picture In the Land of the War Canoes which was the story of a Kwakuitl legend. All of the actors in the film were tribal members.
In New Mexico, San Ildelfono artist Crescencio Martínez began collaborating with his wife Maximiliana Martínez. She made ceremonial ollas (pots) which he painted.
Anthropologist Gilbert L. Wilson wrote Goodbird the Indian: His Story based on information provided by Wolf-Chief, a Hidatsa man. The book was intended to teach Christian children about other cultures.
In Colorado, the Colorado Mountain Club and the Colorado Geographic Board invited three members of the Northern Arapaho tribe to visit the area which would later become Rocky Mountain National Park. The tribal members provided information about place names and historical events connected to the area.
In Arizona, concerned about the talk regarding the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park, the Indian agent for the Havasupai made another request to obtain plateau land for them. He wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:
“Out of this abundance it seems that these peacable [sic] and quiet people who have never opposed the approach of the white man nor disputed his progress might have enough on which to make an honest and plentiful living.”With regard to the requested plateau land, he wrote:
“This land is within the Forest Reserve, but in so far as the timber is concerned is of no value whatever.”In Arizona, the Indian Office, in a prompt response to a request by the Havasupai made in 1908, declared:
“After some correspondence and consideration of the matter, it was decided that it would be better to get free permits from the Forest for the Indians to graze their cattle on the National Forest rather than have a portion thereof restored to the public domain and reserved to the Indians.”Indian Organization:
The Northwest Federation of American Indians was organized in Tacoma, Washington to push for the fulfillment of treaty rights. S’Klallam leader Thomas G. Bishop sought to have the federal government enroll and provide land for all landless Indians in the Northwest.
In Arizona, money was appropriated by Congress to purchase land for the Camp Verde Indian School for the Yavapai.
In North Carolina, the Wide Awake Indian Council of the Waccamaw Tribe pressured Columbus County for separate schools. The County, however, found that the State did not compel them to provide separate schools for Indian children.
In Washington, the Fort Spokane Indian Boarding School closed.
In Colorado, Yunickwo’ov, an emissary from the Paiute prophet Wovoka, arrived among the Ute and advised them that within a year their ancestors would return and that the Americans would perish. The traditional Ute, feeling that visitations from ghosts meant death for the living, tended to ignore the prophet.
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