Tag Archives: Sioux

Fourth of July

Sioux Indians Hitting a Dime at 100 Yards, July 4, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

The Indian Bureau was never culturally sensitive, especially when it came to Native American celebrations. It actively discouraged or forbade ceremonial dances, feasts, and other gatherings, fearing that they might unite tribes or keep them from assimilating into white culture. Most gatherings required written permission. One explanation for the Indian Bureau allowing celebrations at all was offered in Sunday Magazine (July 2, 1911): “Shut off on reservations and compelled to do without any extraneous amusements, the Indian grows morose and is much more inclined to give trouble than when occasionally permitted to enjoy himself.”

The Bureau didn’t pay as much attention to Fourth of July celebrations, and Native Americans soon discovered that they could get together on that day without written permission. They began to use the Fourth of July as an excuse to gather and perform the dances and ceremonies they enjoyed. Some tribes had a practice of giving away assets during celebrations, often through a formal ceremony called a potlatch. Native Americans considered it an honor to give their possessions to others, and often gave to the poorest members of the tribe, first. Sioux Indians apparently ramped up this gift-giving practice on the Fourth of July, and the Indian Bureau began calling this “Give-Away Day.” Tribal members celebrated the Fourth with games of skill and strength, feasting, and dancing. They also incorporated their practice of honoring individuals with important gifts, with no thought of reciprocation. Gifts were substantial–horses, fancy bead work, saddles, and other valuable items. Whites seemed to be amazed by the practice, since it often left the giver without any resources.

Fourth of July Celebration, 1891, South Dakota, courtesy Library of Congress

 

Nez Perce Fourth of July Parade, Spaulding, Idaho, 1902, courtesy Library of Congress

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Winter As a Time of Reflection

Rosebud Indian Agency, courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society

Rosebud Indian Agency, courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society

In most earlier cultures, life slowed during the winter months; people could not plant seed in frozen ground, days were short and dark, and most agricultural tasks were complete. As in today’s practice of contemplation at the New Year, native peoples used winter as a time to reflect on the important events of the previous year. Continue reading

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And One Step Backward

Sioux Indian Women Receiving Rations, Pine Ridge Reservation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

Sioux Indian Women Receiving Rations, Pine Ridge Reservation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

By the early 1920s, some of the indifference to Native Americans’ cultural values had lessened.

However, even if  a government official occasionally saw positive traits in native peoples or respected their need for cultural wholeness, his viewpoint could be buried in a continued avalanche of popular sentimentality and/or naivete that perpetuated stereotypes and fed unrealistic daydreams about the status of Native Americans. Continue reading

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Reports, Reports

Nurse and Patients at Fergus Falls State Hospital, 1900

Nurse and Patients at Fergus Falls State Hospital, 1900

With perhaps a very rare exception, all insane asylums were inspected on a reasonably regular basis, and inspectors visited the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians a number of times. Visits were usually routine, though the asylum received a number of special inspections brought on by complaints or allegations of misconduct that reached the Indian Office. Continue reading

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Payments on Reservations

Waiting for Rations, circa 1905, couresty Wannamker Collection, Mathers Museum Indiana University

Waiting for Rations, circa 1905, courtesy Wanamaker Collection, Mathers Museum Indiana University

Treaties between the U.S. government and Native Americans almost always stipulated annual payments of money and/or goods to tribes which had signed the treaties. On most reservations, one day was set aside for these annuity payments, and that specific day became known as “payment day” for money annuities and “ration day” for annuities paid in goods. Payment Day could become quite an event. Almost every Indian on a reservation came to the payment place, usually the Indian agency. The agency consisted of an office building, employee housing, storage, barns, etc.; it was also (usually) under military protection and so included troop quarters and military storage buildings.

Knowing that Indians would have money on Payment Day, traders in all sorts of goods flocked to the agency and displayed their merchandise. Sometimes as many as 100 traders showed up, and their wares were geared toward merchandise they knew their customers wanted. Grains, cooking pots and pans, washtubs, coffee mills, calico and muslin, blankets, saddles, bridles, jewelry, and so on were offered, and the exchange sometimes became a festive, two-to-four day event. Unfortunately, rum and whiskey peddlers set up their stations close by as well, and many Indians fell prey to intoxicants that perhaps led them to spending extravagances.

Mille Lacs Trading Post, circa 1920, courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Mille Lacs Trading Post, circa 1920, courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Issuing Flour to Ojibway Woman, White Earth Reservation

Issuing Flour to Ojibway Woman, White Earth Reservation

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A Helping Hand

In the Land of the Sioux, courtesy firstpeople.us

Though food scarcity occurred naturally due to weather and other factors, Native Americans could generally recover from a poor season of hunting or farming. However, the “help” extended by the U.S.’s federal government actually put them into a downward spiral that affected their health for generations. Government interference began early in the relationship between native peoples and settlers, stemming to some extent from a difference in world view. Settlers expected to see the same extensive domestication of animals and extensive farming in the new land that they had experienced in Europe, and could not understand Native Americans’ different relationship with animals and nature. Settlers took the absence of widespread domestication and agriculture by native peoples as an indication that they were uncivilized. A surprising emphasis of early legislation by the newly formed U.S. dealt with this issue of civilization.

The new Congress’s first trade and intercourse Act (March 1, 1793) said this: “. . . in order to promote civilization among the friendly Indian tribes, and to secure the continuance of their friendship, it shall and may be lawful . . . to cause them to be furnished with useful domestic animals and implements of husbandry.”

These seemingly friendly words and seemingly friendly intention started a cascade of events that left Indian nations destitute of land and poorly nourished. My next couple of posts will concentrate on these issues.

Klamath Woman Preparing Food

Buffalo in Kansas

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And More Statistics

Menominee Indian Family, 1931

The government always liked to gather statistics (see last post), and Dr. Hummer was forced to complete many reports for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. A report from June 30, 1924 gives a good snapshot of the institution. There were 50 males and 47 females from 31 different tribes; six patients were of unknown tribal affiliation. At the time of the report, the Sioux and Chippewa tribes were disproportionally represented; 19 patients were Sioux, and 14 were Chippewa. Statistics since opening told the same story: 68 Sioux had been admitted since 1902, 40 Chippewa, and 20 Menominee.

Though Hummer continually advocated for an epileptic cottage, epilepsy did not seem to be his biggest problem. Before the asylum closed, an independent doctor from St. Elizabeths noted that Hummer had lumped patients with any kind of convulsions into “epileptic” status, even though they were not truly epileptic. What Hummer really needed were good protocols and staff to care for lung issues. By 1924, the asylum had had 143 deaths. Fifty-one of them were from tuberculosis, and another 17 from some type of pneumonia. Only 14 patients had died of epileptic convulsions, with another four dying from exhaustion following convulsions.

Chippewa Indians in Ceremonial Dress, courtesy University of Minnesota, Duluth

Calvin Coolidge Meets with Sioux Indians from Rosebud Reservation on Lawn of White House, 1925

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How Does the Bureau of Indian Affairs Run?

John Collier

John Collier’s article about Amerindians (see last post) laid the blame for much of the Indians’ misery on the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Indians were now full citizens of the United States, Collier wrote, but unlike all other citizens, were completely under the control of Congress through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA controlled Indian property valued at $1,650,000,000, Indian income, and even their persons to a great extent.

The BIA could force Indian children to go to schools hundreds of miles away from home, “enforce an unpublished penal code” that allowed them to arrest Indians at will, censor Indians’ religious observances, and nullify an Indian’s last will and testament unless it had been previously approved by the BIA.

Worst of all, said Collier, the BIA “makes accounting to no agency juristic, legislative, and administrative.” It acted as a government unto itself and had a monopoly of control on reservations. He did note that the agency was finally having to account for itself through a survey being conducted at the time of his writing. This accounting resulted in the Meriam Report, discussed in posts on May 12-19.

Native American Farmer on Flathead Reservation , circa 1920, courtesy BIA

Sioux Men in Traditional Dress, 1909, courtesy Library of Congress

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Who Came to Canton?

Canton, S. D., 1907, courtesy Library of Congress

Canton, S. D., 1907, courtesy Library of Congress

Patients began to trickle into the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians after it opened the last day of 1902. From January 1, 1903 to the end of the first fiscal year on June 30, 1903, ten males (all over 18 years of age) and six females (two of whom were under 18) were admitted to the asylum. During the fiscal year, one  patient died and two recovered.

An additional female was admitted in July, and by the time asylum superintendent O.S. Gifford (see previous posts) made his annual report at the end of August, 24 insane Indians had been ordered to the asylum. Nine tribes were represented among these patients: Cherokee, Comanche, Osage, Pawnee, Mission, Winnebago, Chippewa, Shoshone, and Sioux.

Coe Crawford, S.D. Governor, 1908

Coe Crawford, S.D. Governor, 1908

View of Big Sioux River (which flowed past the asylum) 1911

View of Big Sioux River (which flowed past the asylum) 1911

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