Crooked Paths to Allotment

Crooked Paths to Allotment: The Fight over Federal Indian Policy after the Civil War

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Crooked Paths to Allotment
    Book Description:

    Standard narratives of Native American history view the nineteenth century in terms of steadily declining Indigenous sovereignty, from removal of southeastern tribes to the 1887 General Allotment Act. InCrooked Paths to Allotment, C. Joseph Genetin-Pilawa complicates these narratives, focusing on political moments when viable alternatives to federal assimilation policies arose. In these moments, Native American reformers and their white allies challenged coercive practices and offered visions for policies that might have allowed Indigenous nations to adapt at their own pace and on their own terms. Examining the contests over Indian policy from Reconstruction through the Gilded Age, Genetin-Pilawa reveals the contingent state of American settler colonialism.Genetin-Pilawa focuses on reformers and activists, including Tonawanda Seneca Ely S. Parker andCouncil Fireeditor Thomas A. Bland, whose contributions to Indian policy debates have heretofore been underappreciated. He reveals how these men and their allies opposed such policies as forced land allotment, the elimination of traditional cultural practices, mandatory boarding school education for Indian youth, and compulsory participation in the market economy. Although the mainstream supporters of assimilation successfully repressed these efforts, the ideas and policy frameworks they espoused established a tradition of dissent against disruptive colonial governance.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0148-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    On April 9, 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant entered Wilmer McLean’s parlor at Appomattox Court House and introduced his personal staff to Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Lee welcomed each man with a courteous, if condescending, handshake and greeting. That was until he saw Ely S. Parker, a Tonawanda Seneca man from New York State and Grant’s personal military secretary. Witnesses in McLean’s parlor reported that Lee became visibly angered at the presence of Parker, who he, at the sight of his darker complexion, mistook for African American. He thought Grant was insulting him by inviting such a person to...

  5. ONE Confining Indians
    (pp. 13-28)

    On January 24, 1897, theBuffalo Expresspublished an article by New York poet and Indian policy reformer Harriet Maxwell Converse. The article coincided with the reinterment of Ely S. Parker’s body in the Forest Lawn Cemetery’s Indian burial plot; he had initially been laid to rest near his final worldly home in Fairfield, Connecticut. Converse told a story about a prophetic dream that Ely’s mother, Elizabeth Parker, had several months before his birth in 1828. An Iroquois dream interpreter found much significance in Elizabeth’s vision, according to Converse. “A son will be born to you who will be distinguished...

  6. TWO Tonawanda Seneca and the Assault on Tribal Sovereignty, 1838–1861
    (pp. 29-50)

    After “raising” Ely Parker to the position of “condoled chief”, Tonawanda Seneca leaders in 1852 appointed George Cooper, Parker’s maternal uncle, to serve as his “sub Sachem.” Cooper immediately wrote to Parker asking for advice. He wanted to know “exactly my duty, or the duty of my office under you.” He also wanted an assurance that, if he spoke during a council, Parker would support him.¹ Parker likely found this request awkward, for in the Seneca kinship system, a young man’s uncle held an important position as a role model and adviser, often even more significant than his father. In...

  7. THREE Peace Policy Precursors, 1861–1868
    (pp. 51-72)

    Acknowledging the gradual but persistent confinement of Indian people in the conclusion to their investigation of the Fort Philip Kearney (Fetterman) fight in 1867, General Alfred Sully and Colonel Ely S. Parker wrote, “The Indian Territory is every year becoming more and more contracted…. [Y]early Indians are dying fromactualstarvation. Is it to be wondered at that they are sometimes hostile?” Urging Congress to take an immediate measure to ease their suffering, they warned, “You cannot talk to a starving man about patience.”¹ In their impassioned call for a reconsideration of Indian policy, Sully and Parker sought to harness...

  8. FOUR Ely Parker’s Moment, 1869–1871
    (pp. 73-93)

    Optimism, alliance building, and an attempt to improve efficiency all characterized the efforts of reformers following the peace commissions of the 1860s, especially as they came to view newly elected President Ulysses S. Grant as an ally. In his first inaugural address, Grant stated clearly that he was on their side. “I will favor any course toward [Indian people],” he said, “which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship.”¹ In fact, one of his administration’s first actions involved freeing an Indian appropriations bill deadlocked by a procedural dispute between the Senate and the House Representatives. House members, whose responsibility it...

  9. FIVE A Contentious Peace Policy, 1871–1875
    (pp. 94-111)

    Far from the optimism that characterized the Office of Indian Affairs (oia) in the late 1860s, cynicism and paranoia pervaded in the following decade. In 1871 the House of Representatives launched an investigation into charges that Commissioner of Indian Affairs Ely Parker had committed fraud against the federal government when he contracted with J. W. Bosler to provide food and supplies to Indian nations along the Missouri River. Upon completing its hearing, the House Committee on Appropriations found “much to criticise [sic] and condemn,” though they ultimately uncovered no evidence implicating Parker in wrongdoing.¹ It would be easy to dismiss...

  10. SIX Thomas Bland’s Moment, 1875–1886
    (pp. 112-133)

    Alfred B. Meacham believed in the peace policy. The former superintendent of Indian affairs for the state of Oregon and founder of the Indian reform newspaper theCouncil Fireargued in 1878 that it was the “best” program for Native communities “ever attempted by this Government.”¹ Meacham had been appointed to his position early in Parker’s tenure as commissioner and corresponded with him frequently, often discussing opportunities for the Klamath and Modoc Nations. Most mainstream assimilationists did not agree with his assessment. In fact, by the mid-1870s, many, especially elite philanthropists in the eastern United States, began to advocate a...

  11. SEVEN The Allotment Controversy, 1882–1889
    (pp. 134-155)

    Herbert Welsh and the Indian Rights Association (ira) championed a policy of dispossession and assimilation in the 1880s, and much of the historical literature has focused on their story. These individuals argued that the Office of Indian Affairs (oia) was a corrupt and mismanaged agency and led the movement for immediate land allotment and citizenship rights and responsibilities for Native people, as well as the abrogation of treaty appropriations and the opportunity to open reservation land for white settlement and economic development. Their policy reforms focused in some very specific ways on managerial techniques and administrative technologies. Their ideas emerged...

  12. CONCLUSION John Collier’s Moment, 1928–1935
    (pp. 156-164)

    The Indian Rights Association (ira) and mainstream assimilationists won the policy reform battles of the late nineteenth century, and a policy agenda founded upon Indian confinement moved forward with brash intensity. Though amended several times, in an effort to include additional reservations within its framework, the allotment act profoundly shaped Native history between the late 1880s and the mid 1930s. By the end of this period, the disruption and despair that dispossession caused for tribal nations—results perhaps foreshadowed by the developments Ely Parker witnessed during the Ogden land dispute at the Tonawanda Reservation in the 1840s and 1850s—became...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 165-196)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-218)
  15. Index
    (pp. 219-228)