Archive for the ‘Richard Henry Pratt’ Category

Carlisle Students at Craighead

October 15, 2009

Jean Craighead George recalls a former Carlisle Indian School student and his wife visiting Craighead Station, probably in the 1930s. The man had worked for Jean’s grandmother, Agnes Miller Craighead, on his outing periods by tending her flower gardens. He was disappointed that the once beautiful gardens were gone and the yard in which they were once located had been converted into a playground for Agnes’s grandchildren and their friends. Jean doesn’t recall the man’s name but does remember how much pride he had in the gardens. He wasn’t the only Carlisle student to live and work at Craighead Station.

Charles and Agnes Craighead were early and constant supporters of Carlisle Indian Industrial School. In the October 1882 edition of The Morning Star, Lt. Pratt thanked them and the others “for their kindness and helpfulness in giving our pupils a place in their homes where the customs and labors and amenities of civilized life could be impressed upon them than is possible they should be in a school of that size.”

It is difficult to know how many students spent time at the Craigheads because we only know the names of a few who spent time there. The following are the names of students known to have been with the Craigheads:

Emma Strong

Sosipatra Suvoroff

Mary Kadashan

Della Cayuga

Melinda Cayuga

I would be greatly obliged if anyone who knows of someone who spent time at Craigheads would contact me.

Not All Carlisle Indians Were Indians

August 6, 2009

Not all Carlisle Indian School Students were Indians, but you knew that from the previous posts about Iva Miller. Iva may have had a few drops of Indian blood but not enough to qualify her as an Indian for purposes of the school or a tribe. However, she wasn’t the first non-Indian to attend the school.

Much has been written about Sylvester Long who enrolled at the school as a half-blood Cherokee. His later claim of being the son of a Blackfoot chief led to the discovery that, although he had considerable Indian blood on both sides of his family, he was considered to be black at the time because of his African-American blood in the segregated south. The controversy over whether Lone Star Dietz had Indian blood or not is well known and will continue unless definitive evidence is found. Recently, I discovered another Carlisle student was not an Indian and Superintendent Pratt knew it.

In one of Richard Henry Pratt’s pieces about the early days of the school, he wrote about a white woman and her son who had been captured by the Sioux. While a captive, she married a Sioux man and had children with him. She later had the choice to return to her original community but chose to stay with the Sioux and considered herself Sioux. However, when Pratt came around recruiting students for his new school, she decided to send her white son to be educated by his own people. At Carlisle, he was given or chose the name Stephen. This was a case of a white boy with no Sioux blood who the tribe considered to be one of its own. Pratt didn’t say what he did after leaving Carlisle. It would be interesting to know which path he took.

Problems with Proofs

July 4, 2009

Proofs for the text and cover of Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals arrived Thursday. The purpose of the proof is to determine that everything is perfect before printing the batch of books. The cover looks great to me. The colors are vibrant and Bob Carroll’s drawings of the players’ faces provides an attractive background for the text on the back cover. There is a problem with the text, however.

Rather than taking up space in the narrative with dry demographic about the players, I put this information in boxes, one for each player. The boxes were shaded in light gray for visual interest. Herein lies the problem. Five of the fifteen demographic data boxes appear to have no shading. The boxes looked perfect in the advance reading copies (ARCs), but those were produced by a different printer. Panic set in immediately. The PDFs sent to the printer look perfect. The printer’s technician informed us that the shading was done at 9% and they accept nothing below 15%. That doesn’t answer the question as to why two-thirds of the boxes were shaded correctly.

As it turns out, the boxes that printed correctly have graphics with transparency on the same page but the bad ones don’t. It appears that the printer’s software or equipment does something different in these cases. Be that as it may, I have to submit new PDFs with 15% gray shading. That means that I will probably have to pay the graphic designer for his time and the printer fees for resubmitting a new PDF and for a new proof. I also have to wait several days to see if this solves the problem.


1895 Carlisle-Army Game?

May 28, 2009

The other day, Frank Loney asked me to look at two 1895 letters written by W. G. Thompson, Carlisle Indian School Disciplinarian. It’s always a treat doing things like that because you never know what you will find. The letters were from July and October 1895. The first letter, the typed one, attempted to arrange a football game for the upcoming season. However, the party to whom the letter was addressed was not mentioned in the letter. That the second letter, the handwritten one, was written to a Chas. L. Poor in Annapolis, Md. This letter was written after the October 26, 1895 game with Navy and mentioned the previous year’s game. The first letter also mentioned the previous year’s game.

Carlisle first fielded a football team in 1893. Due to the late start, they played two November games against high schools. To the Disciplinarian fell many tasks and managing the football team was one of them, at least before Pop Warner arrived in 1899. The task of coaching the team fell to Vance McCormick in 1894 but Thompson was still responsible for arranging the games. Thompson arranged a complete schedule of games for 1894 for the Indians’ first real season. These letters document part of the process for arranging the 1895 schedule and managing the financial details of the game.

The only teams Carlisle played in both 1894 and 1895 were Navy, Bucknell and York YMCA. All the clues in the letters point to Navy; None point to Bucknell or York YMCA.

The next-to-last sentence was the prize in this package. It read, “I am holding decisions on dates with several universities that you and West Point may have preference of dates.” I interpret the “you” to mean the Naval Academy and West Point to be the Military Academy – Army. This means that Carlisle attempted to schedule Army a decade before the historic 1905 game. One need little imagination to think of reasons why Thompson was unsuccessful in scheduling a game with Army.

A Bitter Night – NOT

May 15, 2009

“On Sacred Ground: commemorating survival and loss at the Carlisle Indian School,” an article written by the then Managing Editor of Central PA, the monthly magazine for PBS affiliate WITF, begins, “In the middle of a bitter night in October 1879….” Knowing that the train arrived in Carlisle at 12:30 a.m. on Monday, October 6, 1879 and living in the Carlisle area for more than three decades, I am well aware of the fact that the weather in the first week of October tends to be mild here. She cited no sources to support her assertion that the weather was bitter, so I did a little research.

I quickly found out that the National Weather Service wasn’t collecting meteorological data for Carlisle or even Harrisburg at that time. The NWS does consider data collected in Philadelphia from as far back as 1872 as reliable enough for its record keeping. Daily highs for October 5 and 6, 1879 were both a balmy 79 degrees. Lows for these dates were 56 and 62, respectively. But Philadelphia is not Carlisle. Neither is Wellsboro, a town about 150 miles north of Carlisle (less as the crow flies). Wellsboro resident H. D. Deming recorded temperatures three times each day at his home. The Agitator reported that Deming’s temperatures were 84 at 2 p.m. on the 5th, 64 at 9 p.m., 50 at 7 a.m. on the 6th, and 86 at 2 p.m. This was unseasonably warm weather in a place that is normally cooler than Carlisle.

Although local newspapers provided no weather data, they did provide some anecdotes that, when coupled with the above data, show that Carlisle’s weather was anything but bitter when the first group of students arrived. The Carlisle Herald wrote, “For a wonder the weather was not only all that could be desired, but a trifle too much so, if we are permitted to judge from the extremely warm weather, which would have done credit to midsummer.” A week later, Gettysburg’s The Star and Sentinel declared, “The weather continues phenomenally warm, dry and dusty.” One wonders who does the fact checking for WITF.

Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals

May 7, 2009

Galleys for Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals, the first book in my upcoming series on Native American Sports Heroes, have arrived. At about 160,000 words, Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs is too long for most middle school and many high school students to read. So, I am splitting it up into a series by state, the first of which is Oklahoma because it has the largest Indian population of any state. It also was home to many of the Carlisle stars. Splitting up the book into smaller volumes has another advantage; it makes room for some more players. Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs got to be so long that I had to stop adding players, but now I have places to tell their stories. For example, Henry Roberts and Mike Balenti  are in Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals but aren’t in Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs.

The new book will be in hardback so that it is attractive to libraries and is under 200 pages long, including the index and appendices. My hope is that school and public libraries across Oklahoma, and elsewhere, add this book to their collections. A book reviewer suggested that grandparents may be interested in giving this book to their grandchildren as gifts. I would like that because my readers to date tend to be over 40. Young people should know about the lives and achievements of Carlisle Indian School students.

Like my other books, Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals is heavily illustrated with rarely seen period photos and cartoons. Bob Carroll of the Professional Football Researchers Association even drew portraits of all the players for the book. This book will be released in September.


Indians Are Human Beings

March 2, 2009

About the same time in 1879 that Lt. Richard Henry Pratt was negotiating with the War and Interior Departments to establish an off-reservation boarding school at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, Standing Bear was defending himself in federal Court in present-day Omaha, Nebraska on the grounds that he was a human being.

While watching a C-SPAN2 Book TV segment on The Trial of Standing Bear by Frank keating, I learned something: Indians were not considered to be human beings by the U.S. Government prior to 1879. I’m not recommending Keating’s book, beautifully illustrated by Mike Wimmer, because it is a children’s book unless it is to be given to a child to read. However, the story told in it is important. As a chief of the Poncas, Standing Bear was arrested by federal troops under Brigadier General George Crook for leading a group of about 30 weak, starving tribe members from present-day Oklahoma back to their ancestral grounds in Nebraska along the Niobara River. Standing Bear’s intention was to bury there the bones of his oldest son, Bear Shield, who had died in Oklahoma. After the arrest Gen. Crook, appalled by the condition of the captives, allowed them to remain long enough to rest up for the return journey.

Supported by Crook, pro-bono attorneys John L. Webster and Andrew J. Poppleton, and Thomas Tibbles of the Omaha Daily Herald, Standing Bear filed a writ of habeas corpus in U.S. District Court in Omaha. Due in great part to Standing Bear’s powerful testimony: “That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. God made us both,” Judge Dundy ruled that, “…an Indian is a person within the meaning of the law” and, thus, Standing Bear had the inalienable right to “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” providing that he obeyed the laws of the land.

This May 1879 ruling established that, in the eyes of the government and the courts, Indians were indeed human beings, a concept that Pratt had assumed some time before.

Carlisle Indians Had The Right Stuff

November 27, 2008

These days authors are supposed to have video previews of their books posted on the web for all to see. I was also instructed to make a video of me reading from my new book. Knowing full well that few would want to look at me reading for any period of time, I took a different approach. I read the words Pop Warner said in a 1924 interview in which he told of an episode that clearly shows what kind of stuff the Carlisle Indians were made of. After getting the thing started, I mostly disappear from view and am replaced by other footage and still photographs. Warner’s story is fascinating and, as best I can tell, is true. Because he told it over twenty years after it happened, he may have had some details confused. But the major things check out.

The story is a bit long but, when I’ve read it in book talks, audiences enjoy it because it is such a good story and, to my knowledge, hasn’t been told since the 1920s. enforces a strict time limit on videos that may be posted on their site, so it was necessary to split the story into two pieces. The first, and longer, part has been created and posted. The second and more interesting conclusion will be posted next week. “Carlisle Indians Had The Right Stuff” can be found at This is a chance to learn more about people such as Albert Exendine, Nikifer Schouchuk, Antonio Lubo, Martin Wheelock, James Johnson, Charles Williams and Richard Henry Pratt.

Feel free to make comments, either positive or negative.


Decline of American Indians in Sports

September 1, 2008

Donna Newashe McAllister, granddaughter of Emma Newashe and grandniece of William Newashe, posed a question that has remained unanswered for some time. Your opinions are appreciated as they may shine some light on this issue. So, please comment. Note that a link has been provided for an article written by Emma Newashe that was published in Carlisle’s literary journal.

I have long been interested in the decline of American Indian athletes in every sport at every level

My academic background is in early childhood development. I was a producing potter at 15 who then married early and now intermittently work in sculpture and occasionally write – thus my interest in my grandmother…as almost all of her children are artistic…and some of the grandchildren.  Fortunately I was athletic enough to join in whatever sport was around…and having been on the golf course since I was barely old enough to walk…I have watched the world of sports as it has changed both locally and nationally.

Leadership has long been a topic of discussion among my professional friends and colleagues especially with regard to the American Indian.  I have asked everyone from Billy Mills to PhD specialists in education and Native American Studies to speculate on this phenomenon.  NO ONE has every given me a good answer…and very few even had a response…including Mills.

My father took me with him to the golf course as well as the softball games where he played with both Indian and non-Indian men regularly as soon as I could walk….so I have always been around the culture that I call sports – a microcosm of the world.  Also my nationally known art/pottery instructor in high school (the same high school that graduated the Olympian John Smith) was a nationally known wrestling coach, came from a wrestling family…and some of his wrestlers, my classmates, competed at the state and national level.  He left coaching when he went on to teach art at the college level and continue as a producing artist. 

During my second year of college a friend, an American Indian professor, asked me to name 5 Indian leaders – this was not in the classroom.  I looked at the wall for a length of time and then said, “I can’t.”  He then asked me to name five black leaders…and I rattled off 10-12…because I had been exposed to that community at an early age.  Here in Oklahoma…although it is not as highly profiled as in other areas…there has been an extraordinary amount of activity/success in the black community over an extended period of time. 

I spent the rest of the week pondering this concept…and the American Indian names I did come up with had TALENT…but were not leaders.  They were revered…but not listened to when it came to social issues – issues that could mold aspects of the larger society.  Because of my personal experiences and knowledge this subject has always interested me. 

But it is the decline of American Indians in sports at the local and national levels that has truly fascinated me as I look at sports decade by decade.  The lack of substantive response or even response when I have posed this question is even more interesting to me.  The black athlete has markedly increased both locally and nationally if one looks back and compares the two races…within the context of competition and sports.  Indians I have been around love sports, love to play, are very competitive…and in my lifetime would even create their own games, tournaments.

In my junior yearat OU [The University of Oklahoma]…I chose to write a paper on leadership in the history department for a man well renowned for his knowledge of the American Indian…and examine the comparisons in what I chose to loosely call “cultures”…and the lack of leadership in the American Indian culture as I saw it.  In the last two census rolls Oklahoma has been 1st and 2nd in the nation with the highest population of American Indians…so the numbers are there.  The possibilities in this state should be impacted by that alone.

Most team sports require leaders and followers…and in my observations these qualities are then taken into the world at large when one leaves sports.  Perhaps that is an over generalization…but not too far a stretch…and thus my connection with the two qualities. 

The instruction at Carlisle, however socially controversial, seemed to include [a broad range of extracurricular] activities.  Is it the broader education that included these activities that made these men exceptional? 

Donna Newashe McAllister