Posts Tagged ‘Richard E. Byrd’

American Indian on Antarctic Expedition

August 17, 2010

Yesterday, I received a letter from Laura Kissel, Polar Curator at The Ohio State University Archives. She found a letter dated September 1, 1932 from William Winneshiek to Richard Byrd in which Winneshiek requests to be considered for inclusion in Byrd’s Second Antarctic Expedition. That was a year and four days before the newspaper articles were published that said he had been selected. So, Byrd had ample time to select him for the trip. Although no documentation exists that he had been selected, the newspaper accounts may have been correct. But why was he selected?

Winneshiek points out [accurately], “The Boy Scouts of America and various other nations have been represented on your previous expeditions. Thus far, I have failed to see the American Indian represented on your expeditions, hence this letter.” He went on to describe his heritage (full-blood Winnebago) and his education (Carlisle Indian School, Lebanon Valley College, Penn State). For his qualifications, he included, “…my vocations as chemist and musician, I am capable of performing the duties of a ‘chef,’ having worked my way through school as an assistant ‘chef.’”

It’s doubtful that Byrd needed musicians or chefs, possibly a chemist, but he most definitely cooks. I say plural because his force was split for significant lengths of time and all would need to have been fed. It seems quite plausible that Byrd would have chosen him as a crew member because it would have made good press and would have created interest due to his being an Indian. He closed with, “…I feel positive that you will give my application your earnest consideration and give the Red-Man an even break.”

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Winneshiek Selected for Byrd’s Expedition

July 30, 2010

Chris Sholly of the Lebanon Daily News came to the rescue. Because she writes about local history for the newspaper, her editor assigned her the task of following up on my request for information regarding the September 5, 1933 article that I had been unable to find. She has a number of old columns in her files, but the one we are looking for wasn’t among them. When the Lebanon County Historical Society was open on Thursday, yesterday, Chris was right there diving into files and ruining her vision reading microfilms. But it was worth it, she found the missing article which is included below. As a bonus, she found a similar but different article in another paper. I will have to wait to see that one because of limitations with the scanner she uses at work.

The article stated that the information it received came from Atlantic City, presumably from Winneshiek himself. The article also stated that Winneshiek’s band was playing at the Million Dollar Pier in that city. As luck has it, evidence exists that Winneshiek’s band did, in fact, play at the Million Dollar Pier in the form of a photograph. That photograph can be seen on the website Winneshiek’s grandson maintains at http://firstpeople.iwarp.com/theband.html. This same photograph was used by Conn Instruments in advertising materials which featured Winneshiek’s band as endorsing their horns.

Now my task is to determine if William Winneshiek actually made the trip. Less than five years after the expedition returned home, he claimed repeatedly to newspaper reporters that he had gone to the South Pole, but we must verify if that actually happened. Local newspaper reports of school activities place Winneshiek’s children in Lebanon while the expedition was underway. If their father was home at all during that time, friends and neighbors would have noticed.

It’s more fun digging now that there is something to go on.