Saturday, October 20, 2012

Calling A Horse

My youngest son out in the field.
Calling A Horse
A Kind Of Magic

By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS - Today I offer a short reflection of a kind of magic I witnessed.

This evening, as the sun was setting and some fluffs of clouds cast a light pall over the evening light, my youngest son ran a fleet sprint to the fence in the back yard. Upon reaching the prickly barrier, he began to whistle as loud and as high as he could, almost birdlike like a meadowlark with short bursts of tune, then a short breath, then the same whistle again.

From over the hill and around the neighbor's fence came a brown horse with black socks and a shiny black mane, one of three horses of the neighbor's. A few years ago, our immediate next door neighbor declared to us "to be careful. That one horse bites." I've never had a horse bite me and we've not had issues with the neighbor's horses before, so I let my son finish calling the horse.

My son stood right at the fence, careful not to let the barbed wire prick him or his blue GAP hoodie, and he held his right hand up, palm out. All the while his little high-pitched whistle carried in the crisp evening air.

The horse charged across the field of dead brown grass, short to medium native prairie grasses, leftovers from last summer's growth. It slowed to a trot when it reached the fence line and tossed its mane proudly to and fro before reaching its neck over the top wire and lowering her head to Elijah's hand.

Magic? Yes it is. There's something strong and magical beating in the innocent heart of my son that calls to the pure and natural world around us, and to witness it, that was to witness something mysterious and sacred.

He called the horse and it answered.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

His Red Nation: A Tale of Little Crow

Little Crow's village on the Mississippi by Capt. Seth Eastman, 1846.
His Red Nation: A Tale of Little Crow
Dakota Leader And The Struggle For Survival
By Jerome Kills Small
GREAT PLAINS - Note: This was written for an issue of the North Dakota publication "On Second Thought" in 2012. Taoyate Duta, His Red Nation was born the winter that Little Beaver’s cabin burned down (1810), in the Dakota village of Kaposia, Not Encumbered With Much Baggage (St. Paul, MN), where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge. His Red Nation was named so by his father, a prominent Mdewakanton Dakota chief by the name of Cetan Wakhuwan Mani, Hawk Hunting Walks. Due to a mis-translation, and probably because of His Red Nation’s status as son to Hawk Hunting Walks, His Red Nation is more commonly recognized as Little Crow.

Little more than a toddler, His Red Nation's mother took him to the frozen Minnesota River in the middle of winter. There she broke the ice, took her son and proceeded to dunk him into the icy waters, and as she did so, she told him that he would grow into a man who would become a great leader. It sounds cruel, however, but His Red Nation never forgot his mother's words. Even as a man years later, he remembered what she did and as a result, what she said, as clearly as if it happened only yesterday.

His Red Nation, a pencil sketch by Frank Blackwell Mayer in 1851 at Traverse de Sioux, Minnesota Territory.

His Red Nation will forever be associated with the 1862 Minnesota Dakota Conflict, but the conflict was only the latest of terrible events. To understand the conflict and its consequences, one must examine the precarious circumstances in which the Eastern Dakota found themselves.

The Santee Dakota, or Eastern Sioux, had actively traded with the French and English since about 1640. The English pushed west, of what was considered then the Northwest Territory, or present-day Ohio. Colonel Robert Dickson, a British Trade Agent at the turn of 1800, became good friends with the Santee. His Red Nation was still a toddler when the War of 1812 broke out. Dickson recruited hundreds of Chippewa and Dakota and led them into Ohio to fight against Americans. Hawk Hunting Walks, was among those who fought for the English.

Taoyate Duta's father, Cetan Wakhuwan Mani (Hawk Hunting Walks) as painted by Charles Bird King, 1824. The painting is called or titled "Chetaii Wakan Mani, The Sacred Pigeon-Hawk Which Comes Walking."

After the War of 1812, England and the United States signed the Treat of Ghent, ending warfare between the two countries. The treaty also gave control of Minnesota to the United States. The Santee would now have to deal with an unforgiving country they had initially fought against. Hawk Hunting Walks was honored with several gifts and accommodations from Colonel Dickson, but Hawk Hunting Walks refused them and was said to have kicked them, saying, “Now after we have fought for you, endured many hardships, lost some of our people, and awakened the vengeance of a powerful nation, our neighbours, you make a peace for yourselves, and leave us to get such terms as we can. You no longer need our services, and offer us these goods as a compensation for having deserted us. But, no-we will not take them; we hold them and yourselves in equal contempt.”

Traditional warfare between the Santee and Chippewa resumed regardless that they briefly fought alongside each other in the War of 1812. In 1823, Colonel Leavenworth led the Missouri Legion in a campaign against the Arikara on the Missouri River. About 750 Dakota and Lakota warriors fought for the United States under Leavenworth against an age-old foe in the first US led military campaign against a Plains Indian tribe. It was an absolute crushing defeat for the Arikara, who abandoned their earthlodge villages and fled west. Their fields of corn, squash, and beans, were plucked clean by the Dakota and Lakota who recalled the year as “The Winter Corn was Taken.”

"The year corn was taken," or 1823, from the Long Soldier Winter Count.

Hawk Hunting Walks’ image was painted by Charles King Bird on a visit to President James Monroe in 1824. Monroe congratulated the Sioux for their participation in breaking the Arikara out west, this, as sentiment grew in DC that Indians should all be moved west of the Mississippi River. Hawk Hunting Walks returned to Minnesota, perhaps a little wary, and signed the Treaty of Prairie Du Chien of 1825 under the watchful eye of General William Clark, former captain of the Corps of Discovery. The treaty formalized tribal territories and sought to end generations of inter-tribal conflict.

In 1830, General Clark brought several bands of Sioux together to sign another Treaty of Prairie Du Chien, which ceded three large tracts of land to the United States for westward expansion into Minnesota. It was a treaty that the Dakota were hard-pressed to keep.

Little Crow, photo by Whitney, 1862.

The Sioux, Dakota and Lakota, had other concerns throughout the 1830s and 1840s. There was warfare with the Crow, Arikara, Pawnee, and Shoshone west of the Missouri River, and continuing warfare with the Chippewa up north. Smallpox took the lives of thousands of Indians across the Plains. A massive star fall is remembered in nearly all winter counts. In 1846, Hawk Hunting Walks had a gun mishap in which he accidentally shot himself and died.

Chieftanship of the Mdewakanton Dakota, whom Hawk Hunting Walks led, was in dispute. Hawk Hunting Walks had children with three wives. His Red Nation’s mother was a Wahpekute Dakota, and so his brothers from his father’s other wives conspired to keep the chieftanship within the Mdewakanton. All of Hawk Hunting Walks’ sons met at a tribal get together. His Red Nation’s brothers attempted to assassinate him, at the last moment however, a young man knocked the gun with his hatchet causing the bullet to strike His Red Nation in the arm, breaking it – it was never set properly and healed crookedly, and left an awful scar. The conspiring brothers were condemned to death and His Red Nation became the chief.

"Execution Of The Thirty Eight Sioux Indians" by John C Wise.

As a boy, His Red Nation engaged in sham fights to learn stealth and leadership. To gain a victory in a sham fight, a mock war party had to take the village by surprise, or it wasn’t a victory at all. When he was ten, His Red Nation took his village by surprise when he crept into it unseen with the aid of his dog. A few years later, a friend of his fell through the ice and His Red Nation risked his own life to save him with a line. He fell through the ice as well, but managed to save his friend. His Red Nation became known in his youth as a trusty messenger and a great hunter.

In 1851, after years of preparation, the untimely death of his father, and an attempt on his life, His Red Nation received his first test in American bureaucracy at the Treaty of Traverse De Sioux in which the southern half of Minnesota was ceded to the United States, and the Treaty of Mendota, in which permanent agencies were established for the Dakota in Minnesota. The Dakota were to receive payments for their land cession, and food supplements while they adjusted to a completely sedentary lifestyle.

"Mass Execution of 38 Dakota on the Day After Christmas" By John Stevens.

His Red Nation tried his best to placate the settlers and new Minnesota government by adopting the white man’s clothes. He also converted to Christianity and became an Episcopalian. His Red Nation even took up farming. In his best efforts to ensure peace in his homeland, which had become an island in the middle of non-native settlement, in 1860 His Red Nation went east to visit with President James Buchanan to remind him that the Dakota fought for the US under Leavenworth and had willingly signed and followed treaty stipulation.

The United States had other concerns. The Civil War.

Sibley-Indian-Expedition, Harpers Weekly 1863.

By 1862, the Civil War was drawing on all the resources of the states from able men to fields of crops. The Indian agents and traders were suddenly faced with little supervision in their work and as the saying goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Indian agents in Minnesota were selling their wards food, supplies and seed when it was supposed to have been distributed according to treaty. Meanwhile, a combination of drought, disease and infestation nearly put an end to the growing season leaving little to harvest. The Dakota began to starve while warehouses stood full. The situation became desperate and in bad times the only choices left are bad choices.

His Red Nation could not reassure his people, ease their anxiety, or feed them and his ability to restrain his people weakened.

"The Siege of New Ulm, Minn.", a painting by Henry August Schwabe. Schwab depicts an attack on New Ulm on August 19, during the Dakota War of 1862.

On August 4, 1862, a desperate and hungry party of Dakota men broke into the food warehouse at the Lower Agency on the Minnesota River. The Indian Agent, Thomas Galbraith, ordered the soldiers under his command not to fire and immediately called for a council with His Red Nation and his people. At this hastily called council, His Red Nation reminded Galbraith that the Dakota were owed money to buy food and supplies and warned the agent that “when men are hungry, they help themselves.” A representative of the traders, Andrew Myrick, smartly retorted, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry let them eat grass or their own dung."

With hunger abated for the moment, the Dakota returned home. A few days later, August, 17, five Dakota men were returning from an unsuccessful hunt and goaded one another to steal from a farmer on their return home. The theft turned into a gunfight which left five settlers dead. The hunters returned home and told of their exploit which rattled the Dakota community. Some were for turning in the five hunters, others were for outright war. His Red Nation was for keeping the peace but he was still their chief, and when an overwhelming number of his people wanted to fight, he reluctantly prepared for war.

"Attack on New Ulm during the Sioux Outbreak, Aug. 19-23, 1862," by Anton Gag, 1904.

His Red Nation led the war party to Myrick’s house. They killed Myrick and then stuffed his mouth with grass for his cutting words. His Red Nation led them on a campaign along the Minnesota River with victories at New Ulm, which they burned to the ground, but only a month into their campaign against the settlers and soldiers, His Red Nation took a severe defeat in the Battle of Wood Lake, September 23. The defeat was such that His Red Nation broke for Canada. Men who fought under his leadership in a war he did not want to fight, either fled for Canada as well, or journeyed west to Dakota Territory to live among their Teton relatives.

Internment camp at Pike Island on the Minnesota River below Fort Snelling, Minnesota by Benjamin Franklin Upton, 1862.

The Dakota who surrendered after the Battle of Wood Lake were taken to Mankato, MN. There, 303 Dakota men were convicted of murder and rape. The trials for many lasted five minutes or less. No one explained the proceedings, nor were any Dakota men represented. President Abraham Lincoln personally reviewed each case and commuted the death sentence of 264 of the Dakota men, and ordered thirty-nine to hang in the largest mass execution in US history on December 26, 1862. On January 1, 1863, just one week later, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Condemned prisoners in prison at Mankato, MN, 1862.

According to Kills Small, His Red Nation spent the winter and spring petitioning the Teton Lakota, petitioning even the Arikara, the Hidatsa, and the Mandan Indians to take up arms against the whites. The Teton Lakota had other concerns with warfare on other tribes, and defending their own lands. The Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan were too few and did not have the strength nor heart to take up arms against a country that they depended on since the last smallpox epidemic.

The following summer, His Red Nation decided to risk a return to Minnesota with his seventeen year-old son, Wowinape, Haven or Sanctuary but often translated as Place Of Refuge. His Red Nation and Haven decided to stop in a farmer’s field to gather raspberries. The farmer, Nathan Lamson, and his son engaged His Red Nation and Haven mortally wounding His Red Nation. His Red Nation shot and wounded Lamson. His Red Nation told his son to run, even as Lamson’s son ran to get help.

A Yanktonai Dakota camp is being invaded by Sully's brigade during the Dakota Wars at the Battle of White Stone Hill, North Dakota, September 3, 1863, Harper's Weekly, Oct. 31, 1863, p. 693. Killing and mutilating His Red Nation's body wasn't enough. General Sully was called in to attack a group of Sioux who had nothing to do with the 1862 conflict.

Lamson’s son ran about twelve miles to Hutchinson, MN, and returned with a posse. At first the posse didn’t recognize that the dead Dakota man was His Red Nation, but as realization dawned on them that they had the body of “Little Crow,” they mutilated his body, brought it back to Hutchinson where they dragged it down Main Street. The citizens placed firecrackers in the body’s ears and allowed their dogs to chew on the body, which was tossed in an alley where refuse was typically discarded.

The 8th Minn Infantry, again led by General Sully. This time, Sully and his command attacked an encampment of Teton Lakota who were led by Chiefs Sitting Bull and Gall. As was the case this time around as it was at Whitestone Hill, this group of Sioux had nothing to do with what happened in Minnesota, 1862. Painting by Carl Ludwig Boeckmann.

Haven ran to Spirit Lake, Dakota Territory. He was captured around Fort Totten, tried and sentenced to hang. Haven was sent to prison in Davenport, Iowa. There, he converted to Christianity and took the name Thomas Wakeman. He was pardoned in 1865, after the Civil War, and settled in Dakota Territory.

In 1971, His Red Nation’s remains were returned to Jesse Wakeman, Haven’s son, for internment.

Jerome Kills Small, Sisoka (Robin) pictured here. Image from his CD Inikagapi.

Jerome Kills Small, Sisoka (Red Robin) is an Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, SD. Kills Small is the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award from the South Dakota Humanities Council, a Reconciliation Award from the Governor of SD, George Nickleson, and was selected by the University of South Dakota as the Poet of the Year in 1994. Kills Small has portrayed Tecumseh and Dr. Charles Eastman in the Chautauqua venue across the country. He is a traditional singer and storyteller. Kills Small can be heard on the CD "Inikagapi." Support a native author, storyteller, poet, and singer. Get your copy on Amazon or whatever.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Life's Journey - Zuya, A Review

Add White Hat's wonderful book to your library.
Life's Journey - Zuya, A Review
Oral Teachings Contained Within Book

By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK , N.D. - Instruction in Lakota oral tradition began at home with food, an exchange of pleasantries and conversation, and an offering of tobacco. Albert White Hat Sr. wistfully recalls the days when the elders of his youth remembered the days before the reservation and shared the unbroken cycle of stories.

White Hat carefully, yet concisely, renders a summary of the swift changes, both good and bad, which have deeply impacted how the Lakota people interact with one another and the land, their philosophy, and how they pray and speak.

Life’s Journey is part history, part language instruction, part biography, and through it all is the strong first-person narrative of story and tradition carefully crafted and preserved through the editing efforts of John Cunningham. Cunningham took White Hat’s recorded lectures with the idea to transcribe them for the original draft of what became Life’s Journey, and delicately retains the character and voice of the Lakota speaker for the English reader.

A great black and white photo of White Hat.

Throughout Life’s Journey readers will encounter White Hat’s attribution to the elders and medicine practitioners with the words “they say” or “they always say.” This is a cultural practice, a way of respect White Hat demonstrates for those whom he heard a story. In other parts of White Hat’s narrative, he uses “them” or “they.” It is these times in which White Hat is referring to relatives who have taken their journey.

White Hat’s stories are repeated or referenced to throughout the different chapters. In the Lakota tradition, if something is very important it is worth sharing and hearing several times again. According to White Hat, there are connections that are not apparent in the first telling.

Natan Tokahe, The First One To Charge, is White Hat’s traditional name. White Hat grew up on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, but the people call themselves Sicangu, Burnt Thighs. He beautifully articulates in the first chapter who he is and where he comes from in the Lakota tradition. As part of sharing who he is and the people he belongs to, White Hat touches on the story that the Sicangu originated as the Sicangu near present-day Bismarck, ND.

Nine years of visits, listenings, and edits went into creating White Hat’s Life’s Journey. Each chapter, including the appendices, has a Lakota heading and translation. Each story includes Lakota words and clear translations in the cultural context.

Order yourself a copy of White Hat's book from "Prairie Edge" in Rapid City, SD. (or where ever man). This is one of my favorite spots to stop for beads and stuff.

The only criticism of this work is that so much effort has gone into preserving the “flavor” and cultural nuances of the Lakota language, that one wonders if the work should have been published bilingual, page for page, in Lakota and in English. The very subtitle of Life’s Journey, “Zuya” literally translates as “To Go Out,” but carries with the Lakota context of going out with a war party. A Lakota reader may look at the title and step away with the impression that life’s journey is comparable with making war, but that may have been White Hat’s intention all along.

For the Lakota reader whose first language is English, Life's Journey's strength is the fact that it is in English and retains the cultural context, and includes translations. Edify yourself and go get yourself copy today!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ely Parker: Seneca Chieftan, American General

Parker wears his grandfather Red Jacket's medal. President George Washington gave the silver medal to Red Jacket in 1792.Seneca Chieftain, American General
Drafter Of Civil War Surrender Terms
By Dakota Wind
Note: The following article originally appeared in the North Dakota Humanities Council's publication On Second Thought, the Civil War issue. Reuben Fast Horse wrote the original draft, this author edited and expanded upon it. The story of Parker is an amazing one, and shows how far up the chain of command the efforts of Indians who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Ha-sa-no-an-da (Leading Name) came into this world in 1828 on the Tonawanda Seneca Indian Reservation in upstate New York. He was the sixth child of seven, born to Jo-no-es-sto-wa (Dragonfly) a.k.a. William Parker and Ga-ont-gwut-twus or Ji-gon-sa-seh (Lynx) a.k.a. Elizabeth Parker. Both Dragonfly and Lynx walked with one foot in the Seneca nation and the other in the United States. They immersed their children in the language and heritage of the Seneca Nation and the Iroquois Confederacy. Dragonfly was also a Baptist minister who baptized all his children and gave them Christian names.

When Lynx was pregnant with her son Leading Name, she received a vision about the future of her baby: A son will be born to you who will be distinguished among his nation as a peacemaker; he will become a white man as well as an Indian, with great learning; he will be a warrior for the palefaces; he will be a wise white man, but will never desert his Indian people or 'lay down his horns as a great Iroquois chief'; his name will reach from the East to the West–the North to the South, as great among his Indian family and the palefaces. His sun will rise on Indian land and set on the white man's land. Yet the land of his ancestors will fold him in death. When Dragonfly baptized Leading Name at Ely Stone’s Baptist church, he gave his son the name “Ely Parker.”

The Grand River Valley as it could have been in 1781. Painting by Michael Swanson. The original is at Laurier’s Carnegie Hall, Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Learn more about this image and the War of 1812.

Parker was educated at Elder Ely Stone’s Baptist School early on in life and was later sent to an Iroquois settlement along the Grand River in Ontario to learn traditional hunting and fishing when he was ten years old. When Ely turned thirteen, he became extremely homesick and left for home in New York. On the road from London to Hamilton in Ontario, some British officers ridiculed him for is his poor speech. Parker could understand what they said but was unable to comprehend the humor at his expense. Parker came away from the experience determined to master English.

Parker’s parents approved of his initiative to learn the English language and sent him to back to the mission school. His studies excelled and he earned a tuition waiver to attend the Yates Academy in Orleans County, NY. At the academy he also studied Greek and Latin, which he also mastered. Parker became so well versed in the studies and proficient in English at the age of fourteen that his people selected him to serve as their interpreter in their exchange with President John Tyler.

Here's a map of where the Tonawanda River (Creek) converges with the Niagara River in New York. The Long House on the map shows viewers where the Tonawanda used to live, which is the city of Tonawanda today.

As a teenager, when young people begin to develop and explore their interests, Parker became heavily involved in drafting and interpreting in their correspondence with the Ogden Land Company. The land company struck a private deal with the Seneca at Cattaraugus and the Seneca at Allegheny. Quaker missionaries advised these other two Seneca bands to sign over the lands of the Seneca at Buffalo Creek and Tonawanda. From 1842 to 1845, the land of the Tonawanda was seized and settled.

Parker finished his studies at Yates Academy and enrolled at the Cayuga Academy in Aurora where he faced some hostility from classmates, though generally he was treated well. In 1846, the Seneca at Tonawanda called him back to defend with words on paper the right for the Seneca to stay at Tonawanda. He was eighteen years old when the Tonawanda Seneca took him with them to appeal their case with President James Polk.

President James K. Polk, whom Parker met when he worked on the Seneca's appeal.

The Tonawanda Seneca appeal took five years to fight, and in the end, Parker was credited with saving 3/5ths of the Tonawanda reservation from the Ogden Land Company and was given fifty acres of land for his personal use.

Parker’s academic pursuits received a boost in motivation when he visited Washington DC in 1847 when he viewed a series of paintings of explorers, traders, and settlers in their meetings with the natives such as the Pilgrims receiving food from the Indians, Captain Smith and Pocahontas, and Daniel Boon fighting Indians. When he went to church, he was asked to remove himself to the seating above.

Harvard, an engraving by Paul Revere. While the institution of the 1800s repeatedly turned down Parker's application, its a different story today. Today, Harvard has "The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Developing." Check them out, they focus on why sovereignty matters:

The slights he received and Parker’s own reflections about the injustices of all Indian peoples moved him to become a lawyer. He applied to Harvard, but received no word on his application. Parker applied for a clerkship in Washington DC, but no position opened up for him. Parker applied to take the bar exam in New York, but was denied when he was told he was not a US citizen.

Parker had made become friends with Lewis Morgan who tapped his network to get Parker a job as an engineer on the Genesee Valley Canal project. As he gained work experience as an engineer, he learned to country dance from a fellow’s wife. By 1850, Parker’s contacts, unparalleled work ethic, knowledge of the land and engineering landed him a job in Rochester as a civil engineer on the New York canals.

Lewis Henry Morgan, the father of modern anthropology.

Parker’s friendship with Morgan grew out of Morgan’s keen interest in documenting the changing or disappearing cultural traditions of the Seneca. They worked together and produced Morgan’s League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois which was published in 1851. Morgan’s research and methodology has led many to regard him as the father of American anthropology. Morgan’s book was dedicated to Parker.

Parker’s work with Morgan and legal fight with the Federal court system on behalf of the Seneca came to a head in September, 1851. The council of the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) met and called on Parker to return, where they installed him as one of the fifty sachems of the Iroquois Confederacy. Parker was then selected as the Grand Sachem of the Six Nations. The new sachem was also given a new name: Do-ne-ho-ga-wa, “Open Door.” The sachem who traditionally carried this name was also the Keeper of the Western Door, the one whom all approaches by other tribes were made. Parker was twenty-three.

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

Parker applied for a position with the US Treasury Department in hopes of getting an assignment in Chicago, IL, but when he was brought on, he was appointed to work on lighthouses on the Great Lakes in Michigan. His work on lighthouses on the lakes eventually brought him from Detroit, MI to work on a public buildingsl in Galena, IL. There in Galena Parker became friends with Capt. Ulysses Grant.

Politics in Illinois took a turn for the worse for Parker. The locals called him a stranger and resented his assignment there without their consultation. Petitions called for his removal, but his support from congressmen on the east coast and his engineering associates in the canals overwhelmingly supported his work assignment in Illinois. Parker resigned after the construction of the Galena custom house was complete.

The Galena Custom House and Post Office, Galena, Illinois. The building is still there.

Throughout Parker’s engineering career, tensions between the North and the South escalated into impending war. At an appearance in Dubuque, IA Parker was called on to speak about the state of the country. He rendered a short speech about the founding of the country and the beliefs of the founding fathers then Parker reached into his pocket and removed a medal for all to see. The medal was gift to his great-grandfather Red Jacket from President George Washington. Parker’s speech and the medal “awakened the spark of patriotism” of everyone present.

Parker returned to Tonawanda and raised crops while he made every effort to enlist with the Union army. He sought commissions as an engineer, but was repeatedly declined because he was an Indian and not a US citizen despite the dire need for engineers. Several of his tribesmen found ways to enter the service, but Parker wanted a commission because of his education and experience. Parker waited two years.

Brig. Gen. John E. Smith, pictured above, was a Swiss immigrant. His father served under Napoleon Bonaparte. The Smith family moved to the US after Bonaparte's fall.

Brig. Gen. John E. Smith, a friend of Parker’s in Galena, knew of Parker’s desire to enlist as an officer. Smith got an endorsement from General Grant, another of Parker’s friends, and was commissioned as Grant’s staff as Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers with the rank of Captain. The Seneca honored Parker’s commission with a feast and blessing before he went off to serve in the war.

The Battle of orchard Knob, by Kurz and Allison, 1888.

Parker was barely under Grant’s command a few days when he took ill and nearly died, but he recovered after to accompany Grant on the Chattanooga Campaign at the Battle of Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain. When Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General and went east to Washington, Parker went with him.

The Battle of The Wilderness. This image appeared in Harper's Weekly, May 28, 1864. Union soldiers are depicted here charging against Confederate forces.

In General Grant’s move to cross the Rapidan River in Virginia, which precipitated the Battle of the Wilderness, 1864, Parker saved Grant from capture. On May 7, 1864, Grant was heading toward Confederate General Roger Pryor’s line. Parker sensed a trap and led Grant’s command away from Pryor’s line.

Grant used Parker’s engineering skill to plan and dig entrenchments and post batteries. On one occasion a Southern woman refused to vacate her home and told Parker that her husband was in command of nearby Confederate forces, and that he’d never fire on their house. Parker told the woman she could stay and he quickly ordered the line behind her house.

General Grant and his staff of fourteen. Parker is featured in this image, fourth from the right, seated.

In September, 1864, Grant promoted Parker to Lieutenant Colonel and served as Grant’s personal secretary the remainder of the war. After the war, Parker continued to serve General Grant as his personal secretary, retiring in 1869 as Brevet Brigadier General.

One of the most famous and beautiful paintings of Lee's surrender is this Tom Lovell image called "The Surrender at Appomattox," 1987. It currently hangs at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia. Lovell even included General Custer, far right, next to Parker.

On April 7, 1865, General Grant was closing in General Lee’s command. Grant began a correspondence with Lee through Parker’s hand and on April 9, Lee met with Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House to discuss the terms of surrender with Grant who took Parker with him.

This image of the Surrender at Appomattox is by Keith Rocco. Parker stands behind Lee at the surrender desk. General Phil Sheridan purchased the table and gave it to General Custer. It is now at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

Grant’s staff met with Lee’s staff in the parlor of William McLean’s house where both staffs were formally introduced to one another. Lee was said to be courteous and cool, offering no further remark to Grant’s staff other than a salutation. When Parker was introduced to Lee, Lee paused for several seconds, startled, then extended his hand to Parker and said, “I am glad to see one American here.” Parker took Lee’s hand and replied, “We are all Americans.” Grant then had Parker compose the surrender papers, which Lee signed.

Parker as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Parker was President Grant's architect in the new Peace Policy in relation to the Indians in the west. While Parker was the commissioner, and probably because of his friendship with Grant, military actions against Indians were reduced.

After the war Grant appointed Parker as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He was the first American Indian to hold this post and resigned from this position in 1871. Parker's initial optimism of reshaping the BIA, one of the most corrupt branches of federal government (and some say it still is), led to a tremendous pressure on him to resign. Parker was faced with false charges of fraud that wouldn't go away.

Mahpiya Luta, Red Cloud.
While Parker was the BIA Commissioner, he initiated contact with the Lakota chief Red Cloud and Spotted Tail to meet President Grant in an effort to bring an end to the conflicts out west, but it was a peace that lasted until the confirmation of gold in the Black Hills.

Although Parker was recognized more for drafting the terms of Surrender at Appomattox, his accomplishments in his life let us know that he was a formidable man, despite his difficulties and heritage he set out to achieve whatever he put his mind to.

Often we hear or read about heroic figures in our past yet we don’t always hear about the person themselves. Who they were, what they were like, why they did what they did, and what remains are the facts left for us to decipher about a person. Parker signifies the change we all have to make at some point in our lives to accept, to adapt, and to overcome not just our obstacles or enemies but ourselves. This is what America is, and to be American is to honor the sacrifices of those who gave and believed in what they so desperately lived, bleed and died for.