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Our Debt to the Red Man

school of 160 pupils, who are carried through the
eighth grade, is the only one in the service which
is entirely supported by Indian money. All the staff
except the principal, the matron and one teacher, are
either Sioux or French mixed-bloods." Moses de
Coteau, who traces his lineage to a member of the
Chouteau family of St. Louis who traded with the
Indians and married a Sioux, is at the present day
a prosperous farmer with a large family. Hazen
Dumarsh of Dakota, also a metis, is farming a large
ranch of his own, and is a man of fine education.
Chauncey Yellowrobe, already mentioned as a ''pros-
perous young rancher," only a few years out of
Carlisle school, is already a man of influence among
Indians and is now (1918) actively cooperating with
the Indian Rights Association and the Society of
American Indians in the effort to take immediate
steps for the gradual abolition of the Indian Bureau.


The Metis as an Industrial Worker

NO argument, however, should be needed to
prove that an Indian is not more necessarily
a successful farmer than a Yankee or a
Hoosier; surely the most superficial observation
should long ago have taught us better. As early as
1879 Mr. Vincent Hazard had found in the metis at
least '^a great capacity for work and industry exer-
cised over a wide range from the highest to the
lowest. ' ' He refers to well-known instances of many
who in Michigan and Wisconsin "hold positions of
trust and responsibility and live just like their white
neighbors." "Among them are carpenters, black-
smiths, shoemakers, boatmen."

The Rev. Father Derenthal of Reserve, Wis.,
sends a long list of French mixed-bloods of the pres-
net day who are successful in various occupations:
carpenters, miners, loggers, harness makers, hotel
keepers, as well as government employees. From
other sources we learn of a number who have lately
become successful engineers and machinists, and it
may be observed that across the line in Manitoba
many are holding government offices.

And yet until the French-Indian, Charles E.
Dagenett, now Supervisor of Indian Employment,^

1 He might well be called "Supervisor of Employment for the In-
dian Returned Student," since he is chiefly concerned with
those who have completed their studies at Indian schools, or
have left them to continue their education elsewhere. (Private
letter from an officer of the Society of American Indians).


Our Debt to the Red Man

proved the contrary to the satisfaction of the govern-
ment, those in authority shared the still prevailing
conviction that the Indian who did not make a good
living by farming on his reservation was incurably
idle and worthless.

This country recognizes its debt to Gen. R. H.
Pratt, who first showed our Government the way to
do justice to the Indian by educating him. To Charles
E. Dagenett, one of General Pratt's most promising
students at Carlisle, is also due a large measure of
recognition for the further endeavor to civilize the
Indian by employing him in those avocations for
which he is individually best fitted.

Mr. Dagenett 's great-great-grandfather, Am-
broise Dagney (the name was probably Dagenet, and
had doubtless already suffered one of the several muta-
tions it passed through before reaching its present
form, always, however, retaining the French pronun-
ciation, Dagenay), was a native of France and a
resident of Kaskaskia, who fought in the Tippecanoe
campaign and was wounded near Prophet's Town.
Dagney married Me-chin-quam-e-sha (Beautiful
Shade Tree), sister of a head chief of the Miami, and
their son, Christmas Dagney, well educated by the
priests, speaking English and French with great
fluency, and master of several Indian dialects, effi-
ciently served the Government many years as inter-
preter and later as Indian agent at Fort Harrison, old
Fort Wayne. This region had been the immemorial
capital of the Miami Indians, but in 1795, at the treaty
of Greenville, the United States had forced them to
give up their land in this region. The tribe deterior-


Supervisor of Indian Employment


The Metis as an Industrial Worker

ated greatly after this, and gradually ceded their lands
in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, receiving others west
of the Mississippi. Christmas Dagney's son, the
second Christmas Dagney, married the full-blood
Brothertown (Mohican) Indian (supra, p. 74 n.),
Mary Ann Isaacs, a Christian woman of education. She
was with the early missionary McCoy, whose labors
had a large part in Christianizing the tribes of the
Middle West. In 1846 Christmas Dagney the second
led the last of the Miamis to their western lands,
dying at Cold Water Grove, Kansas. His only sister,
Mary, had in 1818 been given a reservation in Dan-
ville, 111., her father, the first Christmas Dagney, liv-
ing there with her. As we have already seen, the
second Christmas Dagney's widow afterward married
another noted metis, Baptiste Peoria (Supra, p. 75).
The second Christmas Dagney, also a man of
education, was the grandfather of Charles E. Dage-
nett. Like former President Roosevelt, Charles
Dagenett was an extremely delicate child, his early life
one long struggle for health. Several times during his
years at Carlisle he was sent home to die. After
graduating, he taught in an Indian school to earn
money to pursue his studies, and afterward entered
the Indian service, where his career has been a dis-
tinguished one. Beginning by teaching among the
Apaches, his great desire was to set them to work.
After long effort he secured an appropriation for the
purpose, and since then he has put whole armies of
Indians into the reclamation service, digging irriga-
tion ditches, working on roads, bridges and other pub-


Our Debt to the Red Man

lie works. His success has been remarkable, especially
in clearing up the relations of Indians with the Gov-
ernment and with one another. When three hundred
Utes of the Uintah Reservation went on the war path
in 1906 he conferred with Presideiit Taft, with his
consent put them to work on government roads, and
thus got them quieted. His work eidarges continually ;
he has his sub-agents everywhere, being practically at
the head of a department. (Private letter from a des-
cendant of the missionary McCoy). At the f)res(^nt
writing he is arranging for the substitution of In-
dians for Japanese in certain private fields of labor
in the South. In his large plans for the Indians
he examines every section of the country to find how
best to employ the boys and girls of the Indian schools,
considering each one as to health, capacity and attain-
ments. Intensely practical, not in the least senti-
mental, he is deeply sympathetic with his Indian
brethren. His '^ Circular of Instruction to Superin-
tendent and Other Officers having charge of Indian
Employees" is a masterpiece of judicious presenta-
tion of the whole subject, and firm insistance upon
fair dealing with the thousands of Indians who will
eventually come under this department.^

Already in 1849 Captain Pope saw the usefulness
of incorporating metis in the militia and Indian
Police. Writing of the Pembina metis, he says that

2 ''Eventually all Indians will be citizens, free voters, American
citizens in fact and in spirit, so that there will be no need for
a Supea-visor of Indian ICmployment, " writes another cor-
respondent. Mr. Dagenett's work is contributing effectually to
this consummation which no one desires more devoutly than he.

[ 156 ]

The Metis as an Industrial Worker

on their marches they carry only pemmican, on which
they can march farther, with less of baggage and sup-
ply, than any people he has ever seen. ''A body of
hardy and gallant men like these would .... be most
useful in sustaining the official persons of the govern-
ment who should be charged with administering the
laws over that part of the country." Commenting on
this suggestion the late J. B. Bottineau, the lawyer
of the Pembinas, says, ''they have always been recog-
nized as the kings of the plains in warfare, and would
have cleared out the Sioux or driven them much far-
ther away from the Chippewa country, had they not
been stopped by their priest." It was, however, that
same priest. Father Belcourt, who in 1845 wrote, ad-
vising the Government to make a militia of these metis
to whom munitions might be furnished in time of
service ; Mr. Bottineau, quoting this advice, expressed
his opinion that in that case there would never have
been any need of sending an army there. This plan
has been urged by various agents all down the years.
In 1875 Agent Clum of the San Carlos (Apache)
Agency reports that he wants no soldiers, "this
(Indian) militia is better;" and later we find the
French mixed-blood guide and scout Clay Beaufort
commander over the Indian police.

Senator Lane of Oregon, who was possibly mis-
taken in his conviction that ''try as hard as it will,
the Government can never make a farmer out of an
Indian," was probably very near the truth when he
asserted that "if Government had fitted out the In-
dians as cavalry, the United States would have the
finest body of cavalry in the world."


The Metis Intelled

IT is, however, no doubt true, as the Indian, John
Oskinson, formerly on the editorial staff of Col-
lier's Weekly, believes, that the educated Indian
would rather work with his brain than his hands.
''That has been accounted our misfortune," he adds,
''I think it will be our salvation." If this be true
of the full-blood Indian, it is much more true of the
metis. In fact, the instances which have been given
of success in the Indian trade, an occupation which
called into exercise very high mental and also moral
powers, bears out Mr. Oskinson 's theory. Mr. Oskin-
son is a Scandinavian mixed-blood who has achieved
a literary success which under existing circumstances
must be an indication of the high possibilities of the

French mixed-bloods have served the Government
not only as interpreters and Indian agents, but in
even more important capacities.^ In 1867 Col. G. P.
Beauvais was appointed Special Indian Commissioner,
"because," his commission runs, ''of your thorough
knowledge of the Indians through long residence
among them." For a like reason O. H. Lamoureux
was made Special Agent for stray bands of Winne-
bagoes and Potowatomies in Wisconsin. The Hon.
Forbis Le Flore was Superintendent of Public Schools

^ The Indian Commissioner, Gen. Parker, of the Seneca tribe lias al-
ready been mentioned. (Supra, pp. 46, 49.)


The Metis Intellect

in the Choctaw Nation, I. T., reporting that "our own
people (metis) and even the full bloods, want to edu-
cate their children in the English language."

Naturally and properly the Indian Service is
enlisting in its ranks an ever increasing number of
educated Indians. We read in the Quarterly Journal
of American Indians that there are now over 2,200
of these regularly employed in the Service, ''earnest
men and w^omen who labor first of all for the welfare
of their people." To claim French blood for the
majority of these would be absurd, and even if true,
impossible of verification. Yet of ten named in the
article justed quoted from, seven, three men and four
women, are unquestionably of French descent, and
it is certain that very many of the whole number are
proud to acknowledge some strain of French blood,
however slight.

A study of the names unquestionably French in
the "Statistics of Mixed-bloods in the Government
Employ," recently compiled in the Indian Bureau,
shows 424 employed in Indian Schools as superin-
tendents or principals, physicians," disciplinarians, or
as bakers, seamstresses, laundresses. We find them
also as chiefs of police, stock directors, timber clerks
and guards, expert farmers, overseers, clerks, stenog-
raphers, typists, government sealers, janitors, fire-
guards, laborers, interpreters, and in construction
work as engineers and assistants. These by no means
exhaust the number of those having French blood, as

2 See Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, infra, p. 174,


Our Debt to the Red Man

such ancestry is often hidden behind names farthest
removed from French.

We find French mixed-bloods in various other
branches of Government service. A recent issue of
the Carlisle Arrow shows only three French names
in a list of fifty Indians entering the Department by
civil service examination in 1912, but many of the
others without doubt had French blood. These men
and worsen were to draw salaries ranging from three
hundred to twelve hundred and fifty dollars. Many
French mixed-bloods are employed in the Indian
Bureau, Washington, nearly all of them being grad-
uates of Carlisle; among others are the sister of the
Honorable Gabe Parker, recently Registrar of the
Treasury, and an extremely intelligent sister and
brother whose French blood, manifest in both face
and manner, is hidden behind the name Brewer. Miss
Brewer, a charming speaker, won many enconiums
from Associate members of the Society of American
Indians by her address on the aims and purposes of
the Society at its second annual meeting in Denver.

The office of Indian Judge has always been highly
prized by intelligent Indians, and in the early days
was usually held by French mixed-bloods. Michel
Brisebois of Prairie du Chien, son-in-law of Lan-
glade's nephew, Gauthier de Vierville (supra, p. 64),
of a notable family of guides and scouts, was made
a judge by Governor Lewis Cass. He died in 1839.
In 1882 the office was reorganized, to be held for one
year without pay, but a change must since have been
made, since the recent report of the Indian Bureau


The Metis Intellect ,

shows forty-seven French names of Judges in Indian
courts at salaries of from eighty-four to one hundred
and twenty-four dollars (per month?). It is in-
teresting to find among Indian Judges Sa Batise (St.
Baptist) Perrote, who traces his ancestry to the
famous voyageur, trader, annalist and representative
of the French King in taking possession of the North-
west in 1670. The present Perrot (who pronounces
the last consonant of his name) is not only a judge of
the Indian court and a very intelligent man of solid
reputation, but a priest of the Sioux Medecine Society,
though reverent toward other religions. He is also
a prosperous farmer.

It is Mr. Hazard's opinion that in intellect the
metis holds the middle ground between the races, yet
the comparatively large number of French mixed-
bloods who have become teachers in Indian schools,
ministers and priests, with services in translating the
Bible into various Indian tongues and other literary
and scientific work to their credit, at least show what
the Indian at his best may be. In Oklahoma, where
the proportion of mixed-bloods of all races is very
great, a larger number of tribes than elsewhere are
represented by metis, both in business and in pro-
fessional life. Many of these rank with the best citi-
zens, men of unquestioned integrity, and active in
every movement for race betterment.

A considerable number of French mixed-bloods

have entered political life. Here and there through

the west we find them holding local offices, like John

Lecy, Postmaster at White Earth, Minn., but their


Our Debt to the Red Man

share in our national life is much more important
than this.

Representative Charles D. Carter of Oklahoma, a
dark-hairecl, brown-eyed French' mixed-blood and a
most loyal Indian, who is constantly working for the
betterment of the race, lately pointed out that Okla-
homa is solving the Indian problem in its own way,
since with a population only one-tenth Indian, that
race is now represented by the Governor, Lieutenant-
Governor, one senator, one representative and several
other government officials. The services of such in
this capacity, however, date from a long past. We
have seen "the gentlemanly" Lapence as Senator in
a newly organized Territory more than a hundred
years ago. A metis by name of Compos was at one
time candidate for the governorship of Michigan
Territory. Truman Warren, son of the three-fourths
Indian, Mary Cadotte, was at twenty-six years of age
a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
A man of charming manners, of unblemished char-
acter and greatly beloved, he died, unhappily for his
State, in 1835, at the early age of twenty-six. Alexis
Bailly, who was a relative of the Chicago trader of
earlier days, possibly descended from Joseph Bailly 's
second wife of story-telling fame,'' was a member of
the Illinois legislature ; the Pembina metis, ' ' Young
Joe" Rolette, was a member of the Minnesota legis-
lature from 1852 till 1855, a member of the Council
in 1856 and 1857, and of the Constitutional Conveii-
tion in December of the latter year. That constitu-
tion excluded Pembina from the State, but he brought

•■* And certainly of the Bailly de Messein family, supra, p. 133.

[ 1G2 ]


Superintendeut of the Five Oivilized Tribes

Former Registrar of the U. S. Treasury

French -Ohoctaw

The Metis Intellect

his credentials "as usual" and was admitted as a
"time honored institution." Mrs. Baird, who was
the god-daughter and sister-in-law of Rolette's father,
the lover of Horace, says that ' ' Young Joe ' ' could not
read or write, and this is not impossible, in considera-
tion of the educational facilities — or their lack — in
upper Minnesota at that period; though Mrs. Baird
may possibly have been mistaken. He was at all
events endowed with a high sense of honor as well as
with wonderful strength.

State Senator Forbis Le Flore of Mississippi —
no doubt a descendant of a long line of Le Flores in
Canadian history — whom we saw in 1869 Superin-
tendent of Public Schools of the Choctaw nation,
earned an honorable name by inducing his (Choctaw)
tribe to move peaceably from Mississippi to the In-
dian Territory. The Senator, however, retained his
own plantation in the delta of his native State, where
his daughter was living in 1905, and perhaps is so to
this day. Of the same family is Captain Charles Le
Flore of Limestone Gap, Okla., father-in-law of
Governor Lee Cruce, of that State, also of French In-
dian descent. Senator La Follette has Indian as well
as French blood in his veins. The Hon. Gabe Parker,
"one of the brightest of our educated Indians" (W.
K. Moorehead, op. cit. Int.) until recently Registrar
of the Treasury of the United States, is a Choctaw In-
dian of both French and Anglo-Saxon ancestry. Mr.
Gabe Parker is an ardent temperance advocate, and
has taken a conspicuous part in all movements for the
development of the American Indian. As teacher in


Our Debt to the Red Man

Indian schools and then Superintendent of the Arm-
strong School for Choctaw boys in Oklahoma, he had
been twelve ^ears in the Indian service before he was
called to the office of Registrar of the Treasury. The
need of the government for a specially equipped man
for one of the most important positions in the Indian
service cut short, however, his tenure of that office.
He is now Superintendent of the Five Civilized
Tribes, in Oklahoma, a position not only of great res-
X)onsibility, but commanding a much larger salary
than the treasury office. Selected because of ''pre-
eminent qualification for the position and superior
equipment," his api3ointment is of happy augury for
a group of people who have suffered much, and who
now see the dawn of better days.

Few women of auy race have been called to re-
sponsible positions in the service of the national gov-
ernment, and Mrs. Rosa Bourassa La Flesche is no
doubt the only Indian woman to whom has been in-
trusted the responsible task of Indian land agent, her
station being the Rosebud Agency, S. D. Mrs. La
Flesche 's grandfather, Mark D. Bourassa, one of a
large family of boys, came to the United States from
Canada, his father having originally come from
France. Since the wife of Charles de Langlade,
Charlotte Bourassa, there have been several persons
of the name of excellent standing, all tracing their
relationship back to the French great-grandfather,
and all, so far as can be ascertained, having Indian
blood. Rosa Bourassa 's father, a French-Chippewa,


Indian Land Agent. A Founder of the Society of American Indians


See p. 205

The Metis Intellect

a man of standing in Michigan, served in the army
during the Civil War. He gave his daughter the
best available educational opportunities, and her cul-
ture is of a high order, but her intellectual gifts are
eclipsed by the noble qualities of her heart. She is
the wife of Francis La Flesche, but devotion to the
weal of the Indian is the mainspring of her life.
Her, self-denying services to this cause are past



The French- Indian in the Learned

IT was natural that French mixed-bloods should
sooner or later embrace the calling of the sacred
ministry, especially of the Roman Catholic
church, which was that of their ancestors. The
number of those who have done so is too great for
detailed notice, but three names at least must find
mention here.

The French blood of the Rev. Father Philip B.
Gordon, head of the Roman Catholic Indian Office in
Washington, a quarter-breed French-Indian, to
whom my warm thanks are due, is lost to sight in the
corruption of a name originally Gaudin. The Rev.
E. C. Chirouse was for many years priest and teacher
on the Tulalip Reservation, Washington Territory.
Of him the Superintendent of Indian Affairs re-
ported in 1868, ''he is doing a great work," and
again in 1869, "In the hands of Father Chirouse
every dollar will be faithfully spent." The Rev.
James Buchard, S. J., of St. Ignatius Church and
College, San Francisco, Cal., whose life, says his bi-
ographer, ''had all the elements of a romance," was
the son of Kestalwa, Chief of the Lenni-Lenape, so
well known to readers of Cooper, and Elizabeth
Bucheur, daughter of French emigrants from Au-

The French-Indian in the Learned Professions

vergne. The latter having been massacred by
Comanches, the child was adopted by the Lenni-
Lenape, and ultimately became the wife of the chief
of the tribe. Watonika, or Swift-foot, the future
priest, a younger son of this marriage, born in 1823
at Muscogee, I. T., showed from infancy a remark-
ably religious spirit. His father having been slain
by the Sioux, he was sent by a Presbyterian mission-
ary to Marietta College, 0., and in due time became
a minister, taking a temporary charge in St. Louis.
While there he adopted the Roman Catholic faith,
entered the Jesuit Order, was ordained priest in 1856,
and soon after went westward and devoted himself
"to seeking the stray sheep in mountain town and
mining camp", leaving "missions in large cities to
others." In 1861, however, he reached San Fran-
cisco, took up church work, and by his eloquence
drew large crowds. That autumn he founded a So-
dality of the Virgin Mary, which was joined by many
leading men, lawyers, bankers and merchants, with
a large number of artisans and laborers. The first
"Mission" and "Retreat" ever held in that city was
held by him that winter. The next year a large
church was built for him and was always more than
well attended. His labors were occasionally inter-
rupted by journeys to Oregon and the Northwest,
where his Missions were greatly blest. On return-
ing from one of these he was attacked with serious
illness and died of heart failure, Dec. 27, 1889.^ It

1 "The First Half century of St. Ignatius Church and College",
J. W. Riordan S. J. 1905.

[ 167 ]

Our Debt to the Red Man

would be hard to overestimate the value of labors
such as his in the early days of such a settlement as
that of California.

Among Indian ministers and priests the majority,
though not all, have French blood. A few of the
more prominent metis ministers are the Revs. John
B., Isaac and Daniel Renville, Louis D. Coteau (who
was a farmer and a merchant before becoming a min-
ister), Pierre La Pointe, Samuel Rouillard, Charles R.
Crawford (French through his mother), A. A. Coe,
Henry Blackford, Louis Bruce of the Onondaga Res-
ervation, N. Y., in the Presbyterian Church ; John Ren-
ville, John Roundell, Philip Deloria, S. A. Brigham,
Charles T. Wright in the Episcopal, F. H. Paquette
and Frank Wright in the Methodist Churches. A con-
siderable number of these were teachers before being

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Online LibraryLouise Seymour HoughtonOur debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States → online text (page 11 of 14)