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‘Abrogated’
Pictorial Notes on the Santee Lakota Prisoners of War: 2/10/2023
© 2023 James LaFond
AUG/17/23
I am staying with a man who is 1 part in 16 Santee Sioux. Grandma, I believe, was a half breed. She might have been the only Santee woman pictured on the cover photo among five men at the Santee Normal Training School, captioned as high School pupils, though three of the men are obviously mature adults as old as 30. This photo, I will come back to.
The document is a federal one:
Indians of Nebraska
Santee Sioux
Nebraska Indian Commission
The tone of the pamphlet is very pro tribal and reminds this writer, that when an author engages a subject, be it a person, an art, an event or a group as the focus of his written expression, that he does tend to become an advocate, a Stockholm Syndrome poster child for the empathy that sits inside of most of us, that is, except psychopaths, who have the makings of greatness in their absence of empathy.
The quote in the paper in which black and white clothes are worn in the black and white photo reads:
“The whites were always trying to make the Indians give up their life and live like white men—go to farming, work hard…”
-Big Eagle
Of interest is that Big Eagle spoke in white terms. The label Indian was imposed by a Spanish mistake in geography and the term white was not used by native peoples to describe Europeans until after the merchants who ran the Trans-Atlantic slave trade had convinced Christians to exchange their Christian identity in favor of a white economic identity, beginning in the 1730s, some 200 years after contact. Indeed, the men of Big eagle’s grandfather’s time and perhaps even his father, called European invaders: hat-wearers, fat-takers, long-knives, wearers of leg coverings, French, English, Spanish and American.
So above, at the hour after conquest, semantics are totally controlled by the conqueror, to include words used by the conquered.
Throughout the brief text of the pamphlet the American author’s take the side of their tribal wards.
In the 1700s the Santee were defeated by the Chippewas at The Battle of Kathio and were forced to move close to American settlements in southern Minnesota. The first treaty was signed with U.S.G. in 1805. According to American officials every such treaty would be abrogated by U.S.G., demonstrating, even in the making of this pamphlet, that the American government of one year very rarely considers itself bound by the pledges, decisions and actions of its preceding incarnation, that U.S.G. is an ever reinventing leviathan.
In 1836 the Santee were forced to take 8 cents an acre for their homeland, but were not even paid that, were paid nothing. In 1862 the Santee rose against the Union, blaming it on a few cynical young men. This began over an egg theft caper by two warriors of the people who were being systematically starved to death. They lost, of course.
The tribe surrendered and were imprisoned. Almost every man [300 of 1800 tribal total] was sentenced to death for rape, robbery and murder. This was an act of war, in concert with other tribes and the enemy Confederacy. Yet Lincoln, a president that set aside basic human rights for his citizens and soldiers, commuted 262 of the 300 death sentences of the ‘conspirators.’ Five of these 38 condemned men were spared on further review.
Treaties were once again abrogated and the majority of the people were starved to death, with one U.S. soldier noting that Santee woman were reduced to making soup of corn picked from U.S.G. horse manure.
Now to the pictographic evidence.
The interior photo of the tribe is backed by a soldier, a reporter or official in bow tie, and a small man in cap. They are flanked by government men. Two white Americans to the left of frame stand with an Indian elder dressed in a suit between them. To the right of frame are two government men, a senior chief in traditional garb and a half breed dressed like a government man, in gray coats, white hates and shirts and ties.
Six women sit down front.
The line of 9 men between the flanking officials and the two flanking chiefs, include 5 men who are racially of Asian extraction, dark of skin, dressed in traditional garb. The 4 remaining men are here described from left of frame, the right of line:
-1. A tall man in war bonnet who looks French and has a close shaved beard is in the place of honor. Perhaps he is Big Eagle?
-2. A stout man with an eastern style wooden war club who looks half European, looks much like Abbot from the 1950s comedy team, Abbott and Costello.
-3. A tall man who looks liken a cross between James Cobourn and Jack Pallance, both racially European actors having plaid Indian roles in movies.
I would say that these three men were half or quarter breeds. But the man on the far right, #4, with his white beard and high cracker looks, I hope he was an interpretor. He is in line with the warriors, perhaps a preacher who is their advocate, as he is suited all in black.
The line is placed so that these men are obviously in custody and under supervision by the men behind and to either side. #4 is within the line of custody and might be an Indian of unusual pallor.
Of interest is the fact that the rape charges would be applied to men who took American wives and, in earlier times, would have produced breeds #1, #2, and #3.
Additionally, in a photo I reviewed of Cheyenne captives after the break out of Dull Knife and Little Wolf, one of the Cheyenne was an obvious “white American” complete with white ten gallon hat and tie, and was sitting in close companionship with a woman in center of group and seemed as unhappy as the darker warriors.
Back to the cover photo of the Orwellian named “Normal Training School.”
Left of frame to right:
-1. A young white fellow who looks to be from Central Europe with long slim nose: Czech, Hungarian or Austrian, not of Slavic type.
-2. A dark, broad-faced man who cannot be of the same homogenous racial group as the slim gracile man.
-3. A dark complected man with a mix of Asian and European facial features.
-4. A beautiful, light-skinned, indeed ‘damn near white’ woman with black hair and mixed European and Asian features.
-5. A fair-skinned man that seems a mix of Algonquin and Irish and appears to be a tough guy and might pass for southern Italian.
-6. A fair-skinned man who would seem at home in any English accounting house.
The fact is, the hands and face of that pretty girl in the foreground are nearly as white as the shirt collars. Of course, White means the absence of color and no person can be white of skin, for if they lose all pigment they become pinkly translucent. But our fantastical identities, however improbable, remain with us.
How many of these white Indians were, like Liver-Eating Johnson and Jim Bridger runaway servants or apprentices?
How many of the mixed people were the sons and daughters of such?
Note that in both photos there are a mix of robust. Almost Siberian looking phenotypes upon broad bodies, mixed, in the same tribe with gracile features. There are as well a wide range of complexions. The Santee came from the Eastern Woodlands, which extended hundreds of miles west of the Mississippi, as did most of the Sioux Nations—perhaps all—pushed west from the pressure of eastern tribes who had attained guns and European alliances first. It is not surprising to see the narrow facial features, long nose of the first student and two of the Santee warriors, to include the chief in the war bonnet, as well as the Delaware war club.
Before academic institutions reworked the process of inquiry into ideological fantasy, there was a recognized racial type of person, who lived on both sides of the North Atlantic and looked fairly the same in rural France or savage America: The Sylvid, the race of the forest people.
Notes
According to a Jesuit of 1638, without warpaint, Mohawk’s looked much like French peasants.
Eastern Woodlands History
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