The Western American Indian: Case Studies in Tribal History

By Richard N. Ellis | Go to book overview

The Santee Sioux, 1934-65 ROY W. MEYER

The Santee Sioux accepted the Indian Reorganization Act by a vote of 260 to 27 at an election held November 17, 1934. In a way, it is rather surprising that they voted to accept the act, for they had been proceeding in the opposite direction so long that some major psychological reorientation must have been required of them. Furthermore, their recent experience with the Indian Bureau had not been pleasant. Their dissatisfaction with the successive Yankton superintendents was transferred to a new object when, in 1933, the Yankton Agency was abolished and the Santees were placed under the Winnebago Agency. Complaints against the Winnebago superintendent, Henry M. Tidwell, and members of his staff began reaching Representative Howard, including a telegram from the Knox County Board describing Tidwell as "absolutely incompetent" and demanding immediate relief for fifty destitute families. An investigation by the Indian Bureau substantiated the charges, and shortly thereafter Tidwell was replaced by Gabe E. Parker, a man of Choctaw descent and sympathetic to Collier's policies.

Aid to the Santees under the new administration did not, of course, await the appointment of Parker. Federal Emergency Relief Administration funds were made available in 1933, and many of the Indians were set to work building and improving roads that summer. Some were employed in an Indian Emergency Conservation Work project to develop a public campground on the old agency site. The new government farmer, James W. Brewer, encouraged the Indians to grow subsistence gardens, but no attempt was made at that time to get them back into the wheat and cattle: business. They were encouraged, however, to devote some of the proceeds from their road work to the purchase of seed. Direct relief in the form of surplus mutton bought from the Navajos, blankets, shoes, and other clothing was also furnished in 1933 and 1934. When about 130 cattle were issued in October, 1934, the Indians were given complete freedom to

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