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National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
Thomas Henry Tibbles papers - Bright Eyes, Susette La Flesche: Statement by
White Eagle, 1879
Extracted on Apr-26-2016 10:42:03
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102 [[strikethrough]] a phone dire [[/strikethrough]]
Indian territory May 20th 1879
The following statement was made to me by [[strikethrough]] the
[[/strikethrough]] White Eagle, the head-chief of the Ponca Tribe. I
translated it into English for him and give it just as he gave it to me. My
father and I had been sent [[insertion]] by Mr T.H. Tibbles [[/insertion]] to
the Ponca Reserve to find out the condition of the tribe and gather all
the information we could. They told us many things of which we could
not tell the half [[strikethrough]] but [[/strikethrough]] [[insertion]] and
[[/insertion]] White Eagle asked me to write this statement for him so that
it could be read by all the White people. Bright Eyes. Susette LaFlesche
"White Eagles statement"
In the spring of 1877 we were all living quietly on our farms and at work.
We had been working on our farms for the last three years and we had
laid plans to work harder than ever during the year of 1877, when
suddenly there came to our Reserve a White man who professed to
have come from the President. His name was [[]strikethrough]]
Campbell [[/strikethrough]] He called us all to the church and we went.
We had seen this man before and he had appeared to be a good friend
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of ours. He said to us: "the President has sent me with a message to
you. He has sent me to tell you that you must pack up and move to
Indian Territory." I answered him by saying: "Friend, I thought that when
the President desired to transact business with a people he usually
consulted with them first and than trasacted his business afterward. This
is the first that I have heard of his desire to remove us. Here are some
men from the Bankton, Santee, and Omaha Tribes and here are also
some soldiers who are friends of ours. I ask them if they have heard of
this before. They have not. This has come on us suddenly. Give us time
to think about it. Although I am an Indian, I want to tell God all about this
before I do anything more. I want to know and see for myself what I had
better do. I want to ask God to help me to decide." I continued "now
friends if what you have told us from the President is true, raise your
hands." Campbell the leading man refused to raise his hands.
Hammond who was with him raised his hand, not
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up towards God, but low down toward the ground. Campbell then
jumped to his feet and said "The President told me to take you to Indian
Territory, and I have both hands full of the money which it will require to
move you down there. When the President says anything, it must be
done. Everything is settled and it is just the same as though you were
there already. I answered "I have never broken any of my treaties with
the Government. What does the President want to take my land away
from me for? The President told me to work and I have done it. He told
me not to go on the Warpath even if the White men took away my
horses and cattle or killed my people. I promised I would not and I have
performed my promises. Although other people often move from place
to place, yet I have always staid on our land. It is ours. My people have
lived and died on this land as far back as we can remember. I have
sown wheat & planted corn and have performed all my promises to the
President. I have raised enough on my farm to support
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myself and now it seems just as though the government were trying to
drown me, when he takes my land away from me. We have always been
peaceful. The land is our own. We do not want to part with it. I do not
think that I shall let the President have it. I have broken no treaties and
the President has no right to take it from me." Campbell arose and said,
"stop your talking; don't say any more. The President told me to remove
you as soon as I got here. The President is going to send all the Indians
to Indian Territory. He intends you to move first so that you can have
your choice of the best lands there. You can do nothing. What the
President has said will be done. I do not want to say anymore on this
subject. The President says you must move; get ready." I answered,
"when people want to do anything, they think about it first, talk about it
with others, and than after deliberation, they decide. I want to think
about it. I want to see the President and talk the
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whole matter over with him, and then I will do what I think best. I know it
will not be to give up our land. You have no right to move us in this way
without our consent or will." Campbell then said you must go right away.
The President intends to remove the Santees and Yanktons also, and I
shall start tomorrow to tell them so. The next day he started for the
Sioux and returned. I again talked with him. I said "it will cost a great
deal of money to remove us. Let the President keep his money, we do
not want it. It might hurt him to part with it. Take the money which you
said you brought, back to him. We don't want to use it, and we do not
want to part with our land." Campbell said "the President has plenty of
money and he will not miss it." I said "God made me and He also made
you. Perhaps he made you long before He did me, and that may be the
reason that you as a nation, are more enterprising and powerful
[[insertion]] than [[/insertion]] we are. But God made me. I was born
here. He gave me this land
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and it is mine. Then your people first came here and asked for our land,
our forefathers sold you some. When our fathers sold you this land they
made a treaty with your government, which I now hold in my hand, and it
is stated here how much was sold, to you and how much remained to
us; and it is also stated here that the land which we did not sell was
ours. It belongs to none but us until we choose to sell it. The
government has no right to it. It is ours and we do not wish to part with
it" Campbell answered by saying "the President says that the treaty is
worthless. It will not do you any good. The President does not count it as
anything. When you get to the new country the President will give you a
new treaty and you shall have a good title to your land there. As you do
not believe the President's message, I will send a telegram to him. The
next day he brought the return telegram and said, "I will read it to you.
You will see for yourselves whether what I have told you is true or not.
The President says in this telegram that he wants
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ten of your chiefs to go to Washington; but he wants me first to take you
to Indian Territory and see for yourselves so that you may select a piece
of land there and then go on to Washington afterwards to talk it over." I
answered, "we will go with you. If we are satisfied with the land we will
tell the President so, but if we are not satisfied we will say so also." He
then took us ten chiefs down there and left us in Indian Territory without
money, pass or interpreters, in a strange country among a strange
people, because we would not select a piece of land. He wished us to
sign a paper saying that we would not, and asked to be taken to
Washington as he had promised, he left us to find our way back alone
on foot. We could not believe that he had been authorized to treat us
with such indignity and we could not believe that the White people of the
country would let such a wrong done in their name pass unnoticed; so
on our return to the Omaha
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Reserve after enduring great hardship on the way, we made a statement
of all the facts, requesting a friend to see that it was published in a
paper." We also sent a telegram to the President, asking him if he had
authorized these men to treat us in this manner, but we never received
any answer. After we had left the Omaha Reserve and had nearly
reached home, we found Campbell and some soldiers already there.
They had frightened our people and forced them to move in our absence
and they were just starting form the Reserve. When we met our people
we said to them, "Stop. Do not go on. When a man owns anything it is
his until he gives it, or sells it. This land is ours. We have not given or
sold it to the President. He has no right to it. When we were left in Indian
Territory we believed that the government had left us alone for good;
and now we find that this man has come back here bringing the soldiers
and forcing you to move in our absence. Do not go any further." They
obeyed us. Two days after our
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return home Campbell sent for us again. When we reached the place we
found the soldiers there all armed and Campbell sitting by the side of an
officer. I gave the treaty to the officer to examine. I said to him. "I have
never done any wrong against the White people. I have never broken
any treaties. Now what have I done that your soldiers stand here all
armed against me? I have been working for my land. I have done that
which I thought my duty. I believed that your soldiers were stationed
here to protect me against all wrong and injury. Now show me what I
have done that you stand here with your soldiers in arms against me? I
have helped your soldiers. I have helped the White people who live
around here. I have always been peaceful. When the Sioux carried off
your cattle and horses and property, I have had it returned to you when
in my power. I thought that you, at least, would help me in my time of
trouble. Why do I find you here now armed against me. We had always
believed that your government had ordered your soldiers to
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protect those who were peaceful and doing their duty, and to punish and
bear arms against those who committed crimes. A short time ago I was
here at work on my land, I was taken and left in Indian Territory to find
my way back alone. I [[insertion]] thought [[/insertion]] that after being
treated in the manner we we were by this man, that when I came home I
would find a protection [[strikethrough]] from [[/strikethrough]] [[insertion]]
from [[insertion]] my enemy in you and now, instead, I find you armed
against me." I then turned to Campbell and said, you profess to be a
Cristian and to love God and yet you would love to see bloodshed. Have
you no pity on the tears of these helpless women and children? We
would rather die here on our land than be forced to go. Kill us all here on
our land now, so that in the future when men shall ask, why have these
died? it shall be answered, they died rather than be forced to leave their
land. They died to maintain their rights! And perhaps there will be found
some who will pity us and say "They only did what was right." Campbell
answered "if blood is shed you only will be in fault. You only will
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be the cause. You have have exceeded the time in which the President
gave you to move by a good many days." White Swan or Frank La
Flesche then spoke to Campbell. "You have been here several times
before. You professed to be a great Christian and one of the chief
ministers among your people. You preached to us and told us about
God. You told me to give myself to Him and join his people. I was willing
and you baptized my family and myself. You held me by the hand and
said you were my friend, and I looked on you as such. I never thought
that you would ever try to lead me into the great fire, the Hell of your
people. You told me that God loved us all; that He had made laws which
he wanted us to keep, and I promised that I would try to keep them.
When you asked me to keep these laws, I said to myself, he is a good
friend, he tells me good things and wants me to do right, and to walk the
good road. I did not think then that you [[insertion]] would [[/insertion]]
ever try to lead me into a bad road. You told me that God saw every
thing we did. If so, He has seen the wrong and wickedness in this
matter.
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When I was baptized, and promised God that I would do as He wanted
me to, I meant it, and now (raising his hand to Heaven) I call on God to
witness that I have tried to keep my promise, but [[underlined]] you
[[/underlined]] have lied to Him. He is the Judge that I speak the truth.
When you left us in Indian Territory I thought that you had gone to tell
the President that we refused to give up our land, and now I come home
to find that you have not. You said that you wanted to save my soul from
Hell when I should die, but now I find that you wish to send my soul to
Hell while I am yet living, and I wish to keep out of it. You professed
[[strikethrough]] to be our friend [[/strikethrough]] to be our friend. Could
you not so much as have said to the President, "these people do not
want to part with their land. You are powerful and they are weak. Have
mercy on them and do not make them go?' Could you not have done
this much after all your professions of friendship? I would like to see you
go to a White man yonder, who is living on his farm, and say to him, "get
off from here,
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the President wants this land and you must move and go somewhere
else." What do you suppose he would answer. The President has no
more right to take our land from us than he has that of the White man.
Campbell answered, "what you have said about God is all right; but this
business which I have come to tend to has nothing to do with
[[strikethrough]] this [[/strikethrough]] God or anything of the kind. It is
another subject altogether. You had better not say that I want to lead
you into Hell. I want to lead you into the good road. It is you who want to
take the bad road. You ought to be on the road to Indian Territory by this
time. The President will get out of patience, so I want you to start
tomorrow. The President wanted me to do his errand as I got here, but
you have kept me waiting this long. The President has sent me word
that if you refuse to go I must push you out. Your head-chief White
Eagle has talked of the shedding of blood rather than go. I did not want
you to let God hear you say such a thing, but He has heard you.
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This is all I have to say and now I give you in charge of this officer and
his soldiers.
Then the Indian chief of the police arose and said, "Our chiefs here have
appointed me captain of our police, but they did not appoint me to bear
arms against the weak and innocent, but that I might help and protect
them. [[underlined]] Your [[/underlined]] officer has brought his soldiers
armed against my tribe. I shall not resist him. If he chooses to kill us
unarmed as we are he can do it. You say, your President has sent the
money by you, which is to take us to Indian Territory. Take it back to
your President. We will not leave our land and we are afraid of the land
in Indian Territory. Take your money home. When you took our chiefs to
Indian Territory, you took some money to [[insertion]] pay [[/insertion]]
their fare there. If the money belonged to the President, we want you to
give it back to him from our own fund. This fund is the money which we
received in payment for our land which we sold."
The man who made this speech was one of the
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first to die when reached the Indian Territory.
The next morning [[insertion]] after this council [[/insertion]] the soldiers
some on horses and some in waggons went around to the houses and
where they found the door locked (for some of the people had shut up
their houses and fled to the woods) kicked or broke them open, and put
their household goods, such as could be carried with ease into the
waggons. In this way Campbell started of with a party composed of
about ten families, while the soldiers remained behind with the rest of
us. After this first party had been carried off, I took an interpreter with me
to Niobrara City and there found a lawyer to whom I stated all these
facts, and telling him that I thought the whole thing had been done
unlawfully, asked him to help us maintain our rights. I wanted him to
send a telegram to the President asking him whether he knew of what
had been done in his name. The lawyer said "I will do so if
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you give me the money to pay for it. I answered that I had no money, but
that I had a horse which I could sell to pay for the telegram.
The lawyer sent a telegram but he never received any answer.
Meanwhile the first party which Campbell had taken [[strikethrough]]
were [[/strikethrough]] had been left by him on the other side of the
Niobrara, while he himself went to Washington. I then collected those of
us who were yet on the Reserve together and gathering thirty-four of our
horses we sold them to pay the lawyers expenses to Washington. When
the lawyer got to Washington and went to see the President, he found
Campbell sitting and talking with him. While we were awaiting the
lawyers return, we almost starved as Campbell had taken [[insertion]]
the [[/insertion]] provisions which belonged to us and carried them away
with the first party.
After some time the lawyer sent a telegram saying that he had been
unable to do anything for us, except to keep them from fulfilling
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their threat of starving and treating us with indignity on the way down,
because of our refusal to go.
Before the lawyer had time to return, a new Agent by the name of
Howard was sent to take us down. He remained on the other side of the
river and sent for us to come down, but we refused to go. He sent again
and we went to him. The place where we met him was in a wild place by
the riverside. He spoke kindly to us and was the first and only one who
did so [[insertion]] of those [[/insertion]] who had been sent from
Washington. He said, "Friends, although I am White and you are Indian,
I am a man just as you are, and have a heart just the same as yours. I
know you have been treated unjustly and I feel sorry for you, but I
cannot help you. The President has sent me to take you down. I will do
all in my power to make the journey comfortable for you so that you may
not suffer." I said to him, "Friend, it is good when men
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[[encircled]] [[Stel.?]] set this [[?]] [[/encircled]]
[[strikethrough]] meet as friends and talk kindly to each other. You have
spoken the first kind word we have heard for a long time. We had made
up our mind to resist and die on our own land rather go to a strange one
to die, but now you have come we do not know what we will do."
[[/strikethrough]]
We then separated; and calling all the men of our tribe together, I said to
them, "my people, we, your chiefs have worked hard to save you from
this. We have resisted until we are worn out, and now we know not what
more we can do. We leave the matter into your hands to decide. If you
say that we fight and die on our lands, so be it." [[strikethrough]] For a
time a [[/strikethrough]] There was utter silence. Not a word more was
spoken.
We all arose and started for our homes and there we found that in our
absence the soldiers had collected all our women and children together
and were standing guard over them.
The soldiers got on their horses, went to all the houses, broke open our
doors, took our household
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[[strikethrough]] 19 8 [[Strikethrough]]
36
utensils, put them in their wagons, and pointing their bayonets at our
people, ordered them to move. They took all our plows, mowers,
hayforks, grindstones, farming implements of all kinds and every thing
too heavy to be taken on a journey, and locked them up in a large
house. We never knew what became of them afterwards. Many of these
things of which we were robbed, we had bought with money earned
[[insertion]] by the [[/insertion]] work of our hands. They promised us
more when we should get down here, but we have never received any
thing in place of them. We left in our own land two-hundred and thirty six
houses which we had built with our own hands. We cut the logs, hauled
them, and built them ourselves. We have now in place of [[insertion]]
them [[/insertion]] six little shanties, built for us by the government.
These are one story high with two doors and two windows. They are full
of holes and cracks and let in the wind and rain. We [[strikethrough]]
have [[/strikethrough]] hear that our own houses which we left in Dakota
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[[strikethrough]] 20 9 [[/strikethrough]]
37
have all been pulled down. To show how much the tribe have been
robbed of, we will count the household possessions of a single one of
our families in Dakota before we came down.
Two stoves, one a kitchen stove and the other a parlor stove with all the
accompanying utensils, [[insertion]] two bedsteads [[/insertion]] two
plows and one double plough, one harrow one spade, two hayforks, one
handsaw & one large two handled saw, one grindstone, one hayrake, a
cupboard and four chairs. We have nothing but our tents and their
contents composed mostly of clothing. The tribe owned two reapers,
eight mowers, a flour and saw-mill. They are gone from us also. We
brought with us thirty-five yoke of oxen; They all died when we got here
partly from the effects of the toilsome journey and partly by disease.
We have not one left. We brought with us five-hundred horses, and
bought at different times after we arrived two-hundred more.
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We have now been here about two years, and during that time we have
lost over six hundred, mostly by death; some were stolen by bad men.
We have now not one-hundred left of the seven hundred. Our horses
died either from the effect of poisonous weeds or disease. The tribe
numbered sevenhundred when we started. Since we have been here
over one hundred and fifty of my people have died.
[[strikethrough]] 38 [[/strikethrough]] When people lose what they hold
dear to them, the heart cries all the time. I speak now to you lawyers,
who have helped Standing Bear, and to those of you who profess to be
God's people. We had thought that there were none to take pity on us
and none to help us. We thought all the White men hated us, but now
we have seen you take pity on Standing Bear, when you heard his story.
It may be that you knew nothing of our wrongs and therefore did not
help us.
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[[strikethrough]] 22 11 [[/strikethrough]] 39
I thank you in the name of our people for what you have done for us
through your kindness to Standing Bear; and I ask of you to go still
further in your kindness and help us to regain our land and our rights.
You cannot bring our dead back to life but you can yet save the living.
My heart thinks all the time of our dead. I cry day and night for the men,
women and children, who have been killed by this land. My eyes were
heavy with weeping, but when I heard of your kindness to some of my
people, I felt as if I might raise my head and open my eyes to see the
coming light. I want to save the remainder of my people and I look to
you for help. They cry for their land and I want to give them back that of
which they were robbed.
When I went to see the President and told him how we had been
wronged, he said that those who did the deed, were
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[[strikethrough]] 23 12 [[/strikethrough]]
gone [[strikethrough]] it [[/strikethrough]] and it was among the things of
the past. I now ask the President once again through this message
which I send to all the White people of this land, to rectify his mistake.
When a man desires to do what is right, he does not say to himself "it
does not matter," when he commits a wrong.
Khe-thaska + [[insertion]] His mark [[/insertion]] White Eagle
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[[strikethough]] gone and [[strikethrough]] the the [[/strikethrough]] it was
among the things of the past. I know ask the President once again,
through this message which I send to all the White people of this land, to
rectify his mistake. We have heard
he does not say to himself "It does not matter", when he commits a
wrong. [[/strikethrough]]
I have tried to deliver this message as faithfully as it was given to me. I
am not certain of the names of the men who are mentioned throughout
the transaction. I have written them as nearly as I could guess from the
manner in which White Eagle and others pronounced them. I cannot
refrain from mentioning here something said by White Eagle, my uncle,
and others when I told them of the man who had been the means of
bringing their wrongs before the attention of the people. "Daughter, we
are very poor. We have been robbed of all we owned
Thomas Henry Tibbles papers - Bright Eyes, Susette La Flesche: Statement
by White Eagle, 1879
Transcribed and Reviewed by Digital Volunteers
Extracted Apr-26-2016 10:42:03
Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
24
but if we had thousands we would spend it all in bearing the expenses of
the suit carried on for us. We have nothing but our thanks to give to the
man who has done this for us" I give this as nearly as I can translate it
into English. I now wish to say a few words myself. I believe that it has
been because the people of the United States were ignorant of the
injustice and wrongs committed against my people, by those in authority
[[insertion]] that they have not helped us [[/insertion]] I have been both
surprised and pleased at the [[insertion]] ready [[/insertion]] sympathy
and help which have arisen in all quarters, since these wrongs against
some of my people have become known. I still feel sad when I think of
all those who have fallen on both sides, in such cases as that of the
Poncas and Cheyennes. I cannot help putting in a plea for the latter.
They were driven to desperation by the wrongs heaped on them by
those [[who?]] had them in charge. They were little
Thomas Henry Tibbles papers - Bright Eyes, Susette La Flesche: Statement
by White Eagle, 1879
Transcribed and Reviewed by Digital Volunteers
Extracted Apr-26-2016 10:42:03
Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
25
less than slaves. [[strikethrough]] and in [[/strikethrough]] Their land had
been taken from them and they had been sent to Indian Territory. Driven
by hunger and thoughts of vengeance they tried to break their way
through to their old land. When the soldiers had them in their power,
they tried to starve them and when they broke away they shot them
down unarmed as they were [[insertion]] It seems absurd to think of
[[/insertion]] a few helpless people, hunted down by the soldiers of a
powerful nation and shot down without mercy. I do not try to excuse the
depredations they are said to have committed when they first broke out,
but so many think that they did what they did just because of the savage
cruelty of their nature and without cause that I feel constrained to write
this. I do not know that anything can be done for them now, but I feel as
though some justice should be shown. I think that if any of you White
people had been situated in like circumstances that you might have
done just
Thomas Henry Tibbles papers - Bright Eyes, Susette La Flesche: Statement
by White Eagle, 1879
Transcribed and Reviewed by Digital Volunteers
Extracted Apr-26-2016 10:42:03
Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
26
as they did. How could they believe in truth and justice and generosity,
when the reverse of all these had been acted out before them by selfish,
money-seeking men set in authority over them by your government?
Men who have had less wrong committed against them have become
famous in history just because they tried to help themselve
[[strikethrough]] and the Cheyennes and other tribes [[/strikethrough]] as
have the Cheyennes and many tribes, and yet the Indians have usually
been looked on as doing what [[underlined]] they [[/underlined]] thought
the only way of helping and saving themselves as [[strikethrough]] men
who [[/strikethrough]] creatures who killed men out of mere pleasure.
Until this time the Indian has been unable to tell the story of his wrongs,
while the white people when they have been wronged have spread it
abroad throughout the land. Thank God, that through the efforts of a few
who have had the justice to see the other side of the question, a better
time
Thomas Henry Tibbles papers - Bright Eyes, Susette La Flesche: Statement
by White Eagle, 1879
Transcribed and Reviewed by Digital Volunteers
Extracted Apr-26-2016 10:42:03
Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
27
seems dawning for my people, and a better way than that of war has
been found of redressing our wrongs. May He, Who made us all,
[[underlined]] help [[/underlined]] us all to be at peace with each other
through all the future.
Susette La Flesche
Thomas Henry Tibbles papers - Bright Eyes, Susette La Flesche: Statement
by White Eagle, 1879
Transcribed and Reviewed by Digital Volunteers
Extracted Apr-26-2016 10:42:03
Smithsonian Institution Transcription Center, National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
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