Native American Heritage


“Bias and prejudice are attitudes
to be kept in hand, not attitudes to be voided.”
Charles Curtis

Charles Curtis born on January 25, 1860
died on February 8, 1936

When Senator Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President last Wednesday, she made history as the first woman, first African American, and first person of South Asian heritage to become Vice President of the United States. But, she is not the first Vice President of color we’ve had to hold that office. That distinction belongs to Vice President Charles Curtis who was the first and only Native American Vice President sworn into office 92 years ago.

Prejudice against Native Americans was widespread at the time of the Curtis Vice Presidency. His climb to the office attests to his skillful navigation of the political system. It was also a story of how Native Americans viewed their communities and how they were forced to assimilate within a predominately white society and government.

Charles Curtis was born January 25, 1860, in Eugene, Kansas now known as North Topeka, Kansas. His white, Irish, English, Welch and Scots father was from a wealthy Topeka family while his mother was one-eighth each of Kansa Indian, of Osage Indian, of Potawatomi Indian. Curtis was a member of the Kaw Indian Nation which are a federally recognized Native American tribe in Oklahoma and parts of Kansas. They come from the central Midwestern United States. The Kaw tribe have also been known as the People of the South wind or People of water. Most of us don’t realize that the state of Kansas takes its name from the Kaw Indian people.

His mother died when he was just three years old and at the same time his father left to fight in the Civil War for the United States. Due to the lack of parental supervision, Curtis spent time living with both sets of grandparents and for eight years, he lived on the Kaw reservation where his first language was Kanza and French, he later learned English.

By 1873, the Kaw Nation, once millions of acres in area had dwindled to little more than a burial plot and the few 100 surviving Kaw members were being forcibly relocated South, which would become Oklahoma. The majority of the Kaw walked to their new locations which took about 17 days. During this relocation, a great many of the Kaw people got sick, contracted typhoid and even starved to death.

Thirteen year old Charles Curtis was expected to join the migration to Oklahoma but his Indian grandmother wanted what she believed was the best for her young grandson and commanded him to stay in Topeka with his white grandmother and to assimilate. Chances are, had Charles left Topeka for Oklahoma he may not have survived and we might never have heard of him.

Curtis learned to ride Indian ponies bareback and won a reputation as a “good and fearless rider.” His grandfather William Curtis had built a race track, and Charles rode in his first race. He soon became a full-fledged jockey and continued to ride until 1876. A fellow jockey described Curtis as “rather short and wiry” and “just another brush boy jockey,” explaining that eastern riders “called us brush boys because we rode in what would be called the sticks.”

As a winning jockey, Curtis was known throughout Kansas as “The Indian Boy.” His mounts made a lot of money for the local gamblers and prostitutes who bet on him, and he recalled that after one race a madam bought him “a new suit of clothes, boots, hat and all,” and had a new jockey suit made for him; others bought him candy and presents. “I had never been so petted in my life and I liked it,” Curtis reminisced.

After studying law and working for a Topeka attorney for several years, Curtis passed the Kansas bar exam in 1881 and was admitted to the bar. At 34 years old, he married Annie Elizabeth Baird on November 27, 1884. They had three children, Permelia Jeannette Curtis, Henry King Curtis, and Leona Virginia Curtis.

From 1885 to 1889 he was an attorney for Shawnee county in Topeka, Kansas.

His long political career began in 1893 to 1899, with a stint in the U.S. House of Representatives. He then served as a U.S. Senator from Kansas from 1907-13 and again from 1915-29.

During his political career, he served on numerous committees and authored many pieces of legislation. He was a staunch believer in laws and was quoted as saying, “If you don’t want the laws enforced, then don’t vote for me.” He understood that the federal policies he championed were conceived on the Indians’ behalf.

He was one of the early champions of women’s equal rights. Growing up in an Indian nation, he experienced how woman always had leadership roles and were often the backbone of the tribes. Senator Curtis proposed one of the first woman’s equal rights amendments in the country.

One of the largest pieces of legislation he brought forth was also one of the most controversial throughout Indian Country. Curtis devoted much of his attention to his service on the Committee on Indian Affairs, where he drafted the ‘Curtis Act’ in 1898.  Entitled, An Act for the Protection of the People of the Indian Territory and for Other Purposes, the Curtis Act actually overturned many treaty rights by allocating federal lands, abolishing tribal courts, and giving the Interior Department control over mineral leases on Indian lands.

The Act brought along allotments to the Five Civilized Tribes such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole who were previously exempt from the General Allotment Act of 1887.

The Curtis Act helped weaken and dissolve Indian Territory tribal governments by abolishing tribal courts and subjecting all persons in the territory to federal law. This meant that there could be no enforcement of tribal laws and that any tribal legislation passed after 1898 had to be approved by the President of the United States.

In 1900, after pushing through Congress legislation that provide for the further allotment of tribal lands in Indian Territory, Curtis wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ethan Allen Hitchcock and proudly proclaimed, “I have done more to secure legislation for the Indian Territory than all others put together since the 54th Congress of 1896.”

Meanwhile, he and his wife had always provided a home in Topeka for his paternal sister Dolly Curtis. So, when his wife died of an undisclosed cause in 1924, Dolly took over the care of his home and later assisted him with his social calendar during his vice presidency.

Curtis sought the presidential nomination in 1928 and hoped a deadlocked convention would allow him to win as a dark horse candidate. However, Herbert Hoover won the nomination and then offered the VP nomination to Curtis, hoping that the senator from Kansas would balance the ticket and help Hoover overcome his unpopularity in farm states.

Truth be told, Charles Curtis had wanted to be President, but the rest of the nominating committee didn’t agree. He was on the first ballot for the presidency but did not have enough ballots, so he agreed to run as the Vice President instead for Herbert Hoover. Hoover easily won the presidential election with a margin of more than six million votes.

With the election of Hoover-Curtis, there were several firsts in the White House. One was that Curtis became the first unmarried Vice President during his entire time in office as well as the first Native American.  Another first was, Curtis arranged for a Native American jazz band to perform at the 1929 Presidential Inauguration.

The Hoover and Curtis association was one of political convenience, and prolonged hard feelings from their controversial battle for the 1928 nomination did little to promote a functional relationship. As VP, he was rarely consulted and had a distant relationship with Hoover. Curtis attended a few cabinet meetings, but as a whole did not significantly affect policy during his tenure.

Four years later, after the start of the 1929 Great Depression, the Hoover-Curtis ticket was badly defeated by the Democratic candidates, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Nance Garner. Voters felt that both Hoover and Curtis had caused the depression, so the people voted for another Presidential team.

After losing the 1932 election, Curtis retired from public life and practiced law in Washington, D.C.  He died of a heart attack at age 76, in the morning hours, alone at home on February 8, 1936.

Many Native Americans today say a great deal of Curtis’ policies were a disaster for their nations. Although Curtis tried his best for his Native people, he was concerned with issues like the education and health of Native American people. At the time, Curtis truly believed he was helping his people. However, in his later years, it has been said he regretted in the end, being an assimilationist. If he were alive today, he would most likely see how his policies had a very negative effect on Native Americans.

Curtis never forgot his Indian heritage. His major concerns were always, Indian rights, farmer’s rights, women’s rights as well as children’s rights. These concerns stayed with him throughout his lifetime. The policies and issues he pursued for Native Americans in Congress and as Vice President changed the world for the better and for some the worst. Still, he will be remembered in a good way, as the first Vice President of Native American heritage.

Shine On

Some Things Never Change

 
“From my tribe I take nothing,
I am the maker of my own fortune.
A single twig breaks,
but the bundle of twigs is strong.
Show respect to all people,
but grovel to none.”
Tecumseh
 
 

With Thanksgiving behind us, I realized I had not heard one newscaster or for that matter, one government official mention Native Americans. This nation began with the genocide of the Native Indians. I often wonder what North America would look like without its 1492 landing and the fore fathers that confiscated it unlawfully.

I’ve been reading and listening to the news about the Coronavirus impact on Native Americans. There’s one article in particular written by Lizzie Wade in Science Magazine that was eye opening about the COVID-19 data on Native Americans which is a national disgrace. I hope you’ll take the time to read the article.

This country hasn’t respected Indigenous people since the day we set foot on their land. It angers and saddens me that some things never change.

Shine On

All Living Things

“Be respectful of the small insects,
birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans
have brought down upon them.”
Joy Harjo

All Living Things

There’s a poet I admire, Joy Harjo who is the first Native American Poet Laureate in the history of the position. Her poetry as well as her memoir, Crazy Brave are written with such simplicity and beauty that I find myself thirsty for more of her writings, especially since I’ve devoured all of her books.

Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951 and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. She is not only a talented poet, but also an author, musician and playwright. She incorporates into her writing storytelling and histories of her Nation and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values.

One of the subject matters she has touched on is the subject of Spirit Animal, Animal Guide and Spirit Helper. These terms are used among different cultures to describe spirits of benevolent nature, usually helping someone during a hard time. These spirits can bring strength, insight, and even a sense or feeling to someone who needs it.

Native American culture believes these Spirit Helpers are not a novelty. It isn’t something you choose or identify with but rather something that comes to you in your time of need. Perhaps the animal represents something that holds a certain value, such as strength in a bull or agility in a dragonfly. In the Native American Lakota culture, these spirits tend to associate values with certain animals. However, that’s not all they bring. They hold a special place and represent a larger spiritual culture within a tribe.

In many indigenous cultures, spirituality is about a relationship to everything around you – the plants and animals that provide food, the land that provides a home, and the weather that makes living possible. These elements are highly respected because they enable us to live.

I tend to believe our spirituality is strongly tied to the value and respect we hold for the earth and all living things.

Shine On

A Magical Place to Live

“Life is like a landscape.
You live in the midst of it
but can describe it only
from the vantage point of distance.”
Charles Lindbergh

magical-place-to-live

Over three hundred years ago the Chowigna Indians lived along the fertile land in Redondo Beach. They lived off the rich soil and fishing the ocean. There was an abundance of fish such as halibut, lobster, and sea bass.

Then in 1854 the Chowigna were sent off to missions and the wealthy Manuel Dominguez sold Redondo Beach to Henry Allanson and William Johnson. These two men saw the possibilities that Redondo would hold. In 1892, Redondo Beach was incorporated and became a major tourist attraction for all walks of life.

Redondo was once described as “The Gem of The Continent” in the Los Angeles Daily Herald newspaper. Through the years famous attractions such as the Redondo Hotel have long disappeared. They say the Redondo Hotel induced more visitors than ever before to venture to the coast.

During prohibition the Hotel Redondo closed its doors and in 1925 was sold for scrap lumber. Big time gambling, complete with mobsters and shooting incidents, found its way to Redondo during the Depression. Chip games, bingo parlors, and a casino were run in full view of the law between 1936 and 1940. For a fare of 25 cents, a water-taxi would transport a visitor to the gambling ship Rex which operated three miles off shore.

chaplinThroughout its history famous people have flocked to Redondo Beach. During the silent film era, actor Charlie Chaplin was often seen visiting Redondo and even bought a beach cottage for his beloved mother. Charles Lindbergh attended a year of high school at Redondo Union as well as Demi Moore and the Smothers Brothers.  Residents included world famous athletes, authors, an atomic scientist, astronaut, and even a Nobel Prize winner. Redondo Beach is home to beach volleyball Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh.

Hollywood also fell in love with Redondo. Numerous films and television shows have been filmed in Redondo Beach and it continues to be a favorite Hollywood location. Who doesn’t remember the desired destination of the road-tripping family in the 2006 movie “Little Miss Sunshine”.

There have been a few songs written about Redondo Beach, such as Patti Smith’s song “Redondo Beach” and the song, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” by The Beach Boys even gives Redondo a call out.

redondo-gray-whales
Yes, Redondo Beach has quite a history. Before moving to Redondo Beach over a decade ago, I didn’t know its history or anything about Redondo. All I knew was that it is utterly beautiful, it has ideal weather and the clean air helped me decide this is where I wanted to live. For me, Redondo Beach will always be such a magical place to live.

Shine On

Learn Something New Daily

“Even the wisest mind has something yet to learn.”
George Santayana

learn something new

Unable to capture a Strawberry Moon, but did capture a Redondo Red Sunset

This past weekend was a Strawberry Moon and a penumbral lunar eclipse, which when this occurs the Sun, Earth, and the Moon are imperfectly aligned. The June full moon also happens to be the last full moon of Spring.

I’m embarrassed to say, I never heard of a Strawberry Moon. So being the curious kitty I am, I educated myself. As I dove deeper into the rabbit whole, I learned that every monthly Full Moon has been given a name to reflect the changing seasons and nature, like Harvest Moon, Strawberry Moon, or Snow Moon.

Native American tribes, named the months after features they associated with the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, and many of these names are very similar or identical.

Full Moon Names

2020Full Moons January  Wolf Moon – Named after howling wolves, which may stem from the Anglo-Saxon lunar calendar. Other names: Moon After Yule, Old Moon, Ice Moon, and Snow Moon.

February  Snow Moon – Named after the snowy conditions. Some North American tribes named it the Hunger Moon due to the scarce food sources during mid-winter, while other names are Storm Moon and Chaste Moon.

March Worm Moon – Named because of the earthworms that come out at the end of winter. It’s also known as the Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon, and Chaste Moon.

April Pink Moon – Named for the pink phlox flowers which bloom in the early Spring. Other names for this Full Moon include Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon, Hare Moon, and the Egg Moon.

May Flower Moon – This moon signifies the flowers that bloom during this month. Other names for the Full Moon in May are Corn Planting Moon, and Milk Moon.

June Strawberry Moon – Named so for the wild strawberries that start to ripen during this month. Other names are Hot Moon, Mead Moon, and Rose Moon.

July Buck Moon – Is so named because the new antlers emerge on deer buck’s foreheads around this time. This Full Moon is also known as Thunder Moon, Wort Moon, and Hay Moon.

August Sturgeon Moon – Named because of the large number of fish in the lakes where the Algonquin tribes fished. Other names for this Full Moon include Green Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Fruit Moon, and Grain Moon.

September Full Harvest Moon – Technically, the Harvest Moon is the Full Moon closest to the September equinox around September 22. Most years it is in September, but around every three years, it is in October. The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name which is determined by the equinox rather than a month.

October Hunter’s Moon – Every three years, the Hunter’s Moon is also the Harvest Moon. Traditionally, people in the Northern Hemisphere spent the month of October preparing for the coming winter by hunting, slaughtering and preserving meats for use as food.

November Beaver Moon – According to folklore, the Full Moon in November is named after beavers who become active while preparing for the winter. It is also known as Frosty Moon, and along with the December Full Moon some called it Oak Moon. Traditionally, if the Beaver Moon is the last Full Moon before the winter solstice, it is also called the Mourning Moon.

December Cold Moon – Is the Full Moon when winter begins for most of the Northern Hemisphere.

Some years have 13 Full Moons, which makes at least one of them a Blue Moon, as it doesn’t quite fit in with the traditional Full Moon naming system. However, this is not the only definition of a Blue Moon.

About every 19 years, there is no Full Moon in February. This is one of several definitions of the term Black Moon. The other definitions refer to a New Moon which does not fit in with the equinoxes or solstices, similar to a Blue Moon.

Colonial Americans adopted many of the Native American names and have since incorporated them into the modern calendar.

Sorry for the long post today fellow Blogaholics, but I like to try and learn something new daily.

Shine On