First Person Accounts
as written by American Indian Students
at Hampton Institute, 1878-1923

Compiled and edited by Jon L. Brudvig, Ph.D. ©1994 and 1996 All rights reserved.

Section Two


Although Stella O'Donnell's father was a white farmer in Norman County, Minnesota, she considered herself by law and love to be a Chippewa Indian of her mother's tribe. Stella attended schools at Wild Rice River and Pipestone, Minnesota before coming to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in October 1904. She continued her schooling at Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, after receiving a teaching certificate from Hampton in 1910. In 1917, she held the position of stenographer for Carter Oil Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"People of the Puckered Moccasin"
(Speech - Stella O'Donnell, Anniversary 1910)

My mother was a daughter of the Ojibways, the tribe Longfellow so beautifully describes in "Hiawatha," and I, who was born and spent my childhood among her people am, by Indian law as well as by affection, also a daughter of the Ojibways.

In the old days the tribes were known by the style of moccasin they wore. We who gathered ours on the top were called Ojibways or Chippewas, which in English means "people of the puckered moccasin."

The Chippewa is the largest tribe north of Mexico. Our range is about the great lakes, one-half being in Canada and the other half in the United States.

Early in the seventeenth century the fur traders came into the Objibway country, bringing beads, blankets and firearms to exchange for skins. Consequently the Chippewas were among the first to adopt the white mans' dress, the use of the firearms, and his beads in place of the crude ones made of shells and bones. At first they probably used the original Indian designs in their bead mask formed by straight lines only, but in an effort to follow nature more closely they have adopted the curved line, designing leaves, flowers and fruit. This distinguishes their work from all others today. As a child I liked to watch the women with a broom-straw dipped in paste draw their designs on the material, then embroider it by filling in with beads.

Only the older Indian makes his wigwam of birch-bark, but all use the soft, bright grass mats which the women still make with great skill and taste of rushes gathered from the hundreds of lakes in the section. The rushes are dried, dyed, and woven on a rude loom much as the Navaho weaves his blankets.

The Chippewas are an agricultural people, but in a primitive way. When the first crow flies they make sugar from maple trees, when the leaves are as big as squirrels ears they put in their gardens of corn and vegetables. After this, they go into woods and fields for berries or to dig snake-root. By the time the berry season is over they gather wild-rice and do their winter fishing. The berries and fish are dried and put up in air tight birch-bark boxes called mucox, and kept for the long, cold winter when the men are logging and trapping.

Like all other tribes the Chippewa has always believed in one great mysterious being the Geiche Manitou, and many lesser ones that reside in animals. These they believed were quick to hear in summer, but in the winter after the snow had fallen they could not hear so well. That is why the Indians keep their legends for the winter fireside. They tell their children that if they tell them in the summertime a frog or snake will crawl into their beds at night. The Chippewa though he has accepted to a great extent the religion of the White man, still clings to some of his old customs. The medewiwin, or organization of medicine men which held absolute control in the old days still has some influence over the tribe on the White Earth reserve from where I come. This organization meets regularly every fall, and often in winter in case any member is very sick. They make a long lodge of fragrant pine boughs, and in this the members meet and hold the ceremony.

When I was a child I never let any of my hair go astray, for fear it might fall into the hands of the medicine men, and by putting powder on the hair, then tying it to a tree on a very windy day might cause me much suffering.

Father Allouez, a Catholic priest, was the first white man to go among the Chippewas. He won the confidence of the Indians, and laid very firmly the foundation of his faith.

Mr. Gilfillan, an Episcopal archdeacon who worked among the Chippewas at White Earth for many years, started missions and trained young men for the ministry. Two of the churches he started at Ponsford and Beaulieu now have Indian Clergymen. Through his influence the government has bought some of the missions to be used as schools so that his work might go on.

What the Chippewas need most are intelligent examples on the farms and in the homes. Our men and women are too much like fire, kindled, then easily dampened. We who are educated must go back to those people with something definite to do, and then we must do it with a willing, loving, and sympathetic heart.

1889-1896; 1898-1899

Ella, or Ziyawin, entered Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in October 1889. She was a Sioux from the Lower Brule Agency in South Dakota. Ella left Hampton in November 1899 to continue her education at Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. She later worked as an assistant matron, laundress, and baker in various government schools.

An Indian Childhood

I was born near White River, that is where I spend my first childhood. I was but poor orphan live with my grandmother. My home was in a tepee. This tepee was put up with good many straight poles stuck into the ground, and had an opening at the top to allow the smoke to pass through. In the middle of the tepee there is a fire place where my grandmother cooked our meals.

We had but few old blankets and quilts for our beddings.

These my grandmother would spread out on the bare ground at nights for us to sleep on. My grandmother had saddle bags of buck skin. She used these in place of trunks where she used to put our best Indian dresses and Indian moccasins.

To pass in and out the tepee we had to stoop very low because the doorway is low. Our chief food is meat. We draw rations from the government, so when our meat give out sometimes we have to go without it. For a week we'll have only bread and gravy and coffee.

If we have fresh meat, my grandmother would slice them thin, and dry them in the hot sun on poles. Sometimes she would pound this dry meat. With dried choke cherries and little grease in it, this is the best food the Indians have and it is called the Indian hash or toasana.

When my grandmother went after wood to make fire, we use to follow her and help her to get the wood on her back. She would come with a heavy load.

In this fire place my grandmother made our Indian bread. If we have any fresh meat she would slice it thin and spread it over the red hot coals. This way of cooking meat, I am fond of. It is something like beefsteak. My grandmother would spread old blankets on the ground for us to sit on and eat our meals. The dishes that we ate out of were of tin. Sometimes if my grandmother don't have enough knivesto go around we would eat with our fingers.

Before we ate our meals my grandmother use to take a little piece of meat and throw it toward the doorway. This she give to a ghost. She does this in order to have good luck in the future. The dogs would be sitting near the doorway would just grab for the meat and go off with it. Of course the poor dogs wouldn't know any better; they thought they had a right to it. The dogs watch carefully every motion we make in eating, their eyes following every morsel of food.

In the evening my grandmother would make a big fire. We would all sit around the fire to hear my grandmother tell us about ghost stories, and about how the Sioux tribe use to fight with the other tribes, and also with the United States. She would tell us how in the battle there would be nothing but blue coats laying all over the ground where the soldiers fell. The dogs would be sitting near the doorway with sparkling eyes, as if they were also listening to the story. While she be telling the ghost stories we'll hear the dogs bark outside. We children would say, "Oh! There is a ghost coming," and we would hide under my grandmother's blanket.

It would be so light inside the tepee. If anybody is outside the tepee, they could tell how many persons inside without going in, and see funny shadows and bushy heads, etc. My play things are rag dolls and crooked sticks for horses.

I was just as happy in the tepee as I was in Uncle Sam's school buildings. After my poor grandmother died we moved up to Fort Hale near Pierre, South Dakota. There we didn't live in tepee anymore but we lived in a small log house with only one room and one window. At this time, I lived with my uncle's family. Eight of us sleep in this log house.

The funniest thing happened once, we didn't have coffee almost a week, and the Indians are so fond of coffee. An Indian brought us some, enough for one meal. I guess it was enough for three meals for it made a big pot full, and it looked so good and nice that my aunt and myself were happy over it. We just jump around it and I was so full of mischief I tried to jump over the pot, and I tipped the whole thing over. Just as soon as I knew I did wrong, I ran off and kept looking back while I was running. My oldest aunt was after me with a longstick. I guess she was just fooling me. I didn't come home all day. I stayed in the woods and ate wild choke cherries. I came home in the evening but I didn't get any scolding. They told me I looked pitiful looking around as I ran away.

There was a kind of game we use to play. We all sat around in a circle and have our feet out straight and one of the playmates has to walk on our legs. The one that makes faces or screams will be a coward, we have to make fun of her or him by making signs of contempt, opening and shutting our hands in their faces vigorously, sometimes right in their eyes, and we often made them cry. The Indian games are rough. Sometimes we children play shinney and play represent bears, deers, horses and cows.

I have seen the sun dance. This is a religious dance that Sioux have. The old chief have to name out or choose out the bravest ones that'll go. If they are cowards, they call them old squaws.

They stick trees or brushes all around in a circle as a sort of fence and they have of course a drum. Our men that are to beat the drum, they all sat around it. The brave ones have to be naked and paint themselves all over and they have to go without drinking and eating two or three days, looking toward the sun till it goes down. They have sharp instruments or sharp sticks to pin their flesh with and have it tight with a cord to the pole that is in the center. This showed bravery.

I remember one winter so many Indian children got sick and I got sick too. One old Indian man put up a long pole and tied a new long piece of calico up at the top and tied some tobacco at the ends, and if any children got sick, would come there and touch the cloth, they would get well. My grandmother put me on her back and was going to take me to this pole and have me touch it, but I kicked all the way, I didn't want to go and after we got there, they tried to make me touch the cloth, but I wouldn't do it, and that old Indian man came, took the cloth and touch my head with it. But I didn't get well for long time. I got well but at least not by that.

I was eight years old when I asked my uncle if I could go to school but he said I couldn't go as I was too young to go to school. But I ran away from home and went to a Agency Government school. I had to walk 15 miles to get there, but I knew the roads on the prairies. I was so anxious to go to school, I didn't care what happened to me.

I was only twelve years old when I went to Hampton, VA to school and this is the best school that I ever went to. At first my folks told me I couldn't go and they told me I might die over there and never get to see them again. But I ran away again and went to Hampton with Mr. Freeland who came after Indian children. I was at Hampton for 6 whole years.

I came home last March. I found great changes among the Lower Brules Indians. Some of them live in frame houses and live something (like) white people. My home is now with my uncle's family in a big frame house with 2 rooms upstairs and 4 rooms downstairs.

We don't eat on the ground anymore. I stayed home six months and I came to Haskell Institute and I am here.


Lucinda George, or Gaweno, was a member of the Onondaga tribe of Onondaga, New York. She spent eight years at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute preparing to be a teacher. After her graduation in 1898, Lucinda worked as a seamstress and assistant matron in several Indian schools.

Indian Day

It seems quite appropriate at this time to give you some idea of what the return students are doing. The time will not allow for one to go into details of all the workers who are doing excellent work, so it was thought best to have a representative from each state in the territory to tell briefly of what some are doing along special lines.

There are a great many who have gone back to New York State who are doing exceedingly well, either in teaching, farming, or whatever their work my be. As Dr. Frissell has said, they have learned the dignity of work. I am going to tell of two who are supporting themselves off their reservations. Mr. Charles Doxon who graduated here in '89, seems to stand out more in the foreground because he was the first New York Indian that Hampton had. When he came here, he entered one of the lowest classes in the High School. He toiled day after day in that machine shop, and was very patient and preserving, and today, he is one of the best mechanics the company has for whom he works. He is also studying what improvements can be made in machinery. I believe he has somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 books on that particular line.

Chapman Schanadore is another New York Indian who left here few years ago. When he was here he studied some electricity, but devoted most of his time in the machine shop. When he left here he got a position in the Electric Light Company in Schenectady, N.Y. Later on he obtained a position in the Government Service as a second class machinist on the Gunboat "Merriatta." Last fall he was promoted to the Battleship "New York", and now he is a first class machinist and has a salary of over $1,000. This is what Hampton has done and is doing for the Indians.


Elizabeth Cornelius was a full blooded Oneida Indian from Oneida, Wisconsin. She spent a total of seven years at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute before finishing post-graduate work in 1901. Elizabeth taught at several Indian schools, and in 1910, married James Rock, an Oneida Indian. She filled her life with work aimed at improving Indian life and in 1932, one of her daughters, Lily Rock, became the first American Indian woman to enter the University of Minnesota.


In thinking of the Indian girl of twenty years ago, we must remember that her life was not wholly void of education, although it consisted mainly of physical training. The woman to whose lot it fell to put up the tipi, to make the fire in cold weather, to raise the corn, care for the food, brought up the children, made the buckskin clothing and moccasins. These were often decorated with figures of beads and elk's teeth in many fancy styles. Long strings of these beads and elk's teeth were also made to be worn as ornaments.

To the Indian woman, in her comparatively narrow life, this handiwork of hers answered to her needs quite as much as ruffles, tucks and other luxuries of dress do to the civilized woman of today. And to the minds of her people this work which had been done by the woman for ages, was as much as she was meant to live for. This shows us why it was that after Indian boys had been given a chance to learn the white man's ways, it was still so hard to induce the people to let girls leave their homes to learn what their brothers were learning. They so little believed in educating girls that one chief said in regard to sending children to school, "I would send one hundred boys, but not one girl." Finally, in '78 nine girls were allowed to come from Dakota and were welcomed here by the teachers and colored girls. Most of them disliked work and had a strong tendency to be shiftless and careless. For this we could excuse them for they could hardly be expected to take to the kind of work that there was to do here in a large modern house where there were many things to be cared for, to be kept clean and in place that they had never seen in their own tipis. But they soon learned not only to keep their own things neat and in good order, but when more girls came later on, they were ready helpers in getting the new ones to fall into line.

While the girls were still in Va. Hall, a sister of Susan LaFlesche came here on a visit. She was a very lovely girl, with gentle, ladylike manners, and this impressed the girls. One little girl who had been rather lonesome and anxious to return home gave vent to her thoughts thus, "Miss Bright Eyes, I wish I like that." A noble ambition had been aroused in her and she made up her mind to strive for an end which was to help uplift her people to the level that Miss Bright Eyes had reached. And in order that more should be led to come to this conclusion, those who were interested in this school and its work began to feel that if the Indian girls could have a building to live in which they could call their own, greater progress could be made. From this time on, Gen. Armstrong worked to interest the people of the north in the Indian girls, trying to show them that if the race was to be uplifted it was to be done not by educating the boys only, but that while they were being advanced, girls should be given an equal chance, because they were the ones who were in a position to exert the most influence, since they would go back to be right in the homes with the younger ones in whom they were to instill a love for the old Indian life or a longing for a broader life such as the white man's.

The Gen.'s earnest appeals finally resulted in a large public meeting which was held in New York to consider the question of Indian education. Carl Schurz made an earnest plea and such men as Gen. Miles, Major Pratt, Bishop Hare, Mr. Wm. E. Dodge and others added their encouragement, some by contributions, till 15 rooms at $300 each were given.

Help came more readily after this and soon the necessary am't of $20,000 was raised so that the new building was begun, the laying of the corner stone taking place at commencement in 1881. With reference to this I will read an extract from a letter of the lady who had charge of the Indian girls. (extract from letter not cited) This new building was a help in making housework a pleasure to the girls and the popular sentiment was expressed by one of them who said, "I like scrub very much, because this house always want to be clean like white people houses." Miss Washington of the Mt. Mieg's school had charge of the laundry, and was familiarly known as Capt. Washington, and her teaching to keep the laundry as clean as the parlor was diligently followed out by the girls who said, "When we begin to scrub, then we begin to sing."

These girls were nobly proud of their home and as Miss Eustis said, "Years of instruction could not do for the Indian girls what a building of their own has accomplished immediately.'' The system of work in Winona this has always had...

LUCY CONGER (Itancanwin=Chief Woman)
1895-1899, 1902

Lucy Conger's home was the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. She attended the Santee Normal Training School in Santee, Nebraska. Lucy came to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in September 1895 and graduated in 1897. Instead of returning home after her graduation, Lucy remained at Hampton Institute another two years for additional training. In 1902, she returned to the school for post graduate work. While at Hampton she was one of the editors of the school newspaper. Lucy returned home to Andrus, South Dakota, and found work as a school teacher. Unfortunately, the last contact with Lucy in 1909, found her living in poverty with her husband and three children.

Indian Childhood

The childhood of an Indian is comparatively a short one.

However, it is a most natural and happy one. First of all, a child is always welcomed and enters life the possessor of the most passionate love of its parents. So strong is this love for their child that in any seeming slight to the child, you have given the parents a severe injury. Indeed, so indulgent are the parents that the child soon rules the home.

The arrival of a first born, whether boy or girl, is a great event for all relatives and friends. It is an occasion for a feast--the baby's first birthday party.

As soon as the news of the first born is received, the old grandmothers go to give their welcome for it is an honor to be the first to shake the hand of the baby, and means the receiving of the first present of the feast.

It is usually one of the grandmothers, or perhaps both or maybe each at different times, who makes the feast. At this feast again is the baby on exhibition, then comes the dinner and the giving of a gift to each one present.

The baby's wardrobe is indeed scanty and most simple. Until the infant is several weeks old does it wear any sort of dress, but is merely wrapped and kept in its cradle which when necessary can be placed on the mother's back or set up against a tree, or hung on a branch, while the mother is busy gathering wood, roots, or berries.

These children were trained early for hardihood. They were exposed to the sun until one would believe they could never see out of their little black eyes. They were made to endure hunger, also their bumps and bruises without crying. While very small they were taught to swim by being put into water before they really realized there was any danger. They were only old enough to pat the horse's mane when they were placed on its back, their little legs barely reaching across the back of the animal. This accounts for the expert horsemanship of the Indian. Almost as soon as they could walk did they begin their foot races, for an Indian could hardly be an Indian were he not swift of foot.

The bow and arrows were placed in the hands of the boys at a very early age. Thus was trained the firm hand of the warrior and hunter.

The girls commenced very early to learn the duties and handicrafts of the women, having their own work bag, learning to make moccasins and other articles, and decorating them with beads and porcupine quills. To be modest and industrious were the virtues set before them. This produced the energetic and the most feminine of all women. The true type of Indian woman.

No other but an Indian child could keep straight our intricate line of relationships. In the first place all Indians are related. The brothers and sisters of the grandparents are all grandfathers and grandmothers. The brothers of the father are called fathers, while his sisters are called aunts. The sisters of the mother are called mothers or little mothers and feel as great a responsibility for the child as does its own mother. The mother's brothers are merely uncles. It would seem a hopeless task not to get all confused; but I have never known of an Indian child yet who did not seem to know by intuition, being so early taught to distinguish between his different fathers and mothers.

The social obligations of an Indian were many, for many were the occasions for feasts and the prominent feature of these feasts was the giving of presents, lavish generosity being considered a crowning virtue. So every child learned the lesson of generosity especially to the poor.

One of these feasts is what was called the "ghost feast" a feast given in honor of the dead. Usually at the time of death, a lock of hair is taken and for a year the parents deny themselves in every possible way and collect calico, shawls, dishes and food to give away. When the time comes the feast is announced by a herald. The friends come and offer the hand of sympathy to the bereaved, then wail, giving the most heart rending cries of grief. Speeches are made, then all sit in a circle, partake of the dinner and receive a present. It has not been so many years ago that these feasts are frequent and were held at the graves. I remember when a little girl, attending such a feast in the cemetery and receiving a very generous amount of hoarhound candy and a pair of moccasins. The children at these feasts were never put in the background to wait until the second table. Especially if the feast were in memory of a deceased child, all the children were the guests of honor.

Sometimes a person who is not a near relative will go into mourning. It is customary in such cases for one of the bereaved family to bring a present to the person to show their appreciation, and ask her to mourn no longer. The first time I ever remembered seeing any one in mourning was a woman who was in deep mourning for a nephew. I asked mother why Auntie did not braid her hair. She explained to me it was because she was very sad. When I came in next time my hair which was always braided tightly in two or four braids, was hanging loosely down my back. When mother called me to have it combed I told her I didn't want my hair braided because I was so sorry the little boy was dead. Mother did not compel me, not knowing exactly how to without quenching my little spirit of sympathy. Soon the mother of the little boy heard of it and came to our house one evening with a bundle under her arm. After she found out from mother which one of us little girls was helping her to mourn, she opened her bundle and said, "Niece, I have heard of your mourning and have brought you these." Two pairs of moccasins, a dress, and a white bedspread. Without even stopping to look at my presents I ran for the basin, washed and was ready to have my hair combed. But when my grandmother heard of the presents she did not approve of it for fear I should go into mourning every time I knew of a death.

The Indian is a most hospitable person. Never does he forget to offer to a friend or stranger of his scanty food, nor shelter under the cover of his tipi. It is generally the child who is made to give the invitation. These two social requirements, generosity and hospitality, make it almost impossible for the educated Indian to make a home and live as a white man, for as soon as he gets a little something ahead, his friends make him a visit and he feels in duty bound to share with them.

There were a great many minor rules of etiquette which seem very strange to the educated young people of today. For instance, one must never ask an Indian his name. That would be as rude as asking a white person's age. For if he is a person of any consequence at all his name is supposed to be known. Then too, you must never address an older person by his name. You should use some term of relationship or courtesy. I remember, when a child, in telling my mother and grandmother something, I mentioned the name of the woman of whom I was speaking instead of saying Aunt Sotka. They told me almost in a whisper that little girls must not call big people by name, and that this woman would cut off a finger for each time I had said her name had she heard me. For several years I felt rather suspicious of this woman whenever she was around.

From babyhood were the children's morals given the closest attention. They were taught to respect their elders especially the very aged. They must always be patient, truthful, and self controlled. Above all, they must show profound reverence for all that pertained to the Great Spirit.

So thoroughly and for so many generations have these been taught that they are the characteristics of the Indian today.

But time passes and the Indian now faces new conditions which the old time training alone cannot meet. He needs added to his commendable traits of character, christian education with industrial and agricultural training.

To get this we need men and women of the Indian race who have received training such as we get here at Hampton, who are fitted to show in their lives the value of christian civilization.

Thanks to all friends and the means put forth to this end for, "In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim."

February 1903

I am a Dakota, a member of the Sioux tribe, the largest and at one time the most warlike of the North-west tribes. There are several bands which comprise this tribe, and all have the same language though each speaks it in his own dialect. These bands are now separated and placed on different reservations in Nebraska, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and some in Canada.

In the outbreak of 1862, my great grandfather, "War Eagle", then a chief or the Santee band, was among the friendly Indians. At the close of this war the Santees were removed from Minnesota into Nebraska, but for some reason my mother remained with the Yanktons and came to Dakota with them later. These several bands of Dakotas are now at very different stages of civilization. The Santees and Yanktons being the most advanced, because they have had good missionaries among them from the first. Fifty years ago these missionaries translated the Bible into the Indian language. Their first pupils were generally adults who desired to learn to read the Bible in their own tongue. Thus mission schools were started. These proved the value of education; then Hampton, and then the Government took the matter up, and now the tribe has many schools from which pupils (with only a few years of schooling perhaps) go forth to battle with life's problems, and do what they can to stimulate a better living for the great mass of their people.

Twenty years have made a great change in the life of the Indian. Yet today, there is great need of good teachers for the children, wise matrons who will teach the women in their homes, farmers to show the men how to till their lands to advantage and how to raise cows, pigs and chickens of their own. The Indians need carpenters to build larger and better houses, blacksmiths to shoe their horses and repair their farm implements. Most of all they need men and women of their own race who have had an all-around training, such as we get at Hampton, and who are fitted to show in their lives the value of christian civilization.

In the old days the parents were very strict in their methods of education. Almost from babyhood their childrens' manners and morals were given the closest attention. They were taught to respect their elders, especially the very aged. They must show generosity to the poor and a profound reverence to all that pertained to the Great Spirit. They must always be patient, truthful and self controlled. So thoroughly and for so many generations has this been taught, that these are the characteristics of even the bad Indians today. There were many minor rules of conduct that seem very strange to the educated young people of today. For instance, one must never ask an Indian his name. That would be as rude as asking a white person his age. Then, too, you must never address an older person by his name, but use some term of relationship or courtesy.

I remember when quite a small child I, in telling something to my mother and grandmother about a woman, mentioned the person by name instead of saying Aunt So and So, as would have been the proper thing. They told me almost in a whisper that little girls must not call big people by name and that this woman would cut off a finger for every time I said her name had she heard me. For several years I felt rather suspicious of the woman and kept close beside my mother when she was around.

Another rule of etiquette is that one shall show sympathy especially when there has been a death in a family. Sometimes a person who is not relative but a mere acquaintance will go into mourning. In such cases it is customary for one of the family, when sufficient time has elapsed, to take a present to the person to show their appreciation and ask the person to no longer mourn.

The first time I had ever seen a person in mourning was a woman who came to our house. I noticed she was all in black and her black hair, which had been cut off evenly a little below the shoulders, hung loosely. As soon as the woman left I asked mother why Auntie did not braid her hair. She explained to me that her sister's little boy had died and she dressed so because she was very sad. After this little talk with my mother I went out, as she thought, to play. When I came in my hair, which was always braided tightly in 2 or 4 braids, was hanging down my back. She called me to have it combed. I ran out, but thinking nothing of it she let me go until I came in again when she said "Come, I'll comb your hair or it will be in such a snarl you will cry when I comb it". She got up, took my hand to go to the basin, but I pulled back and said I didn't want my hair braided. Mother thought it very strange for she had never had any trouble to get me to have my hair braided. She asked why. I replied, "Because I am so sorry Itehdate's little boy is dead". Mother was amused and did not compel me to have it combed not knowing exactly how to without quenching my little spirit of sympathy.

It was not long before the family for whom I showed this sympathy heard of it. One evening soon after, the two sisters came to our house. The mother held under her shawl a bundle. After a few minutes she asked which one of the little girls, meaning sister and myself, was helping her mourn. I was standing beside mother at the time. Mother told her. She then opened her bundle in which were 2 pairs of moccasins, a dress and a white bedspread, came forward and said, "I have heard of your mourning, and have brought you these. Now I want you to comb your hair". Not stopping to even look at my presents I ran to the basin, washed and was ready to be combed.

When my grandmother heard of the presents she did not approve of it for fear I should go into mourning every time I knew of a death in order to receive presents. However it has never entered my head to mourn in that fashion since.

Careful records show that there are six hundred returned students from Hampton now living. Four hundred and fifty are doing good work. One hundred and fifty of these grade as excellent, as teachers, missionaries, farmers and tradesmen who are exerting an influence for good.

Among the first to come to Hampton from the West was a company from my own home brought by Gen. Armstrong. My eldest sister was one of the party. She was then not more than ten or eleven years old. I was very young then, but I distinctly recollect how our mother packed her clothes into a doll's trunk and took her away to the Agency. That evening when the family had all gathered around the fire, I remember how mother drew us, her two remaining children to her and wept, and we wept too though we hardly knew why. Parents may weep when their sons and daughters leave them but there are many like my mother who are ambitious for their children and want them to keep pace with the civilization they see must soon come to them.

After four years at Hampton my sister returned home. My mother was so pleased with her progress that she let her go back for three years more.

When she returned home, she at once went to teaching, having full charge of the primary department in the school for two years or until she married. Since then, she has taught irregularly up to three years ago, caring for her own home and family besides. In all her work she has scattered sunshine around her by her ever-cheerful spirit, truly living up to her Indian name, "Wacantkiyewin" which means "Mercy" or "The Merciful One".

In this eldest daughter our mother saw the development of those traits of character which she most desired for her children. So when the time came for the rest of us to go to higher schools, she willingly sent us to Hampton. There have been already five of us there and there is still one more to follow in a year or two.

We pupils at Hampton believe we are far above tribal feeling. Our desire is to help the whole race. One of our Oneida girls is in Canada. She was offered a position at her own home with a larger salary but refused it as she felt she must go where she could accomplish more for the people. She is doing excellent work, both in her teaching and among the girls of the school.

The girls at Hampton are taught how to make and care for a home. A cousin of mine, also a Hampton girl, has so neat a home that even when she was sick, she would keep her house clean. Once my mother found her sitting on the floor to scrub when she was too sick to work.

This same young woman has taken to her charge orphan girls, doing for them all that a mother could do. The matron at the school where these girls attend says there are no children who come to them so clean and so carefully dressed. Thus it is that the educated girls improve the homes from which are coming the next generation of men and women who must stand for themselves.

We realize that a sense of responsibility is what we most need to develop. We think we see signs of progress in that direction.

About three years ago, the parents in the district where I live made up their minds that they wanted a school near by so that their young children need not be taken from them to attend the boarding school twelve or fifteen miles away. The Agent and Supt. worked against them, for they wanted these children to swell their number in the Agency school. After a good deal of trouble, the Indians at last got permission from the county provided they would themselves build the house. They at once contributed what they could in log, money and wood and built their log house, furnished it and hired a teacher.

Each fall before the term opens, the parents set a day and meet to repair the house,refilling the crevices between the logs with clay and otherwise getting it ready for winter. There are more than forty children on roll. Some have a distance of over four miles to come to school. The boys usually come on horseback while the parents bring others. Having no time pieces and naturally being early risers, they are often at the school long before the teacher.

One of my sisters taught at the school last year but has come to Hampton for more training. Another sister, one who graduated last year, has taken her place.

It meant a great deal for those parents to take it upon themselves to support a school of their own when their children might easily be educated at no expense a few miles away.

My own education began at Dr. Riggs' mission school in Neb. when I was at the age of six. Up to this time I spoke only Dakota, tho. I understood a good deal of English. I was jestingly asked once how I should manage when I went to school because I could not speak English.

I answered "Father is going to bring some medicine that will make me talk English".

The people at home think now that I need some medicine so that I can talk Sioux more smoothly.

I came to Hampton in the fall of '95 and graduated in '97. After taking one year of the Normal course I went home. The first year I stayed at home with my parents and helped my sister who was then teaching; but an epidemic of whooping cough and measles coming into the school, all teachers and workers had to become nurses. I taught the following two years. I had the first and second year primary grades. I enjoyed my work very much. I returned again to Hampton to complete my normal course which will be in June. After which I go west again to teach and try to live up to the motto of my class "Use What You Have".


Starry Sun Chief was the daughter of a Pawnee father and half-Pawnee mother. Before coming to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1904, she had attended Indian schools in Oklahoma and Phoenix, Arizona. Starry left Hampton in 1906 after completing only two years because of a recurring lung condition. She later died of tuberculosis in 1915, five years after the death of her husband from the same condition.

Curing and Tanning of Skins

The Indians are often spoken of as great hunters, and this was extremely necessary for they depended entirely upon the animal for food as well as clothing, and many of them built their wigwams with the skins of the animal.

In the early days the buffalo and deer were quite numerous and the Indians used these skins to make their moccasins and garments. To this day, the deer skin is used for the top part of the moccasin, a~though the deer is now very scarce and the Indian will often buy buck-skin at a high price.

The Indian woman has the entire charge of the skin. She will soak it in clear water the first night. The next day it is stretched and the edges are fastened to the ground with sticks. It is then washed with liver and rubbed with melted tallow and salt. After it has dried a little, a cow's tongue is rubbed over to soften it, and last of all, it is washed with sand to make it white. The hair is scraped off with a tool which is very much like a little hoe. The handle is made from some animal's horn and on this is fastened a piece of iron, two by three inches. This the woman uses as she would a garden hoe.

If this skin is to be used for the sole of the moccasin, or bag no more preparations are made after this. But if for the top part of the moccasin, clothing or various other articles, more pains is taken to soften the skin so that it can be fit to wear. The deer skin is never used for the sole of the moccasin, but is usually for the top part.

The skin is then drawn back and forth over a twisted strip of dry hide. This is done to soften it and then it is scraped with a bone knife- This method is repeated until the skin is soft as desired. A hole is dug in the ground about two and half feet deep and one and a half feet in diameter. This is used as a fireplace, and decayed wood or sage is used for burning. Before starting the fire little poles are set up on the edge of the hole and fastened on the top so that the smoke has no way of escaping when the skin is put over. This smoke tans the skin to a beautiful brown color. This skin is then ready to be used for anything that is desired.

All the paints they used in decorating their skins were obtained by pounding different colored clay or stones into powder, and the finer the powder, the brighter the colors were. The Indians combine two colors to get the color desired. Most of the common colors were red obtained from stone yellow, and white from clay and the black from some kind of soot.

It seems wonderful how these people can design their own ornaments. The Indian is often called "A Natural Artist." We can really see why he is thus called, because of all the paintings and artistic work which he designed with his untaught but skilful hand.


Rachel, or Mashehathe, entered Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in September 1903. Nineteen year old Rachel had previously attended a local reservation school at the Omaha Agency and Grant's Institute in Genoa, Nebraska. After leaving Hampton in January 1909 Rachel found employment as an assistant seamstress in a government school.

"Pow Wow"

The Omahas have been celebrating Pow Wow for a number of years. Webster's dictionary tell us that the word Pow Wow means noisy frolic, feasting and dancing. So it is true. When Pow Wow is celebrated, feasting and dancing both take place. The different bands get together in the spring and talk over just what they might have during this celebration and also where to have it. They collect money so they might have it to pay the man who leases the land on which they are to camp during this time. There are leaders in these different bands, whose place it is to go to the Agent and ask if they may celebrate Pow Wow at a certain time and on certain land. The Agent tell them that they might celebrate, but not until they have put up their hay and done their other little chores they have to do. Sometimes they don't have it until their wheat is harvested. Now after the Agent has given his consent they look forward to it and prepare for it.

They set the date for this Pow Wow, and all camp to where this celebration is to take place. Their tepees are pitched up and a ring is made. In the center of this ring a shade is made. In this shade the dancing takes place. Sometimes just a private dance is taking place here and there, andhere another at the shade. Sometimes it is hard to decide just which one to go to. However the shade draws the biggest crowd.

They have stands where lunches are served, where ice cream and cold drinks can be gotten. These Indians come out sometimes for seven or eight days. Out of these days a day is set for a "give away dance". This dance is to be had at the shade. Somebody (a man) is appointed to go round the ring either on horse back or on foot, just which ever he pleases to do, and notify the people that there is to be a "give away dance" that day and he asks that the young men dress in their Indian costumes and dance. When the dancers are willing to dance the shade is soon crowded with people. The people are told to think of their first born child or their dead ones on that day and give some thing away in remembrance of them. This is done a great many times.

It is fun to see the dancing take place and to watch the pretty Indian costumes that the dancers have on. Still at the same time it is sad as some mourners will come in and begin to talk of the dead ones. Oftentimes their first born child or the favorite child is brought in, and the father makes a long speech telling the others that they might do the same. He sometimes gives one or two horses away, some money and calico. Every summer some Indian visitors call at the time of this celebration. Indians from Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and other places come. All that is given away on this day goes to these different tribes. Again there is a day set apart for the white people. These people are notified that there is to be a big dance. People from the surrounding towns come and enjoy the day. The celebration ground is fenced in. There are gate keepers at these gates whose duty it is to charge every white people's team that comes inside of the grounds. The dancing is specially gotten up for these white people. Baseball, and races take place in the afternoon.

Everything is done in a way to entertain these whites so that they may get their money's worth. Dancing takes place every afternoon. However these Indians are seeing into their white brothers' ways every year and it is said that they may drop this celebration altogether.


Francis Verigan was born at Port Townsend, Washington and was a member of the Tlingit tribe of the Fort Casey Agency. He came to Hampton after graduating from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in 1918. During his academic career at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute Francis displayed evidence of an acting talent. In 1920, he won first prize in the Declamation Contest, a gold medal in the Adams Prize Debate, and second prize in the Adams EssayContest. Francis left Hampton in 1921 to attend Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Verigan later studied for the stage in New York City. In 1927, he won a role in the Broadhurst Theater's production of Broadway.

Introductory Remarks
Indian Day 1920

The occasion for your gathering here tonight is to witness a modern Indian uprising. This uprising, however, shall not be featured by tomahawks and scalping knives but by the meager literary abilities that we possess.

You must bear with this small tribe of Hampton Indians and in viewing our program, remember that we are only seventeen in number and can't very well offer you much quality with such a small quantity. Be that as it may, our celebration is to commemorate the Dawes Bill of 1887. This provided for the division of the reservation lands among the Indians belonging thereto. The head of the family was to receive 180 acres, single adults and orphans were allowed 80 acres and each child 40 acres. A restriction was made for 25 years against disposal or mortgage, and the allottee was then supposed to be really admitted to citizenship. It further provided that Indians born in the U.S. and not living on reservations, having adopted civilized life, were declared full-fledged citizens. This Bill was later modified by the Burke Act of 1906. The Bill of Senator Dawes was a progressive one but since then we have gone through 33 years of various policies good, bad and indifferent so now we are a bewildered race and no one really knows our legal status. Many tribes are still wards. The New York Indians are puzzled as to whether they are under the State or the Federal government.

A long stride forward was made when 10,000 Indians, though their tomahawks and bows were safe within museums, shouldered the same gun used against their great-grand-daddies and fell in line beside sons of Indian War veterans. As his forefathers fought for the idea of democracy, so fought he for the newer democracy. There was no alternative but to give these service Indians their citizenship.

After finishing certain Government Indian Schools, the students are furnished with a diploma of competency, and armed thusly, he has no trouble procuring civil rights. Dr. Gregg has kindly made it possible for the future Indian graduates of Hampton to secure citizenship through the same channels. Becoming citizens is one thing but usefully bearing the responsibilities of citizenship is another.

The sentimental feeling toward the Indian because of past injustices is wearing off. Too long has he been a curio and a novelty. Too long has he traded on being an Indian. Too long has he depended on his white friends to share burdens. Many such friends have dedicated their lives to our cause and it is now time to bear some of our own responsibilities. Were you to hear our social and economic problems in detail, you would realize that segregation has hidden worse conditions than you will ever know. We younger Indians have no end of opportunities to serve our people. What we need with the rights of citizenship that we do gain, is good native leadership. We have had and now have some brilliant Indians along various lines, but no Booker Washington, or a Moton to get right down amongst us and work unselfishly. We can't all become men of the hour for our cause. We may not be natural leaders but the race depends on the younger generation in the various Indians Schools for its many leaders to assume community responsibilities and to be of service unselfishly and to be contented with doing the smaller tasks. Thus we can be social, moral and spiritual braves until our natural leader comes and then fall in behind with a tribe of good followers.

To do the part allotted to us, we've got to develop of ourselves by investing our whole time in educating the head, heart, and hand. Our race has been marking time too long. Let the younger generation must march them out of the wilderness. The scientists ponder on where did the Indians come from we of the present generation must consider seriously where are we going.

Summer Campaign 1920

In opening, I would like to tell you of the Indians in general, but it is plain that should you care to have the subject put before you in a broader form, an authority on the question would prove more satisfactory than would a school boy. But I can tell you a few things from an Indian student's point of view, such as it is.

Sociologists and anthropologists have found the Indians to be quite a complex race. They speak 250 distinct dialects, and every Indian of the 333,000 has his own peculiar way, which gives the Indian problem 333,000 peculiar twists.

I know very little about the Osage oil kings and equally as much of the neglected Pimas, but I am pretty well acquainted with my own tribe called the Thlinghets, who inhabit Southeastern Alaska, with headquarters at a small fishing village called Wrangell.

Very little is known generally of the Alaskan Indians, but they were found to be a quiet, gentle, non-resisting people, who, because of the lonesome country, befriended every man that came along. The Russian priest found it easy to give them his religion, for it had very interesting advantages over their very dull existence. Then the trapper was made welcome, though he did take unfair advantage of the fur-bearing animals by poisoning them. After the illicit trapper, the prospectors were given the right of way, and then the gold-crazed horde of miners were given room. These gentle quiet, non-resisting, friendly natives, soon found that these strangers had taken advantage of their innocence and had introduced immorality to such an extent and with such suddeness that the missionaries were greatly handicapped. They are still fighting an uphill battle against the evils that these white degenerates established back there, and that the scum of the earth are still maintaining against all that the Government will do and all that the church and other agencies can do.

The Alaskan Indians are self-supporting in every respect; the Government does not give them allotments of land or ration them as they do other tribes. They make their own living by fishing and trapping, but principally by fishing. Whereas they used to paddle out in canoes and spear their fish for family use, they now chug out in modern power boats and make their catches in up-to-date dish nets and sell the salmon to the canneries. They have progressed so in their fishing that they are the main factors in producing the Alaska canned salmon that you had for lunch yesterday.

I have mentioned the Indians in general and have spoken of my own tribe in particular, but there is a subject on which I am an authority, and that's myself, so it won't be amiss at such a time and place to speak of one's self. As I have already mentioned, my tribe in Alaska is called the Thlinghets, but I was born and raised on Puget Sound. I spent most of my boyhood days in the Government schools in the West, one in Oregon, and the other in the state of Washington. After finishing these schools I attended a public school in Tacoma, Washington, and after a year more of schooling, thinking I was well armed intellectually, I went home to my people in Alaska. I found, as many other Indian students have, that I hadn't enough Indian customs left to be an Indian, and not enough white customs to be a paleface. So I drifted away from my people and roamed at will, laying my hand to any occupation that offered food and shelter for the time being, figuring also to earn enough to help me on to wherever my will directed. In this way, I managed to visit thirty-six different states in the Union, three provinces in Canada, and made several trips into old Mexico during the worst of Villa's activities in the summer of 1915. I was just a lad then, and in my roamings about, there was a young white clerk working in the office at the Blackfoot Agency in Montana, who became interested in me and arranged for my shipment to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. At this school, I was made to feel that there was something in me, but before it could be brought out, the Government had closed the school, so I was homeless again.

Like every other young person, I've dreamed a lot and maybe haven't worked enough, but my dream, plan and ambition is to get an education, not for the novelty of being an educated Indian, but t~ try and be a useful Indian. I can easily see that there is a wonderful field of opportunity awaiting the younger Indians who have the mental power, governed by spiritual motives. We younger Indians do not necessarily have to be race leaders, we should content ourselves with community leadership and then when an Indian Booker T. Washington comes along, we can fall in line behind him with a tribe of good followers. At present, we can let the scientists ponder on where the Indian came from. We ourselves must consider seriously where we are going'

To those who have the best interests of the Indian at heart, there seems to be a falling away of public sentiment; there seems to be an idea prevalent that the Indians are all rich and that the Government furnishes them with first class schools. As it is, only the Indians who were lucky in the location of their reservations are rich, and the schools are many times in such a position that they must take whatever help they can get in the way of a faculty. We are still in need of our friends. Coming out of a semi-savage state, it takes a long time to adjust our point of view, especially when segregated on reservations. But since prohibition has come and since the war brought out a new spirit in 10,000 Indian service men, we have every reason to feel that our race is going to move forward; so we crave the further effort of our friends and would like to enlist the aid of new friends in our march out of the wilderness.

Naturally the question in your minds is: What has Hampton to do with the Indian? My answer to that mental question is: "Everything." Hampton was the pioneer institution in Indian education, but the Indian enrollment is small because at the Government schools books, room, board and clothes are furnished free of charge, as well as transportation from the reservation. The grade at Hampton is higher than in the Government schools, and so there are a few of us who are working our way through that school. Many times we get discouraged, many times we feel like giving up and long for a government school with its line of least resistance. But Hampton's spirit is service for others with every letter a bold capital. What the thousands of Indians need, who can't go to school, is help from the lucky few who can. If one can't help himself, how can he help others? In working out our own problems we learn how to work out other people's problems, which is bound to be of service back there on the reservation.

May I appeal to you to help Hampton in her work. She is a school that realize that our race's only hope is in properly trained leaders, leaders who will prove to be of service and of some benefit to their people, leaders trained physically, mentally and spiritually. Surely if you should ever visit Hampton you would soon realize that we have a school that bends all her energies toward educating the head, the heart and the hand of all her students.

Return to Hampton Institute - American Indian Students index page.