General Ely S. Parker Jun 26, 2008 23:26:25 GMT -5
Post by clw on Jun 26, 2008 23:26:25 GMT -5
Ely Samuel Parker was a Seneca Indian of noble lineage born in 1828 in Genesee County, NY. He had an encyclopedic mind and enjoyed learning about both the Indian ways and the white man's culture. Educated by white teachers at the local Baptist school, then at the Cayuga Academy in Aurora, NY, Parker went on to study law, even though New York State would not allow an Indian to have a law practice. The imposing 200 pound Indian then learned engineering on the job while working on the Genesee Valley Canal and became a captain of engineers in the New York State Militia in 1853.
Parker's Iroquois title was "Donehogawa", or "Keeper of the western door", which signified that he dealt with outsiders. When Iroquois tried to enlist in New York to join the Civil War effort, they were denied entry. In March 1862 Parker wrote to the commissioner of Indian affairs about the matter; the next month mustering offices in Buffalo were ordered to accept Indian recruits. After Parker received a captain's commission in May 1863, 600 Seneca Indians gathered to wish him well when he departed for the war. Parker was a division engineer before he was assigned to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's personal military staff as Adjutant in September 1863. He had met Grant before the war and became known as "Grant's Indian". He served with Grant from Chattanooga to Appomattox, where he wrote in duplicate the terms of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender. He later received a promotion to Brigadier General that was backdated to the surrender date.
After the war Parker continued to serve on Grant's staff until 1869, when President Grant named him Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Investigated for allegations of corruption, Parker was eventually acquitted of the charges, but in June 1871 he resigned his post and retired to private business in Connecticut. Having lost his financial gains in the Panic of 1873, Parker lived many years in poverty before dying in 1895 in Fairfield, Conn. His body was reburied 18 months later in Buffalo, NY, beside the graves of other Indians.
When Parker married Minnie Sackett, a white woman, in 1867, Ulysses S. Grant was his best man.
Ely became a condoled chief in 1852 upon the death of John Blacksmith, chief of the wolf clan at Tonawanda. In the Haudenosaunee world there are 50 chiefs, each having their own (condoled) name. When one chief dies, another one is chosen by the clan mothers and is given the condoled name. So when Ely was chosen chief of the wolf clan at Tonawanda, he was given the name Donehogawa, the name John Blacksmith held before him. That name is still used at Tonawanda today. Ely's Seneca name was Ha sa no an da, meaning "leading name". He took the name Ely (as he said, rhymes with "free-ly") after a well known Baptist minister/teacher in the area. Parker was a name given by a British soldier (named Parker) to the family as an honor for treating him so well when he was a captive during the Revolutionary War.
At the age of 14, Ely was first sent to Washington, DC as a messenger/representative for the Tonawanda Senecas who were trying to fight the fraudulent 1842 Compromise Treaty of Buffalo Creek. In that treaty (and in its predecessor, the 1838 Buffalo Creek Treaty), the Tonawanda Senecas lost all of their lands in Western New York. Ely remained a representative and advocate until 1857 when the Senecas were able to buy back part of that land.
Parker became Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, not because of his efforts in the Civil War, but because of his friendship with General Ulysses S. Grant. Because of his association with him, Parker had the "ear" of many politicians in Washington both during and after the war who were wrestling with the "Indian Problem". Grant appointed him commissioner in 1868. Parker was the first Native American to hold a federal office. It was Ely Parker's ideas that were associated with the Grant administration's "Peace Plan" which abolished the treaty system and advocated "assimilate, educate and Christianize". He also believed for Indians to remain peaceful, the government had to deliver what it had promised. In 1871, Parker resigned that commission after being tried for fraud by the US Senate and exonerated.
Ely died on August 30, 1895 from complications from diabetes. He was buried first at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield, Conn, where he, his wife and his daughter lived. Parker was reburied in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY on January 20, 1897 near the graves of several other Senecas, including Red Jacket.
Condensed in part from www.nativeamericans.com/ElySamuelParker.htm
His sister was Caroline Parker who (probably) made the bag shown in the Seneca Beadwork thread.