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November 11, 1999     The Sundance Times
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November 11, 1999

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i( L~ !ix ;i 31: i(! !/ ? ii ?i !:iii ii ! / if! Page 10- Thursday, November 1L 1999 Sunset For General Crook And His Era By: Gene Gade Part XI By the time he was relieved of command in Arizona, General George Crook was becoming one of the nation's old soldiers. This general who had sought the hottest action in dozens of battles, who had pushed himself and his men to the limits of their physical emo- tional endurance, was now occupied primarily-with ad- ministrative duties. One of the pleasures of Crook's new role was the inspections of the many forts in his de- partment. Inspection trips invariably included extended hunting and fishing trips in the surrounding country. In May of 1880, Crook replaced the retiring General Alfred Terry, and assumed command of Army opera- tions in the Departments of the Platte, Missouri, Da- kota and Texas. Based in Chicago, it was the largest and most active command in the army and included over half of the army's men and material. Surprisingly, for a man who had spent most of a vigorous life outdoors in the sparsely populated wilds of the West, Crook enjoyed some aspects of the city. He was still uncomfortable at formal social occasions and, especially, disliked musical performances, but he savored contact with many of his old friends who dropped by on their way through busy Chicago. Crook spent much time playing cards and recalling former times with such acquaintances. His offices reflected a casual, "unmilitary" atmosphere. Wrote one reporter, "There is precious little red tape around CrooR's head- quarters, and none whatever of military exclusiveness which is so often exasperating to the ordinary civilian doing business with the army. The doors are aH wide open, and the visitor simply walks in. He doesn$ see anybody in uniform. Everybody, from General Crook on down is in citizen's dress...lf you don't interrupt the General in the midst of a good story, he will be very glad to see you, and will tell you so most cor- dially." Except for Wounded Knee, the killing and burning portion of the Indian wars was largely over. However the policy wars over what to do with the vanquished tribes were on-going during the 1880's. One such is- sue was the so-called "Dawes Act of 1887" which pro- posed to divide up the reservation lands and gave "own- ership to individual Indians. The concept that a single human could own any piece of ground with distinct, arbitrary boundaries was foreign to the Indians who had practiced communal stewardship of tribal terri- tories for thousands of years. Some whites believed that giving formal title of a few acres to each male Indian was an essential step in the process of con- verting the Indians' into farmers on the European/ American model--i.e, to "civilize" them. More cynical whites simply wanted the Indians to have title so that they could have an individual entity to deal with. That way non-Indians could buy reservation lands without having to deal with the tribes or government agencies. The latter threat was real. On many reser- vations whites swindled Indians out of their remain- ing lands. On many others, traditional leaders strongly opposed the policy and refused to sign up for their allotments. The Sioux were regarded as a special "problem because their 1868 treaty with the gov- ernment forbade the selling of tribal lands unless 3/ 4 of the adult male Lakota agreed to it. Crook was an advocate of the idea that Indian culture should be destroyed and that Indians should be ab- sorbed into white society. The general was an early advocate of full American citizenship rights for Indi- ans (does anyone else find that ironic?), and he appar- ently believed that giving title of a quarter section to a former warrior would lead to his becoming a gentle- man farmer. During the final years of his career, Crook spent much of his energy trying to persuade his old adversaries (and friends) among the Sioux to agree to the partition and potential sale of their lands. After months of wrangling, the necessary signatures were secured and the Great Sioux reservation was opened up. The principal of allotment did not bring happiness or economic prosperity to the Sioux. Laws were soon changed making it possible for whites to get control of the land patents. Within 33 years, more than half of the allotted lands (over 11 million acres) passed into white ownership and much more was leased by non- Indians. Lease rates were not sufficient to support the Indian families. Relatively few of the Indians were di- rectly involved in the management of the remaining lands for agriculture or other purposes. More and more Indian families concentrated on less and less land. Desperation and despair led to the Ghost Dance, the murder of Sitting Bull, and the Wounded Knee mas- sacre. Poverty and dependency increased. General Crook did use his influence on behalf of Indians on several occasions. One notable example occurred immediately after the war with the Sioux concluded in 1877. The tiny Ponca tribe, which had never fought against whites, was involuntarily re- moved from its small reservation in eastern Dakota and sent to Oklahoma. (White farmers wanted their land along the Missouri River and some of the re- cently defeated Sioux were to be relocated there.) In early 1879, Ponca chief Standing Bear left Oklahoma with 30 of his followers and began walking back to Nebraska. They committed no violert~ acts and paid for or begged for their food en route, opon arriving at the Omaha agency, they immediately began farm- ing with their Omaha relatives and working toward self-sufficiency as the government said it wanted. Nevertheless, government policy, was that they must return to Oklahoma. The Poncas had a few eloquent advocates, including a white journalist from Omaha, T.H. Tibbles, and a young tribeswomen named "Bright Eyes" who had been educated in the East. Tibbles helped the Poncas get legal representation and they brought a suit against General Crook in his capacity as Commander of the Department of the Platte. Crook testified that his official duty was to carry out the government policy of returning the Poncas to Okla- homa, but that his personal sympathies lay with the Indians. The court case centered around the legal tech- nicalities of whether the Indians (as non-citizens) were under tribal or military control, whether the habeus corpus rules applied to them, etc. Advocates of Indian rights wanted to take the issues to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hope that a major decision there would lead to greater justice for many tribes in many con- texts. The Indian Bureau and the Army did not want such a precedent. The judge in Omaha, ruled in favor of the Poncas, preventing their return to Oklahoma, but avoiding the more far-reaching issues. He also complimented General Crook for his personal posi- tion. The other issue that really incensed Crook was the permanent deportation of the Chiricahua Apaches to Florida after the surrender of Geronimo. Crook was especially dismayed that his loyal scouts had been ex- "WHERE THE KID HIS NAME" The Sundance iled along with the hostile warriors. (Two of the scouts and Lt. Gatewood had negotiated' Geronimo's ultimate surrender after Nelson Miles had chased the 33 hos- tiles with regular troops for five rr/onths without cap- turing a single Indian.) For the last several years of his life, Crook battled his bitter rival Miles in the press and in congress. Nobody wanted the return of the Apaches to Arizona, but Crook advocated the compromise of taking them to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Miles wanted them permanently imprisoned in Florida where almost half of them had already died of malaria and other diseases. George Crook had been experiencing serious heart problems for some time, but characteristically, Crook hardly slowed down. On the morning of March 21, 1890, the General died of a heart attack in Chicago at age 68. He was first interred at his home in Maryland, but on November 11, the man who had avoided pomp all his life was permanently laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with full ceremony. Wyoming was granted statehood the year Crook died, and the county in the northeast corner was named for him. Though Crook probably came no closer than about 30 miles of the county's arbitrary political boundary, the shadow of the man and the national policies he represented were figuratively cast over the area in a major way. * A little over a month after Crook's burial, the 7th Cavalry's Hotchkiss guns opened up on Big Foot's band at Wounded Knee. Four years later, the Chiricahuas were moved to Oklahoma where they lived until after Geronimo's death. The Indian wars were over. It is said that even some of Crook's old Indian en- emies mourned his death. Oglala chief Red Cloud supposedly remarked that "at ]east he never lied to us," and that when Crook died, the hopes of the Sioux also died. Captain Bourke reported that when news of Crook's death reached Fort Apache, his former (non- Chiricahua) scouts gathered in a great circle and wept like children. So what are we, at the end of another century, sup- posed to make of this man for whom our county is named? Perhaps Captain John Bourke, who served closely with Crook for many years, expressed the per- ception of Crook's contemporaries. Bourke wrote that as he watched Crook's burial at Arlington, "the thought flitted through my mind that there lay an exemplification of the resHess energy of the American people...No man could attempt to write a fair descrip- tion of Crook's great services and his noble traits of character unless he set out to prepare a sketch of the history of progress of civilization west of the Missouri." Without a doubt, George Crook had characteristics that made him an outstanding soldier. Known espe- cially for bravery, physical endurance, aggressiveness, tenacity, and personal integrity, Crook led by example, was a tactical innovator, and had an incredibly strong sense of duty. He was. represented, if not loved, by most of his contemporaries--friend and foe alike. George Crook was a willing, even exuberant, implementer of the national policy of his time--i.e, physically remov- ing Indians from their lands and killing them if they didn't go willingly. He was good at it. He probably rests in peace. Assessing Crook in the late 20th Century is more difficult. Attitudes toward concepts like "progress," "racial justice," "cultural/ethnic diversity," and so on are not as crystal clear for many Americans now as they seem to have been in Crook's time. After the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and in light of our cur- rent national policy of opposition to "ethnic cleans- ing,~ it's less acc~table to simply excuse any officer of any country with a flippant, "He was just following orders.= Quite possibly the Indian wars were inevitable. The culture.~ that clashed in the 19th century West were so different they probably could not have been reconciled. Yes, Indians were also capable of heinous brutality. In the long run, the overwhelming numbers, technology, and land-hunger of European-Americans were certain to prevail when conflict occurred. No doubt somebody would have fought the Indians whether Crook and his colleagues did or not. This nation is justifiable proud of its maturation, its leadership in the world, and its many achievements.. I know all this, yet some of the history troubles me. I II I I t t + t t +t+ I 4+ #] t+ l t This is the house that the second graders built after reading the Henry"s House:' '~rhe story talks about cooperation and friendship, we had the Idds become architects their imagina~ons went wild" Hooper, second grade teacher. Stop by and look at this find your future architect. ~i:~ i Woody Jundt, of Livingston, MT, Christmas Bazaar and Bake Sale held on November 6, Ann Jundt parlJcipste in craft shows throughout the area, but this one where they have the opportunity to visit family snd ~ends. rs mw im mis t0 a Ivars Alg Clme tie from #h 6.9"/. A,'NI* Any model! Zero Down! 6.9% interest for 1 Available on any model! ulmu$ jm.* Zero down! Monthly based on 72 month installment loan at 13.95% APR. For example, buy a Trail Blazer, MSRP $2999, with monthly payments of just $62. not include tax, title or dealer set-up. AI oflm ~lkl Imm NK 1to he. 31, lUl. Alert for new beneficiaries This press release Is directed to new Medicare beneficiaries. You must be aware of the "open en- rollment ~." Once this pe- riod is over you are not guaran- teed the right to purchase a Medigap policy. Open enrollment period starts when you turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B; it lasts six months. You may for that six months, purchase any Medicare Supplement policy with a private company at the same price as anyone else, re- gardle of your health status. Many new beneficiaries are very healthy and do not think they need any additional Insurance at this age. Most do not realize that after a health crisis, which can happen at any time. they prob- ably cannot purchase a supple- mental policy. 1 receive calls ev- ery day from beneficiaries who are trying to purchase insurance but cannot. They have waited too long to apply and now have a health problem. No insurance company is going to insure a beneficiary who has missed the open enrollment pm~d and will probably cost the company a lot of money. I also get calls from people who now want to purchase a policy that will help with large prescrip- tion costs. If you've missed the open enrollment period you're out of luckl Please think of these problems that many beneflcia- rle face. 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