Lt. Col. Ely Parker and General U.S. Grant’s staff. (Library of Congress)
Another governor who was tossed out over racial divisions was Oklahoma’s John Calloway Walton. A 1956 book called Walton’s election “a revolution.” He was a socialist and his primary target was the Ku Klux Klan.
“Within a few months, the State House in such an imbroglio that the word “revolution” is indeed an excellent choice,”according to The Chronicles of Oklahoma. “The capitol building became an armed fortress; and in fact, it had the outward semblance of a military strong point. The test of power between the Chief Executive and the Legislative Branch that ensued would seem incredible if it were not within the memory of many of us.”
Walton kept the legislature from meeting, declaring martial law, but that did not work. “Knowing he was in dire straits, the governor called a special session to create an anti-Klan bill, but the legislature claimed they would consider that after investigating the governor,” the Oklahoma Historical Society said. “Walton offered to resign in exchange for strong laws against the invisible empire, but again the legislators rebuffed him.”
John Calloway Walton
There is an interesting connection between Walton and Tuesday’s election in Alabama. Oklahoma legislators wanted to prevent a candidate from winning a crowded primary (as Walton had done) and so required a majority. That’s why there will be another primary between former state Supreme Court justice Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange. Ten states have such a system.
Another fall out from Trump’s press conference is that the removal of civil war memorials will move to the top of the debate.
Members of the American Indian Caucus in the Montana Legislature called for the removal of a Confederate memorial in Helena. “Today, we must recognize the fact that the Confederacy and its symbolism has stood for segregation, secession, and slavery,” said a letter from state lawmakers Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula; Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Rocky Boy; Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point; Rep. George Kipp III, D-Heart Butte; Rep. Susan Webber, D-Browning; Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, D-Crow Agency; Rep. Rae Peppers, D-Lame Deer, and Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby. “The Confederate flag was even used by the Dixiecrats, a segregationist political party of the 1940s. The flag continues to serve as an emblem for racism and racial inequality for domestic terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other white nationalist organizations.”
The Southern Law Poverty Center reports there are at least 1,503 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces, and at least 109 public schools named for prominent Confederates. “There is nothing remotely comparable in the North to honor the winning side of the Civil War,” the Southern Law Poverty Center said. One proof of that: How many schools (or monuments) are standing for Ely Parker?
Parker, a Seneca, drafted the documents that spelled out the surrender to be signed by General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865. “I am glad to see one real American here,” Lee said while shaking his hand. Lt. Col. Parker responded: “We are all Americans.”
Parker had another concern at the time, compassion. He wrote: “Generals Grant and Lee talked over the surrender then Lee rose and said, “General Grant I want to ask you something. If our positions were reversed I would grant it to you. My men are starving and I would ask if you would give them rations.” Grant asked, “How many men have you got?” “About twenty thousand,” said General Lee. General Grant came over to me then and told me to make out an order for rations for thirty thousand. He knew – he did not propose to have anyone suffer.”
Then Parker represents the complexity of the Native American experience in America. He became an officer because he could not practice law because only white men were admitted to the bar. So he became an engineer, later a military officer and a general, and still later, the first American Indian to represent the United States as head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In that post he took on corruption. And, basically lost. Congress held hearings, blamed him for every problem at the BIA, and took away much of his authority making him a figurehead. As historian James Ring Adams wrote in American Indian Magazine: “He was an architect of Grant’s ‘Peace Policy,’ which ended Red Cloud’s War by accepting all of the Oglala Lakota’s terms. But Parker ran afoul of philanthropists who wanted to control Indian policy through their domination of the Board of Indian Commissioners. His enemies provoked a wearing Congressional hearing into his work. Even though he was exonerated of any criminality, Parker resigned in 1871. In later years, he expressed hurt that Grant had not supported him.”
Of course the BIA is an agency that Donald Trump still hasn’t picked anyone to lead. Then, why should anyone take that job now? This presidency is over.
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports