Hakadah and his story

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In February 1858 in the wilderness of Redwood Falls, MN a great leader was born. The child was named Hakadah meaning “the Pitiful Last” as he would be the last of five children born to his parent's Mary Eastman and Tawakanhdeota “Many Lightnings”. Soon after Hakadah was born his mother Mary past away, as her last request she asked that Tawakanhdeota's mother Uncheedah raise him, as she knew her own mother would neglect him. Hakadah would spend the next 15 years of his life learning how to be a great warrior of the Santee Sioux before being thrust into a world that he neither understood nor understood him. This report will take you through the life of the boy Hakadah, young man Ohiyesa, and the man he would become Charles Alexander Eastman. His trail was one that would be rough and would test his resilience and his ability to remain true to his heritage while fitting into the white man's society.


As a baby Hakadah spent a great deal of time in an upright cradle. He would ride on his grandmothers back as she travelled from place to place doing chores like cutting wood for the tribe. She would hang his cradle from a tree branch or grape vine so that it would swing him the wind. As soon as he was able to walk, Uncheedah began to teach him to listen to the birds and animals so that he could recognizing their individual songs and sounds. This harmony and simplicity came to an end on August 17, 1862 when the Dakota War also known as the Sioux Uprising began. During the uprising hundreds lost their lives and Hakadah's father Tawakanhdeota was captured along with many others who lead the revolt. In a desperate attempt to survive the Hakadah's family fled the US army to Manitoba, Canada. Hakadah would spend the next eleven years of his life in Manitoba training to be a great warrior.

In the autobiography “Indian Boyhood” Eastman describes his Indian boyhood and the many adventures he went on. In the book he tells about how they would make sugar each year in the month of March from the sap of different trees. This was an exciting time of year for the boys of the tribe as it was their job to use their small bows and arrows to keep the squirrels and rabbits out of the sugar hut. To the boys it was more than just a job it was a game of chance to see who could shoot the most animals. The greatest day in Hakadah's life came during a tribal lacrosse game in which the tribal bands the Wahpetonwans and Kaposias. The Wahpetonwan's medicine man declared before the game began that if the Wahpetonwan team was to win that Hakadah would from then on bear the name Ohiyesa meaning “winner”. The tribe went on to win that day and it was a joyous occasion throughout the tribe.

War path

On his 15th birthday Ohiyesa embarked on his first war path, the war path that made him a warrior and man in his tribe. During this war path he was reunited with his father whom he believed was dead. Everyone in the tribe was told that the men arrested for leading and participating in the uprising including his father were taken to Mankato and hung. He later find out his father was one of several condemned men that were pardoned by President Lincoln and instead of being hung he were taken to Davenport, IA where he served a 3 year prison sentence. Upon finishing his sentence he was given 160 acres on the Indian reservation in Flandreau where he built a home and began farming. His father now known as Jacob Eastman had come back to his son to take him home with him to learn the ways of the white man which he felt would benefit him. This did not sit well with Ohiyesa, but because he had great respect for his father and went with him to Flandreau.

Upon arrival at his father's farm, Ohiyesa was informed that he would be sent to the mission day school located 2 miles from his home. The first day didn't go very well as Ohiyesa was not interested in learning his ABC's or listening to what the teacher had to say. He refused to respond when he was asked a question. As he headed home for the evening he contemplated telling his father that he would not go back to school and that he wished to leave and go back home. His father stated to him:

We have now entered upon this life, and there is no going back. Besides, one would be like a hobbled pony without learning to live like those among whom we must live.

After a long discussion with his father he decided that it might be a good idea to receive this education so that he would be as smart as the white man. That night he cut his hair short to fit in with the other boys at school.

In 1874 he left Flandreau

In 1874 he left Flandreau and walked 150 miles to the Santee Indian Training school run by Rev. Alfred Riggs. Along the path to his new school he stopped at a sod house where a very kind farmer provided him with dinner and breakfast as well as offering him a place to sleep for the night. He declined the opportunity to sleep in the house, choosing to sleep along the stream bank instead. During his time with this family he heard the family sing and play music which he had never seen before and he saw a father teaching his son how to use a forge to mend a plow. He decided at that time that he would learn that trade when he went to school. Overall it was a pleasant yet frightening experience for Charles as he was not sure what to expect from this man or his family. He offered to pay the man for his hospitality and food but the farmer declined the money offered. Upon reaching Yankton where the school was located he was greeted by Rev. Riggs, who went over the rules of the school and showed Charles to the log cabin style dormitory. He was provided sheets and blankets for his bunk and was told to fill a large bag with straw which was used to make his mattress and a smaller one to make a pillow. For two years Charles would learn everything he could at the Santee School before being offered the opportunity to continue his education at Beloit Preparatory College thanks to the recommendation of Rev. Riggs.

In September 1876

September 1876 Charles boarded his first train in Yankton City bound for Beloit Preparatory College in Wisconsin. It was here that he adopted the new English name Charles Alexander Eastman by using his mother's surname of Eastman. This would be the name that most people would know him by for the remainder of his life. This was but a stepping stone in the 17 years that he would spend in school.

Charles attended several colleges including Knox College in 1879 and Kimball Union Academy before he decided on his true calling in life to become a doctor. In 1882 he enrolled in the pre-med program at Dartmouth College. Charles graduated from Dartmouth in 1887 with a bachelor's degree and in 1890 earned his doctorate from Boston University.

His first job was as a physician for the Pine Ridge Agency in Pine Ridge, North Dakota. Upon arriving at Pine Ridge he learned that the Indians did not trust the previous physician enough to allow him to give them an exam or diagnose them. He simply handed the patients any medication they asked for through a hole in a window. Once Charles became the new physician he required that they allow him to exam and diagnose them before treatment began. Being bilingual in Sioux and English helped him to be able to communicate with the Indians on the reservation without the need for an interpreter. It also allowed him to gain the trust of the Indians he was treating. Some were leery despite his apparent Indian background. He helped them to overcome their fear and they soon began to not only trust him but consider him a friend and a brother. Charles became the first physician to be allowed into the camps to practice medicine. He had great respect for the medicine men of the tribes and always insisted that they stay during the exam and treatment. He told them that “two doctors should better than one” (Eastman, 1916).

The Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance religion which was practiced from 1890-1891 was just beginning as Charles arrived to work Pine Ridge. This religious craze was becoming worrisome to the government as it caused fear of an uprising because of the ideals that the religion taught. Charles became close friends with an Indian chief named American Horse who was living at the Pine Ridge Agency. As the ghost dancers were forced to move closer and set up camp along Medicine Root creek by the Army so that they could keep a closer eye on them. The thousands of Indians of various tribes that were not involved and scared of what would happen moved just outside of the agency along White Clay creek for protection. During this time of turmoil an Indian named Little after committing a minor crime evaded authorities trying to arrest him. Little and a small group of Indians then showed up at the agency on a day in which they were to issue provision to the tribes just to defy authorities. When they attempted to arrest him his band encircled and held the police at gun and knife point. American Horse talked them down but this left an uneasy feeling with the police on the safety of the people living and working at the agency. The police felt this attack was so well thought out and were so easily overpowered, they feared they would not be able to protect the agency without the Army's protection. Despite Charles' pleading with everyone that this was not a part of a much large plot against them, that they should be patient with the Ghost Dance Warriors believing that the religion would just die out like many before it, the agent in charge telegraphed Fort Robinson and called in the cavalry. Things were looking even worse upon the death of Sitting Bull at the hands of Indian Police at Fort Yates as the dancers of Big Foot's band became restless and angry.

Though he did not intend on getting married or getting involved with any women at the time he started working at Pine Ridge his eye was soon caught by the beautiful Miss Elaine Goodale. She was working at Pine Ridge inspecting the schools as the supervisor of the Indian Schools that were located in the Dakotas. Amidst all the craziness that was occurring Charles and Elaine's friendship had blossomed into love and on Christmas Day 1890 Charles proposed. This joyous occasion was short lived though because on December 29th Colonel Forsythe and the Seventh Cavalry had gone to Wounded Knee to confront the “hostile” Indians of Big Foot's band who had set up camp on Wounded Knee and remove all remaining weapons that they possessed. One of the Indians in the tribe was deaf did not understand what was going on refused to give his weapon to the officer. There was a struggle over the weapon and it went off. Instantly the order to fire was given and the massacre at Wounded Knee began.

Big Foot's band

News was soon received that Big Foot's band had been killed. Just as night began to fall the Cavalry returned with their dead and wounded as well as wounded Indians numbering more than 30. Most of the wounded Indians that were brought in were women and children. The chapel was turned into a makeshift hospital as there were not enough tents for all of the wounded. The Battle of Wounded Knee would leave a lasting impression on Charles and make him question his beliefs. A blizzard came in the next day so the search for any additional survivors was delayed until 3 days later when the snow had cleared enough that they could make the journey. It was a gruesome scene that lay before him. Bodies littered the ground frozen in the snow some as far away from the main battle at 3 miles indicating that those that tried to flee the massacre were hunted down and murdered. Surprisingly they managed to find a few survivors buried in the snow. In this quote by Charles Eastman you see that he now believed all of the stories of corruption that he was told of when he came to Pine Ridge and saw the truth of what was happening to Indians.

I have tried to make it clear there was no “Indian outbreak” in 1890-1891, and that such trouble as we had may justly be charged to dishonest politicians, who through unfit appointees first robbed the Indians, then bullied them, and finally in a panic called for troops to suppress them.

This made him fight for better treatment of the tribes in his care. In March 1891 he spoke with the Congressional Club of Chicago to tell them about the conditions in Pine Ridge and lack of medical supplies. He was able gain the necessary supplies including a team and buggy for traveling to the individuals camps and hospital with a nurse to assist him in critical cases. This was but the beginning of his advocating for better treatment of Indians.

Elaine and Charles

In June 1891 Elaine and Charles were married in New York City at the Church of the Ascension. Upon arrival back at Pine Ridge their new home was being built. Elaine now accompanied Charles in his buggy on most of his trips out to the camps and helped to make sure that he had everything he would need stocked in the buggy. Their first child a little girl they named Dora after Elaine's sister was born the beginning of 1892.

As the year progressed the time for annual treaty payment came around as well the payment of depredation claims in the amount of $100,000 which was to be made via a special dispersing agent in the form of a cash payment. Charles was asked to be a witness to the payments but initially declined due to his work. The dispersing agent convinced him that if only one of the three witnesses were present at any given point that it would meet the requirements for the disbursing of the funds. Charles was present in the office from time to time to see the money being handed out and noticed that it was not counted out to the Indians but just handed to them. They themselves weren't allowed to count it until they left and with the help of others working at the agency they found that they were being shorted. As complaints grew within the tribes the situation was ordered to be investigated. The agent who was in charge of the disbursement attempted to get everyone involved to sign affidavits that they money was all received. Charles refused to sign the document because he was not present for the entire time and could not say with all honesty that all disbursements were made accurately. This decision would bring about the end of his time at Pine Ridge. They sent someone out to investigate and that person found that $10,000 had been withheld and that only the more influential people received their full disbursement. This information was brought back to Washington, disregarded and a second investigation started. This investigation was quick and provided Washington with the results they wanted which was to show that no wrong doing occurred and all monies were received. Everyone involved in supporting the Indians case was punished in one way or another. Some had rations taken away, others just lost their special privileges. For Charles the punishment was the harassment and impeding his work by the new agent assigned to Pine Ridge. This agent did everything to drive Charles out including losing and delaying his requisitions for supplies. After a few months Charles was asked to go to Washington where the issues he was having with the new agent were discussed. It was decided that an investigation should be conducted and they sent out the same investigator whom they sent to do the second investigation on the missing disbursement money. His report showed that there was tension between Charles and agent. Due to the harassment and the investigative, Charles resigned his position at the agency. With heavy hearts Elaine, Charles and their daughter Dora left Pine Ridge and headed to St. Paul where Charles opened his own small medical practice.


A great many people came to his office seeking “Indian” medicine which he politely told them he did not practice. A gentlemen interested in giving Charles' medical clinic financial backing told him he would do it if Charles agreed to hang a sign on his door advertising Indian medicine. Charles of course refused. Though he was busy and times were tough Charles found time to start writing the story of his childhood which would not be complete and published until 1902. In the meantime some of the stories he was writing were published in the magazine St. Nicholas. Things were going well in his life and practice when he was offered the opportunity to work for the Y.M.C.A (Young Men's Christian Associations). He traveled between the mission stations set up on tribal lands to set up catholic youth groups for young men.

He traveled through the western states and even into Canada setting up 43 Y.M.C.A groups. During his time with the tribes he discussed who Jesus was with the young men of the tribe who were interested in learning more about the white man's ways. He made speeches to crowds in places such as New York and Chicago. During one of his trips he was preaching to the Sac and Fox tribes when one of the older chiefs stated that he appreciated being told about the white man's religion but that his people would continue to follow the old ways because the white man tried to “buy his way into heaven”(Eastman, 1916). Just as Charles was about to leave one of the young men in the group came up and handed Charles' his wallet which he had dropped. Charles was taken by the honesty of the tribe and stated to the state missionary that was there with him;

Better let these Indians alone! If I had lost my money in the streets of your Christian city, I should probably have never seen it again.

With his work for the Y.M.C.A complete Charles wanted to go back to being a doctor but with a lack of funding and three children he was unable to open his practice again. This did not stop him from contributing to society and the Indian population. His brother John and several Sioux leaders came to Charles to be their voice in Washington advocating for their rights and the settlement of claims of wrong doing with regards to treaties that were made. This brought him in front of their representative at the Indian Bureau as well as the President and Congress. During his lifetime he met with four presidents, Harrison, Cleveland, McKinley and Roosevelt regarding Indian grievances and needs.

From 1899-1902 he began to working for the government as a physician this time at Crow Creek Agency in South Dakota with his people the Sioux. During his time at Crow Creek he successfully convinced all Sioux Indians to get vaccinated. In 1903 he was given a job at the Indian Bureau where he worked for 6 years with Sioux tribes to issue every member an English surname and to create family trees so that it would make the issuing of monies due amongst other official government documents easier to record.

Charles Eastman wrote 11 books

Amongst the many other amazing contributions to society that he made during his life Charles Eastman wrote 11 books from 1902-1918. These books included Indian Boyhood (1902), Red Hunters and the Animal People (1904), Old Indian Days (1906), Wigwam Evenings (1909), Smoky Day's Wigwam Evenings: Indian Stories Retold (1910), The Soul of the Indian (1911), Indian Child Life (1913), Indian Scout Talks (1914), The Indian Today: The Past and Future of the First American (1915), From the Deep Woods to Civilization (1916), and Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains (1918). In 1910 he began working with Ernest Thompson Seton to establish the Boy Scouts of America now one of the largest youth programs in the United States. He wrote the book Indian Scout Talks for the Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls talking about how Indians lived and played in nature. He tells about how they cooked, set up tents as well as what type of games they played. In 1914 Eastman opened a scout camp on the Chesapeake Bay named Camp Archibald Butt which has been renamed and is still an open and active scout camp today. In 1915 his family opened a camp for girls at Granite Lake, New Hampshire called Camp Oahe.

In 1911 Charles was asked to be the representative of the American Indians at the Universal Races Congress in London. Public speaking became an everyday occurrence for him as many people believed in him and what he stood for. He stood for equal rights for all citizens and the ability to live peacefully. Charles and his wife Elaine separated in 1921 due to differing viewpoints on the treatment of American Indians. Elaine felt that total assimilation into English society was necessary but Charles felt that cultural pluralism was a better choice. Elaine and Charles had a total of 6 children together.

In 1928 Charles Eastman purchases a log cabin in the woods of Canada alongside Lake Huron. This was his place to commune with nature which he loved when he was not traveling to lecture. At the Chicago's World Fair in 1933 Eastman was presented with a medal honoring the distinguished achievements by an American Indian.

On January 8, 1939 at the age of 80 Charles Alexander Eastman past away while living in Detroit with his son. His last project was a study on Sioux tribes which unfortunately was never completed. He was a strong voice during a time of uncertainty and a great many people both English and Indian alike looked to him for his opinion and assistance to help to bring peace to their races in the future. Here are some final words from Charles Alexander Eastman:

I am an Indian; and while I have learned much from civilization, for which I am grateful, I have never lost my Indian sense of right and justice. I am for development and progress along social and spiritual lines, rather than those of commerce, nationalism, or material efficiency. Nevertheless, so long as I live, I am an American.


Eastman, Charles. Indian Boyhood. New York: Courier Dover Publications, 1971.

Eastman, Charles. From Deep Woods to Civilization. Mineola: Courier Dover Publications, 2003.

Fitzgerald, Michael. "Charles Eastman's life and work". World Wisdom Inc. 6/25/09 http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/authors/Charles-Eastman.aspx.

Giese , Paula . "Dr. Charles A. Eastman". 06/25/2009 http://www.kstrom.net/isk/stories/authors/eastman.html.

Calloway, Colin. First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 2008.

Carlson, David. ""Indian for a While": Charles Eastman's "Indian Boyhood" and the Discourse of Allotment ". American Indian Quarterly 2001: 604-625.

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