Frontier Doc

Sioux Success, Against All Odds

The surprising story of Dr. Charles Eastman.


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On May 28, 1868, during a U.S. Congress floor debate about an Indian appropriation bill, Montana Territory representative James M. Cavanaugh remarked, “...I 
will say that I like an Indian better dead than living.”

On October 27, 1895, The New York Times reminded its readers, “Even in this day of  [the] increasing civilization of the Indian race there remain many intelligent persons who still believe that ‘the only good Indian is the dead Indian.’”

Supposedly uttered in January 1869, the latter part of the above quote is perhaps a paraphrased version of the Cavanaugh remark. This vituperation has been attributed to Gen. Philip H. Sheridan shortly after November 27, 1868, when Lt. Col. George A. Custer fought against the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes at the Battle of Washita River in what is now western Oklahoma.

Given many Americans’ prevailing attitude of homicidal prejudice against American Indians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, history books do not overflow with the biographies of Indians who were celebrated in matters other than resistance to the onslaught of white civilization.

Yet in the same 1895 column, after quoting Sheridan’s invective, the Times praised one man whose “…life and work…are a most convincing proof of the fallacy of this once popular...

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