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Standing Up to Colonial Power: The Lives of Henry Roe and Elizabeth Bender Cloud

Standing Up to Colonial Power: The Lives of Henry Roe and Elizabeth Bender Cloud

by Renya K. Ramirez

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Standing Up to Colonial Power focuses on the lives, activism, and intellectual contributions of Henry Cloud (1884–1950), a Ho-Chunk, and Elizabeth Bender Cloud (1887–1965), an Ojibwe, both of whom grew up amid settler colonialism that attempted to break their connection to Native land, treaty rights, and tribal identities. Mastering ways of behaving and speaking in different social settings and to divergent audiences, including other Natives, white missionaries, and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, Elizabeth and Henry relied on flexible and fluid notions of gender, identity, culture, community, and belonging as they traveled Indian Country and within white environments to fight for Native rights.

Elizabeth fought against termination as part of her role in the National Congress of American Indians and General Federation of Women’s Clubs, while Henry was one of the most important Native policy makers of the early twentieth century. He documented the horrible abuse within the federal boarding schools and co-wrote the Meriam Report of 1928, which laid the foundation for the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Together they ran an early college preparatory Christian high school, the American Indian Institute. 

Standing Up to Colonial Power shows how the Clouds combined Native warrior and modern identities as a creative strategy to challenge settler colonialism, to become full members of the U.S. nation-state, and to fight for tribal sovereignty. Renya K. Ramirez uses her dual position as a scholar and as the granddaughter of Elizabeth and Henry Cloud to weave together this ethnography and family-tribal history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496212689
Publisher: Nebraska
Publication date: 12/01/2018
Series: New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Renya K. Ramirez (enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska) is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Gender, Belonging, and Native American Women: The Activism of Sarah Deer and Cecelia Fire Thunder and Native Hubs: Culture, Community, and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond. Ramirez is the executive producer, co-producer, screenwriter, and co-director of the film Standing in the Place of Fear: Legacy of Henry Roe Cloud

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Henry Cloud's Childhood and Young Adulthood

In this chapter I discuss Henry Cloud's early years, his youth on the Winnebago Reservation with his beloved family, his Ho-Chunk education, and his training in white schools, including Yale University. In his published autobiographical narrative for a missionary journal, a doubleness is present that revolves around his Christian conversion. Even while writing for a white Christian audience, he remains true to his Native position. As a child, he refused to forget his Ho-Chunk language and identity, resisting the federal government's settler-colonial attempt to assimilate him in the federal boarding schools and challenging the conservative Christian doctrine that pagan identities must be forgotten. As a Native and Christian, he had access to white ideas, which he strategically used for Native goals and objectives. As an orator and writer, he was able to perform in various cultural registers, using both Eurocentric and Indigenous concepts to sway his audience. As a Ho-Chunk modern man and warrior, he appropriated the popular rhetoric of white masculinity of the "self-made man" to increase his power in white society, ultimately challenging attempts of settler-colonial forces to take away his masculine power and turn him into a "non-man."

Later in his life, during a speech to a graduating class of Alaska Native students, Cloud articulated a strong Ho-Chunk position. Indeed, Cloud had a tremendous sense of humor and was a great teller of tales. He attributed his storytelling ability to his precious Ho-Chunk grandmother, who would tell him stories only in the winter. Cloud used Ho-Chunk trickster strategies to help him survive and excel in the midst of colonialism, including doubleness, shape-shifting, humor, and creativity. Cloud was a Ho-Chunk intellectual, who argued that Natives should attend college, thus challenging settler-colonial and racist assumptions that Natives were not smart enough. He developed a modern Ho-Chunk warrior identity by adding white concepts to his core Ho-Chunk philosophy and educational training. His additive, flexible, and fluid cultural and intellectual methodology disputes the subtractive and static approach of federal boarding schools and classic anthropology — both of which are linked to settler colonialism. He created Ho-Chunk–centric hubs to support his Ho-Chunk identity and culture while living away from his tribe.

Ho-Chunk, "People of the Big Voice," and Removals

Some historical background regarding the Ho-Chunk will help to set the scene for Cloud's childhood and his later life. The Ho-Chunk, or the "People of the Big Voice," lived for centuries in our homelands in present-day Wisconsin. In 1634 the Ho-Chunks encountered the French settler Jean Nicolet when he landed at Red Banks, Wisconsin. The French called our Ho-Chunk people the Winnebago. (Even though I am an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, I will be using the name Ho-Chunk: an act of decolonization, as this is the name we gave ourselves.) Due to colonization Ho-Chunks are now divided into two distinct tribal nations. These two tribal nations are the Ho-Chunk Nation, whose members live on our traditional homelands in Wisconsin, and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, whose members live on the reservation in Nebraska created by the federal government. The Ho-Chunk Nation reclaimed their original tribal name in 1994.2

As soon as the colonizer arrived, our people began experiencing settler colonialism. Colonizers made treaties with our Ho-Chunk ancestors to dispossess us of our precious and cherished land. As part of the Treaty of 1825, our tribal territory extended from Green Bay, beyond Lake Winnebago, to the Wisconsin River and the Rock River in Illinois, including 8.5 million acres. Once colonization started, our story as Ho-Chunks is one of much suffering and incredible hardships. Much of our misery began in the late 1820s, when miners began to pour into southwestern Wisconsin. Treaty commissioners promised they would punish whites who entered Ho-Chunk lands. But the lure of mineral-rich, lush farmlands proved too strong, and the colonizer sincerely believed that Indigenous lands were available for the taking. Within ten years the federal government reversed its position and forced the Ho-Chunk to sell our land at a meager percentage of its value. Federal officials then forcibly removed our Ho-Chunk ancestors from Wisconsin.

After the signing of the 1832 treaty, the Ho-Chunk were first removed to land in Iowa, called the "Neutral Ground"; it was supposed to act as a buffer between the Sac and Fox and Dakota Nations. We were then removed to a wooded region of northeastern Minnesota in 1846, to act as a barrier between the Ojibwe and the Lakota. Consequently, the Ho-Chunk suffered from the raids of both tribes. After the signing of the 1855 treaty, the federal officials removed the Ho-Chunk to land near the Blue Earth River in southern Minnesota. As soon as we arrived, white settlers demanded our removal yet again. In 1863 our people were forcibly removed to the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota, and more than 550 people died on our horrific journey. The Ho-Chunk requested that the federal government exchange their South Dakota reservation for lands near the friendly Omahas in 1865. The Omahas' reservation was situated in northeastern Nebraska, next to the Missouri River and close to present-day South Sioux City, Iowa.

The memories of our Ho-Chunk ancestors include stories about being rounded up at gunpoint, loaded into boxcars, and shipped to our reservation in Nebraska. My mother told me that there were many Ho-Chunk casualties as a result of these multiple removals. Being forcibly removed away from our homelands is a psychic wound that we, as the descendants, carry within our hearts, spirits, and minds. My grandfather's parents were likely born in the 1860s, suffered through this very difficult history, and lived on our newly created reservation in Nebraska next to the Missouri River. After these removals many Ho-Chunks returned to their ancestral homelands in Wisconsin and eventually created the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin.

Cloud and Ho-Chunk Naming

Henry Cloud's Ho-Chunk name was Wo-Na-Xi-Lay-Hunka, meaning "War Chief." Cloud describes it in a letter in a metaphorical rather than literal way as the "Chief of the Place of Fear." Ho-Chunk naming provides the clan and the family a mechanism to emphasize the child's place in a support system, and this network, or Ho-Chunk hub, serves the child throughout life. Remembering the circumstances of naming and the crucial role it plays is fundamental to Ho-Chunk education. Naming ceremonies are tribal educational structures that introduce one's place in the tribe and the universe. Children were often named at tribal feasts.

Cloud was a member of the Thunderbird Clan — the clan, he explained, that "obstructed and permitted war." Cloud's father, Chayskagah (White Buffalo), told a significant prophecy about his son. During a winter when food became very scarce, his son did not eat for ten days. Then his father found a frozen beaver hut, killed the animals, traded some of their skins for corn, boiled the beaver meat, and prepared a feast. During the feast his father discussed his prophecy. He told his son, "Eat, War Chief, for I am hungry but will not eat until you have tasted food. I am old and it makes no difference if I starve, but you are young. The future of the Winnebagos [Ho-Chunks] lies within you." White Buffalo told War Chief this important prophecy, which, according to my mother, encouraged her dad throughout his life to fight as a Ho-Chunk warrior for the survival and in defense of his people. This story also shares a core value of a Ho-Chunk warrior identity: put the survival of the young before one's own continued existence. Cloud's telling and retelling this powerful story created a Ho-Chunk–centric, gendered hub — not based in geographic space but carried in his heart and mind even as he lived away from his Ho-Chunk people.

Cloud's name and clan membership were central to his identities as a Ho-Chunk man, leader, and modern-day warrior. From a Ho-Chunk perspective a warrior not only fought in war for the survival of his people but also was a servant to his people, placing the needs of others first. My mother, Woesha, taught me that learning strength and self-discipline is central to a Ho-Chunk warrior identity. The traditional practice of fasting taught this value at an early age. Going without food and water for four days is not an easy task but rather a practice that helped Ho-Chunk boys and girls become strong, self-disciplined, and close to Ma-un-a (Ho-Chunk for Earth Maker or Creator). Indeed, fasting is a crucial Ho-Chunk educational experience. It is through fasting that a child learns self-control, beginning with short-lived fasting experiences that gradually become of longer duration, while connecting to the spiritual world.

Cloud was born in a traditional Ho-Chunk bark home next to the Missouri River on the Winnebago Reservation, surrounded by his family and tribe. Cloud and his family felt closely connected to the seasons and natural surroundings, including the powerful Missouri River. His father, Chayskagah (White Buffalo) and his mother, Hard to See, picked wild plants to eat and reeds from the water to craft mats for sleeping. His beloved grandmother's name was Mashunpeewingah (or Good Feather Woman), the same name I was given as a child at our Ho-Chunk naming ceremony in Winnebago, Nebraska. Ho-Chunk names incorporate the "-gah" suffix when one is talking about the person and in direct address drop the suffix.

Our family story is that Hard to See married often because flu epidemics and diseases caused the deaths of many Ho-Chunks, including Hard to See's husbands. My Ho-Chunk relatives Francis Cassiman and Alice Mallory Porter, with the assistance of our cousin Robin Butterfield, prepared our genealogy. Hard to See was married to James Noble and together had their daughter, Hahmpgoomahnee'inga, or Susan Noble Ewing; to another Ho-Chunk whose name is no longer remembered and birthed a son, Anson Brown; to Charlie Rice and had a son, Fred Rice (whom I gratefully met, as he was present at our family's Ho-Chunk naming); to Yellow Cloud; and to Chayskagah (White Buffalo). Many years later, when Cloud's children wanted to celebrate his birthday, he chose December 28, 1884, but the actual date could have been one year earlier.

Cloud's autobiography, "From Wigwam to Pulpit: A Red Man's Own Story of His Progress from Darkness to Light," is a tale of his conversion to Christianity. He describes stark contrasts within his traditional Ho-Chunk upbringing. He discusses the inviting smells of meat roasting over the fire in his one-room, circular wigwam, where he, his brother, mother, father, and sometimes his grandmother lived. He describes the lean times he experienced when he went to bed without supper, and he recalls the kindness of being woken up and fed first when food was brought home in the middle of the night. (As already discussed, feeding the young first is central to a Ho-Chunk warrior identity.) He recounts the harshness of his uncle's disciplinary measures, which were generally a result of Cloud disobeying his grandmother, refusing fasting, fighting other Indian boys, or crying without sufficient reason. This fear of discipline usually kept him and his brother from disobedience.

Even though his life story is a Christian conversion tale, there are many suggestive details about his upbringing. His Ho-Chunk education regarding culture and tradition particularly signal the importance of his Ho-Chunk identity, thus creating a Ho-Chunk–centric virtual hub and showing the doubleness of the narrative. He describes how his grandfather taught him to dodge the arrows of his enemies, and his uncle showed him to worship and pray. He recounts how his father took him to the nearby Missouri River, built a fire, and taught him songs to sing to the fire and river while throwing offerings of tobacco, red feathers, and oak twigs. He tells how his family trapped beaver and otter for their skins, teaching him their use for ceremony and trade. Early on he learned to shoot bows and arrows, and his mother taught him traditional Ho-Chunk stories. For example, when he lost an arrow, his mother told him, that Wakdjunkaga (Jester) one of the sons of Ma-un-a had hidden it, and he must cry aloud to Wakdjunkaga to bring the arrow back. During winter he especially enjoyed hearing his grandmother's stories. Her stories were of mighty deeds of heroes, war, spirits, nature, and her childhood. His grandmother's stories, including those of Wakdjunkaga (the Don Quixote of Ho-Chunk lore), he explains, made the winter "one long laugh" for him. Later in life he told these traditional Ho-Chunk stories to his children.

In 1949, during the speech he gave to Alaska Natives graduating from Mount Edgecumbe federal boarding school, he recalled his grandmother telling him Ho-Chunk stories, creating a Ho-Chunk–centric hub:

In winter times, our grandmother ... would say, "If you grandchildren want any stories, you must first get the wood." And so we went into the woods and gathered all the dry wood and sticks that we could find because we lived in the woods. ... And grandmother was very wise indeed to reserve her stories for the winter season when fifty degrees below zero was experienced and the ice-coated limbs were creaking above our heads above the wigwam. So we carried in the wood and we supplied all that she needed and we were warm in the wigwam as we listened to the stories. She used to tell us about these four great spirits. We called it cosmology and the world became a world full of spirits to me. ... She often said that no child should eat the marrow of the bone because if he did he would loose his teeth. I later discovered that she had no teeth and could eat nothing but the marrow of the bone. She used to say that no child should eat a long ear of corn for ... the long ear would be too long for the width of his stomach here. The long-eared corn would stick too far out and give him a pain in the side. ... So we had nothing but short ears and grandmother and all the old people got all the long ears of corn.

Cloud's narrative portrays a sense of warmth and comfort, sitting together with his cherished and much-loved grandmother and family in their wigwam, protected from the frigid Nebraska winters, challenging the colonial representations of traditional Indigenous homes as primitive, dirty, and disorganized. Cloud emphasizes his grandmother's wisdom and how she taught him about Ho-Chunk spirituality, cosmology, and important values, including contributing to the well-being of the community by bringing firewood. His grandmother also taught Ho-Chunk children to put the needs of elders first so they would have enough nutritious food to eat. By telling these stories, he shows the significance of Ho-Chunk humor, encouraging his audience of young Alaska Natives to laugh about his grandmother outwitting him while she protected the elders' food supply. He also accentuates how central his grandmother and her storytelling were to his spiritual and intellectual development as a Ho-Chunk person.

Ho-Chunk storytelling is foundational to Ho-Chunk education. Waikun stories are about Ma-un-a, creations overall, or realms of the sacred. These Waikun tales can be shared only in winter, when snakes are below the ground and when Ho-Chunk children are focusing their minds. Although there is no sharp distinction between one kind of story or the other, Worak stories are about daily life. Waikun and Worak stories share elements, but the tales end differently. The Worak stories end tragically in death or a comparison of the incompleteness of the characters to life's negative experiences.

The aspects of the sacred and everyday life in Waikun and Worak tales can relate to cultural heroes who have both divine and human characteristics. The "clown" cultural heroes (that Paul Radin and others call tricksters) have both Waikun and Worak importance, and their stories are not to be told during the summer. According to Minnie Littlebear, a Ho-Chunk intellectual and elder, children could be told "clown stories." Littlebear gives examples of Keh-chung-geh-ga (Turtle) and Wax-chung-gay-ga (Hare) stories. These clown stories could be humorous, and in fact humor is central to our Ho-Chunk culture.

Various kinds of stories, according to Felix White Sr., Ho-Chunk elder and intellectual, were told at various stages of a Ho-Chunk child's development, depending on the child's maturity. White emphasizes that Ho-Chunk children heard stories, and that stories were a sort of developmental psychology. Stories taught children suitable behavior from aunts, uncles, elders, and other family members. Thus, Cloud's grandmother and parents were pivotal and powerful Ho-Chunk educators for him as a young boy.


Excerpted from "Standing Up to Colonial Power"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.
Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 
1. Henry Cloud’s Childhood and Young Adulthood   
2. Society of American Indians and the American Indian Institute   
3. Henry Cloud’s Role in the Meriam Report, the Indian Reorganization Act, and the Haskell Institute   
4. The Work of Henry and Elizabeth Cloud at Umatilla          
5. Elizabeth Bender Cloud’s Intellectual Work and Activism 

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