His Vice-President, Charles Curtis, was the first Native American to hold that office, being a … Advertising Notice Kansas Historical Society’s Kaw Mission site, Archaeologists Unearth Egyptian Queen's Tomb, 13-Foot 'Book of the Dead' Scroll, For the First Time in 200 Years, a New Blue Pigment Is Up for Sale, How Wolves Are Driving Down Mountain Lion Populations, Dinosaur Unearthed in Argentina Could Be Largest Land Animal Ever, Inscription Offers Earliest Evidence of Christianity in Israel's Jezreel Valley, Stolen Copy of 'Salvator Mundi' Found Stashed in Naples Cupboard, How the Rugged F4F Wildcat Held the Line During World War II, Yes, Giant Technicolor Squirrels Actually Roam the Forests of Southern India. Terms of Use California Do Not Sell My Info The senator had bristled at Hoover’s choice in 1918 to campaign for Democratic candidates and tried to stop then-President Warren G. Harding from appointing him to his cabinet, which he did anyway in 1921. He was a world-famous mining engineer and humanitarian administrator. By 1873 the Kaw Nation, once millions of acres in area, had dwindled to little more than a burial plot, and the few hundred surviving members were being forcibly relocated south to what would become Oklahoma. Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, where he enjoyed fishing in the local creek and working in his father’s blacksmith shop.Hoover lived in Iowa only for the first decade of his life. What was the public reaction to the nomination and election of a mixed-race/Native American person at this time? Patty Dannenberg hopes that whoever buys the Curtis home will preserve it. or “[The Curtis Act] enabled the dissolution of many tribal governments in Oklahoma on the path to Oklahoma becoming a state,” says Donald Grinde, a historian at the University at Buffalo who has Yamasse heritage. In a landslide victory in 1928, Republican Herbert Hoover was elected the 31st U.S. President. Dolly acted as Curtis’s hostess since his wife had died before he became vice president, and asserted that this gave her the right to be seated before the wives of congressmen and diplomats at formal dinners. "The Kaw people are the indigenous people of Kansas," said James Pepper Henry, CEO of the First Americans Museum, slated to open in September in Oklahoma City, and vice chairman of the Kaw Nation. ", Rocca asked, "How would you like Charles Curtis to be remembered? “At the turn of the century when he’s working there are very prominent Indian scholars and writers and professional Indian people who are all talking about these issues,” Rhodes says. And, she said, if Curtis hadn’t supported assimilation, he would never have gotten far in the era’s white-dominated politics. The adolescent Curtis wanted to move with his community, but, according to his Senate biography, his Kaw grandmother talked him into staying with his paternal grandparents and continuing his education. He became a successful lawyer, and was elected to the U.S. House of representatives. In 1928 Curtis, running with Herbert Hoover, was elected the 31st Vice President of the United States. He had an Indian jazz band play at the 1928 inauguration and decorated the vice presidential office with Native American artifacts. Meet Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw Nation and Herbert Hoover’s vice president from 1928 to 1932. Washington insiders joked that the vice president could only get into the White House if he bought a ticket for the tour. His mother died when he was just three, and he was left in the care of his Indian grandmother. That honor belongs to Charles Curtis, an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation who served as President Herbert Hoover’s veep for his entire first term from 1929 to 1933. Dannenberg said, "I don't think many people around really knew much about him or realized how remarkable he was.". He also previously served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1924 to 1929. The policies Curtis pursued in Congress and then as vice president, specifically those on Native issues, cloud his legacy today despite his groundbreaking achievements. Senator Charles Curtis (with arm in sling) in Pawnee, Okla., in 1928, shortly before his vice presidential election victory. Charles Curtis, the first Native American vice president. Remarkable indeed. "He lived with the Kaw people on the reservation," said Pauline Sharp, a member of the Kaw Nation. The house is now for sale. Curtis … ", Correspondent Mo Rocca asked, "Had he gone with her, would we be talking about him today? His detractors wove and promoted a myth labeling Hoover as heartless, inept and reactionary which unjustly prevails to … “They recognized that he was one-eighth Indian, but he had served the interests of white people for a long, long time,” Grinde says. People got sick. Those reports told of how Curtis is the only U.S. vice president with significant Native American ancestry, having held that office under President Herbert Hoover. But the United States has already elected its first minority vice president, Republican Charles Curtis, who had significant Native American ancestry. Elected in 1928, Charles Curtis became the first, and only, Native American Vice President of the United States. Contemporary accounts cite his personal charm and willingness to work hard served him well in politics. Despite his assimilationist politics, throughout his career Curtis honored his Kaw heritage. In 1932 the Hoover-Curtis ticket lost in a landslide defeat to New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Speaker of the House John Nance Garner. Privacy Statement And as for the Kaw Nation, they've rebounded in number, and in 2002 purchased acreage for a memorial park in Kansas – a return to their ancestral land. Copyright © 2021 CBS Interactive Inc.All rights reserved. After Curtis' death in 1936, his name quickly faded. Curtis was a member of the Kaw (also called Kanza) Nation. When he was chosen for the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket, Kaw communities in Oklahoma declared “Curtis Day,” and some of his Kaw relations attended the inauguration. In 1873, the federal government forced the Kaw south to Indian Territory, which would later become Oklahoma. Curtis was vice president … Curtis' slow fade from our collective memory is surprising considering his place in the American story. A member of the Republican Party, he held office during the onset of the Great Depression. To balance the ticket, Republicans turned to Curtis, from the farm state of Kansas. But she won’t be the first person of color in the office. Hoover’s reputation as a humanitarian—earned during and after World War I as he rescued millions of Europeans from starvation —faded from public consciousness when his administration proved unable to alleviate widespread joblessness, homelessness, and hunger in his own country during the early years of the Great Depression. Prejudice against Native Americans was widespread and intense at the time, but Curtis’s ascent to the office speaks to his skillful navigation of the political system. As Curtis approached his late 60s, already having achieved so much, he had one more rung to climb on the political ladder. Certainly mine did.". Despite the racist treatment of the Kaw by white Kansans—which included land theft and murder—many whites were obviously willing to vote for Curtis. Herbert Hoover's Career Before the Presidency. Hoover's cabinet choices were generally strong ones. His rise also tells a broader story of how prominent Native Americans viewed how their communities should assimilate within a predominately white society and government. In office, he was a loyal Republican and an advocate for women’s suffrage and child labor laws. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. In 1928, Charles Curtis -- a Native American lawmaker and member of the Kaw Nation -- was elected as President Herbert Hoover's vice president. 15 presidents previously served as vice president. He served under President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933 as the first Native American vice president. Curtis, for those unfamiliar, served as vice president from 1929 to 1933, under President Herbert Hoover. ", How did that feel? Instead, Curtis thrived. In the Senate, Curtis, a Republican, became a force, serving as Majority Leader. His personality wins people over—unfortunately, racists can like a person of color and still be a racist, and I think that’s kind of what happened with Charlie. Could Indoor Vertical Farms Feed Livestock? The standouts, like Secretary of State Henry Stimson, Secretary of the Interior Ray Wilbur, Secretary of the Navy Charles Adams, and Attorney General William Mitchell, more than compensated for lesser lights such as Secretary of War James Good, Secretary of Labor James Davis, Secretary of Commerce Robert Lamont, and Secretary of Agriculture Arthur Hyde. Livia Gershon is a freelance journalist based in New Hampshire. In 1927, when Republican President Calvin Coolidge announced that he would not run for another term, he saw his chance to run for President the following year. “He was just a very likeable person even early on when he was just a young boy in Topeka.”. While many were dead set against land division and other policies pushed by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, others believed that tribes must assimilate into white American society and adopt norms like individual land ownership. Son of a Quaker blacksmith, Herbert Clark Hoover brought to the Presidency an unparalleled reputation for public service as an engineer, administrator, and humanitarian. Give a Gift. Ninety-two years ago Charles Curtis was inaugurated as America's first (and only) Native American vice president. AMES, Iowa — In 1929 Herbert Hoover, former Commerce Secretary, and Iowa Native was inaugurated as President of the United States. asked Rocca. Grinde cites the schools as a factor in the population decline of Native Americans between 1870 and the 1930s. I think he tried his best and I think he regretted, in the end, being assimilationist.”. "I would say 99% of everyone in this country does not realize the state of Kansas takes its name from our people, the Kaw people.". For some white people with no cultural links to Native nations, it might be a point of pride to claim that their high cheekbones marked them as descendants of an “American Indian princess.”. "My mom loved the house; it's probably one of the prettiest houses in Topeka," said Patty Dannenberg. Her parents, Nova and Don Cottrell, purchased the local landmark in 1993. And, even if many Native American people were unhappy with the land allotment plans he had championed, many Kaw were proud of him. Curtis gained some fame as a talented horse rider, known on the circuit as “Indian Charlie.” But his grandparents on both sides encouraged him to pursue a professional career, and he became a lawyer and then a politician. Most of these had, however, been appointed to several prominent offices. Decades before she was born, a man with Native American heritage served as Herbert Hoover’s vice president from 1929-1933. Pauline Sharp said, "We danced on our land in Kansas for the first time in 142 years. By this time, there was already bad blood between Curtis and Hoover. After his defeat he chose to stay in Washington as a lawyer rather than go home to Topeka. He was just a popular kid.”. And it turns out his grandmother was right. Just two blocks away from the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, you'll find a stately brick home with two domes. Charles Curtis, the son of a white father and a mother with French and Native American heritage, is not well-remembered today, but he was once one of America's most influential politicians. Curtis was born in 1860 in what was then the Kansas Territory to a White father and an Indian mother. Asked to be vice president by Herbert Hoover, Curtis joined the ticket in 1928 and the pair won in a landslide. Elections and Campaigns. In 1928, Charles Curtis — a Native American lawmaker and member of the Kaw Nation — was elected as President Herbert Hoover's vice president. 31st United States President. And yet, Brooks says, Curtis did not lose his taste for politics. Editor: Steven Tyler. By David E. Hamilton. Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States (1929–1933), whose term was notably marked by the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginnings of the Great Depression. That honor belongs to Charles Curtis, an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation who served as President Herbert Hoover’s veep for his entire first term from 1929 to 1933. Henry said, "She wanted the best for him, and the best for him was to go live with his White family. Alice bristled over what she characterized as the questionable “propriety of designating any one not a wife to hold the rank of one.” And, aside from personal squabbles, the onset of the Great Depression made the White House a difficult place to be. 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