Representing Our People
Historically, our tribal leaders have traveled to Washington D.C. on behalf of our people. One such trip occurred in the late 1920’s with the blessings of both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.
On Thursday, March 1, 1928, Chief Yellow Calf and Robert Friday presented their case to the House of Representatives, Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. The two Arapaho councilmen were asking for allotments to be made on the reservation for the new generation of Arapaho and Shoshone who were landless and without means to support their growing families. They were also requesting a per capita to be paid out to individuals out of the money the federal agency held in trust for the tribe.
Both men were members of the Arapahoe Business Council and referred to themselves as “business councilmen” rather than “chiefs”. This was a strategic move so that the tribe would be seen as progressive.
Among themselves, the Arapaho council of six were referred to as niitoto-neecheeno (“six chiefs”) until 1936 and the New Deal changed the face of tribal politics permanently.
With representatives ranging as far away as New York to Texas to Oklahoma, the 21-person committee met in Washington D.C. to hear the two men make their case. The following is the first section of the excerpt from the Hearing minutes of 1928, 88 years ago.
The committee proceeded to the consideration of the bills (H.R. 11364 and H.R. 11365) to authorize allotments to unallotted Indians on the Shoshone or Wind River Reservation, Wyo., and to authorize a per capita payment to the Shoshone and Arapahoe Indians of Wyoming from funds held in trust for them by the United States.
Statement of Hon. Charles E. Winter, a Representative from Wyoming
Mr. Chairman, as to the bill, H. R. 11365, this is a recent bill that was introduced in the interest of the two tribes, which have two representatives here, Chief Yellow Calf of the Arapahoes and Mr. Robert Friday, who is interpreter for Superintendent Haas of the Arapahoe Reservation. This bill, and the other one which will be called up next, were prepared in the department. I understand Mr. Meritt has been called before the Senate committee so as far as I am concerned the further hearing on the matter can be deferred if we can have a statement at this time by the chief through Robert Friday, the interpreter.
The committee will be glad to have the chief make whatever statement he wishes with regard to the bills H. R. 11365 and also H. R. 11264. We will now take up for consideration the bill H. R. 11356, to authorize allotments to unallotted Indians on the Shoshone or Wind River Reservation, Wyo.
Statement of Chief Yellow-Calf
(Through Interpreter Robert Friday)
Chief Yellow Calf. I was authorized by the Northern Arapahos and Shoshones to come to Washington, D.C., to have a conference on tribal matters, which I did, with the Commissioners of Indian Affairs. One of the things which I asked the Commissioner of Indian Affairs was with regards to what my people wanted at home and he said that must be done by legislation; that is, the allotting, making allotments to the Indians. In the years of 1911 or 1912 was the last allotment made to the Indians and there was land left over unallotted, and ever since that time when children were born to their parents made their selections, and we were told that later on the Indian Office would approve of those selections, that they would give us patent papers for trust patents.
Mr. Friends, look at me. I am poor and I have come by this means to ask to have allotments made to our children, and I hope you people will pass these bills for me.
Born in 1860, Yellow Calf was a highly regarded religious leader and well-known for his oratorical ability. He brought back the Crow Dance and other customs during the early twentieth century and was a Dogmen in 1904.
Between 1908 and 1920, the Arapaho Council was led by Lone Bear, from Lower Arapaho, and Yellow Calf of Ethete. Both men were exceptionally articulate in Arapaho and understood enough English not to have to completely depend on interpreters.
After Lone Bear’s death, Yellow Calf became the head councilman for the Arapaho and was respected by the Shoshone tribe who asked him to represent them in this case.