Seneca Chief, Army General

Lerner Publishing GroupSKU: 1575054310

Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
Grade Levels:
Three, Four, Five, Six
Iroquois, Seneca, Woodland
Book Type:
Lerner Publishing Group
Copyright Data:

Sale price$26.50


Seneca Chief, Army General: A Story about Ely Parker is a 64-page biography of a Seneca man who lived from 1828 - 1895. Born into a Tonawanda Seneca family, Ely Parker grew up in this Iroquois community in New York State. His parents, William and Elizabeth Parker, sent the boy to a Baptist Church mission school so that Ely could learn English. His mother followed the teachings of her great-grandfather Handsome Lake who had encouraged some members of the Iroquois youth to learn about the white man's ways including speaking English. Ely attended boarding school as well and when he had learned sufficient English he was chosen to act as the Seneca's interpreter. During the 1840s Ely and other Seneca leaders lobbied the US government for a fair settlement of their land issues. As more and more settlers appeared in the region, the Seneca's meager land holdings came under pressure. Ely was delegated to go to Washington and speak for the Seneca land issue. Unfortunately Ely was not always successful. Ely embraced city life and was befriended by Lewis Henry Morgan and others who encouraged Ely to become a lawyer. Unfortunately Ely's race was a factor since no Indian was allowed under US law to practice the legal profession. With this barrier Ely became interested in civil engineering and worked for a time on the Genesee Valley Canal. At age 23 Ely Parker was 'raised up' as a Seneca Chief with the title, Donehogawa (Open Door). In 1860 Parker met the army officer Ulysses S. Grant and the two became friends. Shortly after when the Civil War broke out Parker tried to enlist in the North's Union army but was refused. Again his status as an Indian prohibited him from enlisting. But this all changed when following his mother's death, Ely received the appointment as a captain under the command of Ulysses S. Grant. Later in the war, Ely was made part of Grant's personal staff and Ely had the distinction of writing the peace agreement that ended the Civil War. Following the war Ely was appointed the commissioner of Indian Affairs. During this period Ely married a non-Seneca woman, Minnie Orton Sackett. Ely again faced racial pressures when his integrity was attacked during his term as Indian commissioner. Although the allegations were unproven, Ely resigned the post and moved with his wife to Connecticut. Ely ended his career as a mere clerk in the New York City police department. He rarely returned home to Tonawanda but did give his daughter a Seneca name at her birth. Ely Parker died in August 1895 at age sixty-seven. His body was eventually buried in a Buffalo cemetery. As predicted in his mother's dream Ely Parker lived a life in two worlds. The biography is illustrated with pencil sketches and contains a list of references. It would have been interesting if the author had interviewed Seneca people from Tonawanda for their views on the life of Ely Parker and his contribution. From this book's perspective Parker lived a life that seems far from satisfying but one where he personally overcame many obstacles. This title is also available in a paper edition. Guided Reading Level: S

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