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Curtis, for those unfamiliar, served as vice president from 1929 to 1933, under President Herbert Hoover. Decades before she was born, a man with Native American heritage served as Herbert Hoover’s vice president from 1929-1933. AMES, Iowa — In 1929 Herbert Hoover, former Commerce Secretary, and Iowa Native was inaugurated as President of the United States. 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. Vote Now! He became a successful lawyer, and was elected to the U.S. House of representatives. Took them 17 days. At the time, however, Curtis’ positions were far from unique among Native Americans. Washington insiders joked that the vice president could only get into the White House if he bought a ticket for the tour. 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. And it turns out his grandmother was right. After his defeat he chose to stay in Washington as a lawyer rather than go home to Topeka. Beginning in the 1970s, however, Hoover's reputation began to recover. 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. Senator Charles Curtis (with arm in sling) in Pawnee, Okla., in 1928, shortly before his vice presidential election victory. Patty Dannenberg hopes that whoever buys the Curtis home will preserve it. Rocca asked, "Do you think having to go between worlds sort of trained him for politics in a sense? "I think that being a mixed blooded person, in some ways being an ambassador between two worlds, did prepare him for American politics.". Copyright © 2021 CBS Interactive Inc.All rights reserved. Hoover's contributions toward the Treaty of Versailles preceded his appointment as United States Secretary of Commerce. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. “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. The best-known event of his term involved a dispute over social protocol between Curtis’ sister, Dolly, and Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice. 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. Hoover White House Pets Bellhaven Behoover (Glen), a Collie. 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. 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But for Native Americans, the legacy of the man known as "Indian Charley" is decidedly mixed. ", Rocca asked, "How would you like Charles Curtis to be remembered? It needed a lot of work," Dannenberg said. 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. The house is now for sale. And I want people to remember him, I think, in a good way.". Cookie Policy "Well, knowing my Native grandmother, I know his Native grandmother had a strong influence on him. 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. Curtis was vice president … Charles Curtis, Herbert Hoover's VP from 1929-1932, was the first person of color to be Vice President of the US. Elected in 1928, Charles Curtis became the first, and only, Native American Vice President of the United States. Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was the 31st president of the United States from 1929 to 1933. In 1928 Curtis, running with Herbert Hoover, was elected the 31st Vice President of the United States. Give a Gift. Curtis was a member of the Kaw (also called Kanza) Nation. 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. Continue During World War I, he headed the American Relief Committee which helped Americans stranded in Europe.He then was the head of the Commission for the Relief of Belgium and the American Relief Administration which sent out tons of food and supplies to Europe. He favored the Dawes Act of 1887, passed a few years before he entered Congress, which allowed the federal government to divide tribal lands into individual plots, which eventually led to the selling of their land to the public. 31st United States President. ", "That's a hard one," said Sharp. Remarkable indeed. ", "I think that's true," Henry replied. Just two blocks away from the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, you'll find a stately brick home with two domes. Henry said, "She wanted the best for him, and the best for him was to go live with his White family. But with the onset of the Great Depression, the ticket's bid for reelection went down in flames. When he was young, Curtis’ mother died, and his father fought in the Civil War for the United States. Livia Gershon is a freelance journalist based in New Hampshire. An advocate for women's rights, Curtis proposed the very first version of the Equal Rights Amendment. Instead, Curtis thrived. “Lots of Indian women chose not to have children.”. In 1928, Charles Curtis -- a Native American lawmaker and member of the Kaw Nation -- was elected as President Herbert Hoover's vice president. And, she said, if Curtis hadn’t supported assimilation, he would never have gotten far in the era’s white-dominated politics. And yet, Brooks says, Curtis did not lose his taste for politics. Most of these had, however, been appointed to several prominent offices. Meet Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw Nation and Herbert Hoover’s vice president from 1928 to 1932. Terms of Use Thirteen-year-old Charles expected to join the migration, but his Indian grandmother commanded the boy to stay in Topeka with his White grandmother and assimilate. or “He’s light-complected, he’s not dark-skinned like a lot of Kanza. To balance the ticket, Republicans turned to Curtis, from the farm state of Kansas. "As the first Native American to make it that high in the United States government, that's a source of pride for us. Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the our 24/7 digital news network. “You tell mothers, ‘OK, you’re going to give birth to a child, but at 5 they’re going to be taken from you,’” Grinede says. “They recognized that he was one-eighth Indian, but he had served the interests of white people for a long, long time,” Grinde says. 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. “No man or boy ever received better advice, it was the turning point in my life.”. Herbert Hoover won the nomination for president in 1928, despite objections from farmers. He was just a popular kid.”. Serving from 1974 to 1977, Gerald Ford was the 38th president of the … People got sick. 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. Curtis also supported Native American boarding schools, in which children were taken from their families and denied access to their own languages and cultures. "I think a lot of history would be lost," she replied. In a landslide victory in 1928, Republican Herbert Hoover was elected the 31st U.S. President. As Curtis approached his late 60s, already having achieved so much, he had one more rung to climb on the political ladder. As a United States Commerce Secretary in the 1920s under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted economic modernization. Curtis rose within the Republican Party that dominated Kansas and became a congressman, then senator, and eventually Senate majority leader. Unfortunately for him, that scenario didn’t pan out; Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover won on the first ballot. Charles Curtis (January 25, 1860 – February 8, 1936) was an American attorney and Republican politician from Kansas who served as the 31st vice president of the United States from 1929 to 1933, becoming the first Native American and the first person of color to hold the office of vice president. Curtis, Kansas’ beloved veteran senator, offered the perfect choice to balance out the Commerce Secretary. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone. "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. Hoover worked from 1896-1914 as a Mining Engineer. After Curtis' death in 1936, his name quickly faded. “What do you do when you’re in a situation like Curtis?” Rhodes says. Charles Curtis, the first Native American vice president. “And of course, that [opened up] tribal land in Oklahoma to white settlers, sooners.”. “He’s proud of his heritage and yet he wants to be in a position where he can do something to support Native issues. Smithsonian Institution. Privacy Statement As for his former home in Topeka, Don and Nova Cottrell died last year, months apart. The policies Curtis pursued in Congress and then as vice president, specifically those on Native issues, cloud his legacy today despite his groundbreaking achievements. Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874–October 20, 1964), mining engineer, humanitarian, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and 31st President of the United States, was the son of Jesse Hoover, a blacksmith, and Hulda Minthorn Hoover, a seamstress and recorded minister in the Society of Friends (Quakers). Pauline Sharp said, "We danced on our land in Kansas for the first time in 142 years. Hoover's cabinet choices were generally strong ones. After being raised among the Kaw Tribe in … Curtis was born in 1860 to a white father from a wealthy Topeka family and a mother who was one quarter Kaw (a tribe also known as Kanza or Kansa). Mark Brooks, site administrator for the Kansas Historical Society’s Kaw Mission site, says Curtis was known for his personal charisma. 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. Dannenberg said, "I don't think many people around really knew much about him or realized how remarkable he was.". Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. "I think he believed he was doing the right thing," said Henry. 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. A member of the Republican Party, he held office during the onset of the Great Depression. Grinde cites the schools as a factor in the population decline of Native Americans between 1870 and the 1930s. "It felt wonderful to be back home! Asked to be vice president by Herbert Hoover, Curtis joined the ticket in 1928 and the pair won in a landslide. Keep up-to-date on: © 2021 Smithsonian Magazine. “I took her splendid advice and the next morning as the wagons pulled out for the south, bound for Indian Territory, I mounted my pony and with my belongings in a flour sack, returned to Topeka and school,” Curtis later recalled, in a flourish of self-mythologizing. Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was an American politician, businessman, and engineer, who served as the 31st president of the United States from 1929 to 1933. He had the misfortune to inherit an economy and a faulty banking system which collapsed before it could be reformed. I think he tried his best and I think he regretted, in the end, being assimilationist.”. Many of the assimilationist policies he backed had ultimately devastating effects on the lives of Indians, leading to the dissolution of tribal governments and the break-up of communal lands. Although the couple was retired, they spent the next 25 years painstakingly restoring the home's parquet flooring, gleaming chandeliers and stained glass, eventually opening it to the public as a museum, dedicated to the man who once lived there: Charles Curtis. 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. Next week, when she takes the oath of office, Senator Kamala Harris will make history as the first woman, first African American, and first person of South Asian heritage to become vice president of the United States. She said Curtis, like other Native American assimilationists, was concerned with issues like the education and health of Native American people, who were already suffering immensely in a pre-Dawes Act United States. 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. Henry said, "Women have always had leadership roles within our tribe, and been really the backbone and strength of our tribe.". 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. “That had become who he was,” Brooks says. Contemporary accounts cite his personal charm and willingness to work hard served him well in politics. But what about his race? Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw Nation who grew up in Kansas, became Herbert Hoover's vice president in the 1928 presidential election, the first and only Native American to … By David E. Hamilton. 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. By this time, there was already bad blood between Curtis and Hoover. Elections and Campaigns. "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.". "My mom loved the house; it's probably one of the prettiest houses in Topeka," said Patty Dannenberg. He also previously served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1924 to 1929. Rocca asked, "What would be lost if the house weren't there?". In fact, he may not have even survived.". 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. For many years, both scholars and the American public held Hoover in extremely low esteem, blaming him for the Great Depression and criticizing his efforts to solve the crisis. He served under President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933 as the first Native American vice president. Historian Jeanne Eder Rhodes, a retired professor at the University of Alaska and enrolled member of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, says land division under the Dawes and Curtis Acts ultimately “destroyed everything” for many Native American tribes. 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. “[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 1901, Hoover and his wife made their home in London and raised two sons, Herbert and Allan, taking them sometimes on mining exploration trips around the world. 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. 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.”. On these ocean voyages, Hoover turned his attention to reading, giving himself some of the liberal arts education he had missed in the narrow curriculum of Stanford. “He was just a very likeable person even early on when he was just a young boy in Topeka.”. And, even if many Native American people were unhappy with the land allotment plans he had championed, many Kaw were proud of him. Charles Curtis, Herbert Hoover's vice president, was of half Native American and half white ancestry, making him the first person of color to serve as VP. Abuse was rampant. Given to Lou Hoover by Florence B. Ilch, owner of Bellhaven Collie Kennels of Red Bank, N. J., in November 1928 at the age of eight months. "It hadn't been well cared for. His detractors wove and promoted a myth labeling Hoover as heartless, inept and reactionary which unjustly prevails to … When he died of a heart attack in 1936, he was still living in the capital. “Some of them are opposed to the idea, some of them are opposed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, some of them are working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”. He was given little to do in the office, though he did preside over the opening of the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. ", How did that feel? "Had he been alive today, I think he would have understood that some of the things that he believed in at that time did have a significant negative impact on Native peoples.". 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. … Gerald Ford. Apparently, Glen did not get along with other dogs at the White House and was given to Mrs. Cora Newton, the wife of Herbert Hoover's secretary, Walter Newton. 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. Herbert Hoover: Impact and Legacy. But she won’t be the first person of color in the office. In 1928 Curtis, running with Herbert Hoover, was elected the 31st Vice President of the United States. Seven years later, the Republican Party saw putting the two together on their ticket as the solution to a serious problem: Hoover was tremendously unpopular with farmers. Story produced by Mary Lou Teel. © 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. Certainly mine did.". Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, on April 23, 2020. California Do Not Sell My Info "He lived with the Kaw people on the reservation," said Pauline Sharp, a member of the Kaw Nation. Curtis grew up speaking Kanza and French before he learned English. Postmaster General Walter F. Brown proved valuable to Hoover as the President's chief co… Curtis … Despite his assimilationist politics, throughout his career Curtis honored his Kaw heritage. ", Correspondent Mo Rocca asked, "Had he gone with her, would we be talking about him today? There was typhoid, even starvation.". Kansas politician and newspaper editor William Allen White described him carrying books with the names of Republicans in each Kansas township, mumbling the names “like a pious worshiper out of a prayer book” so that he could greet each of them by name and ask about their family. Her parents, Nova and Don Cottrell, purchased the local landmark in 1993. He had an Indian jazz band play at the 1928 inauguration and decorated the vice presidential office with Native American artifacts. 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 remained suspicious of his former rival and, despite Curtis’ enormous expertise in the workings of Congress, kept him away from policy. ", "We wouldn't know who Charles Curtis was had he gone with his Native grandmother to Oklahoma. 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. Soon after he became president, the Great Depression started. Herbert Hoover’s vice president, Charles Curtis, was American Indian Charles Curtis, from the Library of Congress. In the Senate, Curtis, a Republican, became a force, serving as Majority Leader. Ninety-two years ago Charles Curtis was inaugurated as America's first (and only) Native American vice president. In 1873, the federal government forced the Kaw south to Indian Territory, which would later become Oklahoma. In 1933 Hoover welcomed Franklin D. Roosevelt, who defeated him, as the country was in the middle of the Great Depression. "He learned how to ride horses, he could speak the language.". After all he had achieved to reach the vice presidency, Curtis’ time in office was anticlimactic. Editor: Steven Tyler. In office, he was a loyal Republican and an advocate for women’s suffrage and child labor laws. Throughout his time in Congress, Curtis also consistently pushed for policies that many Native Americans today say were a disaster for their nations. In 1928, Charles Curtis — a Native American lawmaker and member of the Kaw Nation — was elected as President Herbert Hoover's vice president. 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. Herbert Hoover's Career Before the Presidency. asked Rocca. “Hoover is a … His plan was to run a behind-the-scenes campaign, seeking support from delegates who he hoped would see him as a compromise candidate if they couldn’t come together behind one of the frontrunners. His mother died when he was just three, and he was left in the care of his Indian grandmother. He was a world-famous mining engineer and humanitarian administrator. Sharp said, "They walked to their new home in Indian territory. Could Indoor Vertical Farms Feed Livestock? His Vice-President, Charles Curtis, was the first Native American to hold that office, being a … He refused a salary, as he did throughout his entire life, never taking payment for public service. And in 1898, as a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, he drafted what became known as the Curtis Act, extending the Dawes Act’s provisions to the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” of Oklahoma. 15 presidents previously served as vice president. Growing up, he spent time living with both his sets of grandparents and for eight years, he lived on the Kaw reservation. She has written for JSTOR Daily, the Daily Beast, the Boston Globe, HuffPost, and Vice, among others. “He had a knack for conversation,” Brooks says. Advertising Notice ... Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Donald Trump. 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