Carlos Montezuma and the Emergence of American Indian Activism
Summary and Keywords
Carlos Montezuma was one of the most influential Indians of his day and a prominent leader among the Red Progressives of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born to Yavapai parents in central Arizona, he was kidnapped by O’odham (Pima) raiders at a young age, and sold soon after into the Indian slave trade that for centuries had engulfed the US-Mexico borderlands. Educated primarily at public schools in Illinois, Montezuma eventually went on to be the first Native American graduate of the University of Illinois (1884) and one of the first Native American doctors (Chicago Medical College, 1889). Montezuma was a lifelong friend of Richard Henry Pratt, the founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and he firmly believed in the importance of Indian education. He insisted that educated Indians like himself must serve as examples of what Indians were capable of achieving if given the opportunities. He became deeply involved in the pan-Indian reform movements of the day and was one of the founding members of the Society of American Indians. Montezuma had a rocky relationship with the group, however, because many in the organization found his calls for the immediate abolition of the Indian Bureau and an end to the reservation system difficult to accept. From 1916 to 1922, he published his own journal, Wassaja, in which he relentlessly assailed the Indian Bureau, the reservations, and anyone who stood in the way of Indian “progress.” But Montezuma’s most important work was as an advocate for his own people, the Yavapais of Fort McDowell, Arizona, and other Arizona Indian groups. He spent the final decade of his life working to protect their water, land, and culture, and eventually returned to his Arizona homelands to die, in 1923. Although he was largely forgotten by historians and scholars in the decades after his death, Carlos Montezuma is now correctly remembered as one of the most important figures in Native American history during the Progressive Era.
Wassaja’s Childhood and Capture
Wassaja (in English, “beckoning” or “signaling”) was born in Arizona Territory in 1865 or 1866.1 His mother was Thil-ge-dah (Stone Bead), and his father Co-lu-ye-vah (Broad Back). Wassaja also had two sisters, one older and one younger, Ho-lac-cah (Sore Nose) and Co-wow-sa-puch-a (Hair Hanging Down Her Back), and a younger brother.2 He was born into the Yavapai people, Yuman speakers whose ancestral territory covered some 20,000 square miles, or more than one-sixth of Arizona.3 Yavapais are divided into four subgroups: Kwevkepayas, Wipukepas, Yavapés, and Tolkepayas.4 Wassaja came from the Kwevkepayas, who had mastered the rugged, mountainous, desert terrain of the Mazatzal Mountains and beyond. Part of the Sonoran Desert, this harsh environment belies a rich resource zone in which mobile Kwevkepayas planted corn, beans, and squash along the riverbeds and gathered prickly pear, saguaro, agave, yucca, acorns, piñon nuts, and other plants to use for food and clothing. They also hunted mountain sheep, antelope, deer, squirrels, rabbits, rats, and other game. Fish was one of the few available foods Yavapais did not traditionally eat.5 Wassaja was born at a time of significant change for his people. Spain and Mexico, although they had periodically ventured into Yavapai territory, had not established permanent settlements there. Arizona, which became a United States possession as part of New Mexico Territory after the US-Mexico War, became its own territory in 1863. A steady stream of outsiders invaded the Yavapai homelands beginning in the second half of the 1860s, when Wassaja was a born.
In 1863, Anglo-Americans discovered gold in Yavapai territory and prospectors began flooding into Arizona. At first, they came primarily to Yavapé (Northern Yavapai) lands. The town of Prescott quickly sprang up and soon became the second territorial capital. Within a few short years, invaders were within the lands of Wassaja’s Kwevkepayas as well. The US Army built a string of military installations at Fort Whipple (1863, which also served as the first territorial capital from 1863–64), Camp Verde (1865), Camp Reno (1867), Camp McDowell (1865), Camp Grant (1866), Camp Date Creek (1867), and elsewhere. The entry of increasing numbers of Anglo-Americans and US Army soldiers exacerbated the traditional enmities between Yavapais and their O’odham neighbors.6 Pimas and Maricopas, who lived along the Salt and Gila Rivers, faced the same dilemma as Yavapais over what to do about these intruders. Shrinking territory meant fewer resources for Arizona’s tribal nations, and they fought each other, as well as the Anglo-American miners, settlers, and soldiers.7 Some O’odham peoples opted to align themselves militarily with the United States, and Yavapais would feel the combined Pima-US military might bear down on them.
Recalling the days of his childhood over fifty years later, Wassaja deftly described his people’s predicament: “We did not live in security.” He would never forget the fear he felt as a young child as his family’s group moved from one location to another in search of safety. In October of 1871, when he was five or six years old, Pima raiders attacked Wassaja’s camp at Iron Mountain, some fifty miles east of Phoenix. Many of the men in his camp were away that day on a peace mission to the US Army, and in their absence, Wassaja and his two sisters were captured. Wassaja had attempted to escape, outpacing his two sisters, one of whom carried the younger on her back, but was captured after he tripped while running away. He recalled being led back to the burning camp and seeing dead bodies for the first time, all the while crying for his mother.8 He never saw his parents again.9 The years around 1871 were the Yavapai time of terror and a defining moment of Wassaja’s childhood. He recollected, “What a change! The freedom of childhood—mother, father, sisters and brothers all gone, and I friendless and treated as a slave.” He was, he later recalled, “heartbroken and hopeless.”10
Wassaja’s kidnapping by Pima raiders was not particularly unique. Spaniards, Mexicans, Anglo-Americans, and Indigenous peoples had been involved in the Indian slave trade for centuries, and Wassaja’s capture was part of that larger trade.11 There were a number of possible outcomes for an Indian captive. Anna Moore Shaw, a Gila River Pima elder who spent time with Montezuma prior to his death, recalled, “Actually, [Wassaja’s group] need not have feared for their lives, for it was Pima custom to adopt women and children captives. They were never tortured but treated with all possible kindness.” Such adoptions bolstered the numbers and productive capacity of the community. But she also recognized the desperate situation in which Arizona Indians found themselves in the 1870s, stating, “However, these were days of great poverty for the Indians. Despite his good intentions, sometimes a Pima captor was unable to provide his prisoner with food and other necessities of life. When this happened he had but one logical alternative: sell the captive and use the money to provide for his own family.”12 George Webb, a Pima elder from Gila Crossing, similarly recalled, “Among the Pimas, it was always a dishonor to kill a woman or child . . . . But, no Pima warrior was allowed to take any Apache [or Yavapai] woman or child home unless he was capable of giving them a decent home. So most of the time after a battle they would leave them.”13 Wassaja remembered being terrified of these “horrible people” but that they “treated me very kindly, fed me on pumpkins, corn, and horse meat, and I must not forget to mention that they provided me with a pair of pants.”14 They gave him the Pima name Hejel-wi’ikam (Left Alone) and took him to Adamsville, near Florence. Perhaps unable to care for the boy, they sold him to an Italian immigrant by the name of Carlo Gentile for the sum of thirty silver dollars.15
Wassaja Becomes Carlos Montezuma
Carlo Gentile came from a rich Neapolitan family, was well educated, and had traveled the world prior to his time in Arizona. Gentile, whom Montezuma remembered as a kind, caring man, had the boy christened Carlos Montezuma by Father André Echallier at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary church in Florence, on November 17, 1871.16 Gentile named the boy after himself, but for some reason added the final s in Spanish fashion. The surname Montezuma could have come from any of a number of Arizona landmarks bearing the name, or in honor of the Aztec emperor. Carlos Montezuma later stated that before they left Florence, he saw his sisters “two or three times, but only for a little while each time. After that I never saw them again.”17 Gentile, who worked as an itinerant photographer, took his new charge to the Grand Canyon in 1871, where the boy was pleasantly surprised to meet Hualapais, fellow Yumans whose language he could speak and understand: “I joined in many of their games, took part in their dances, and sung their war songs.”18 In November 1871 they left Arizona for good and traveled east, visiting the Zuni, Laguna, and Acoma Indian Pueblos, and Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Pueblo, Colorado, and other cities as they made their way east. Gentile’s records of 1872 are somewhat scant—the pair traveled constantly—but after a brief stint in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by late in the year they were living in Chicago, the city where Montezuma would spend the majority of his life.19
When Gentile and Carlos Montezuma finally arrived in Chicago, the boy’s future was far from secure. While Gentile was a gifted photographer, he lived a life of constant motion. The pair had traveled through such cities as Denver, Detroit, and New York. Gentile and Montezuma even briefly appeared in theatrical performances with Buffalo Bill Cody, when Montezuma played a character fittingly named “Azteka.” Gentile eventually enrolled Montezuma at Tilden School in Chicago, but the photographer’s lifestyle took him away from Chicago at various points, and Montezuma was placed in the care of Gentile’s friends and associates. Gentile apparently had big plans for Montezuma. He considered sending him to school in Italy to study music, for which the boy had shown aptitude after attending church and singing songs there. Gentile recognized that Montezuma needed a stable home environment that he simply could not provide, especially with his seemingly endless economic highs and lows. Furthermore, Montezuma was chronically ill, and the moves were not conducive to either his health or education. Gentile eventually placed Montezuma in the care of George W. Ingalls, director of the Indian Department of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. After this, Montezuma’s life would have some of the stability it had lacked for several years.20
The Education of Carlos Montezuma
George Ingalls personally supervised the placement of eleven-year-old Montezuma in 1878. Ingalls wanted him to become a Christian and a physician. He envisioned Montezuma returning to his people as a Christian doctor, ministering to their physical and spiritual health. He also wanted the boy to learn a trade, such as carpentry or farming, which he could teach to his people.21 After years of “traveling from pace to place,” Montezuma recalled, he “fell into the hands of Rev. W. H. Steadman [sic], a Baptist preacher from Detroit, then a pastor at Urbana.”22 Rev. William H. Stedman and his wife had five children and a lived on a farm. Montezuma related, “I made the sixth [child]. But somehow he managed with me.”23 He grew quite close to his adoptive parents and their children, and during a winter revival meeting, he “gave myself to the Lord, and joined myself to the Baptist Church.”24 The Stedmans instilled principles of hard work and dedication in Montezuma, who remembered, “I had to work hard, as well as study. I dug in the fields and worked in the garden, and did chores, and in summer I worked on a farm.” He described Stedman as “a very good man of God,” and a “devoted hunter.” In their free time, Stedman took him hunting, which “helped pass the time pleasantly.”25
The reverend saw to the boy’s education, which Montezuma described as “up to that time . . . rather hit-or-miss.” He remembered being “set to work and fitted . . . for the preparatory school for the University.”26 He graduated from Urbana High School in 1879, and in 1880, at the age of only fourteen, Montezuma enrolled at the Illinois Industrial University (today the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). Montezuma was a serious student who worked hard and earned average to good grades and participated in some clubs and activities. He graduated from the pharmaceutical program with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry on June 11, 1884, and had been elected president of the class of ’84.27 He was the first Native American and the first person of color to graduate from the University of Illinois.28 His experience at the university was difficult, but it had taught him to believe in himself and his abilities:
I don’t know how it happened that I got through the University. My grades may have been pretty poor. But it is on record that somehow I did graduate and did get the degree of bachelor of science. I specialized in chemistry. As I had been thrown on my own resources, I realized I had to climb a mountain of discipline if I was to be a man among men in a white man’s world. That made some of the things I did seem easier. I had already decided I wanted to study medicine.29
Montezuma was intelligent but not the sort of student who could be successful based on intelligence alone. He had to be focused and dedicated. Although he believed in himself and his abilities, he recognized that he had to work harder than most in order to succeed in a “white man’s world.” Interestingly, Montezuma asserted, “During my four years in college, I was neither treated as a curiosity neither patronized by the whites, with whom I associated on terms of perfect equality.”30 These were central tenets of Montezuma’s philosophy, developed at an early age: Indians must work hard, interact with whites on an equal footing, and expect no special treatment.
After his graduation from the University of Illinois, Montezuma entered the Chicago Medical College (which later became the Northwestern University School of Medicine). He struggled in medical school. Even though the school did not charge him tuition, he was forced to work at a pharmacy to cover his expenses, and he also returned to the Stedman farm to work from time to time. Montezuma attended medical school during a period when medicine was modernizing and professionalizing. Some of his classmates went on to medical distinction, among them Charles Horace Mayo of Mayo Clinic fame.31 Because of his having to work continually during his studies, it took Montezuma five years to complete the program, as opposed to the customary three. The school also initially refused to let him graduate. He believed that this was due to prejudice of white administrators who did not believe that an Indian could be a good physician. Montezuma also began corresponding with Richard Henry Pratt, in 1887. Pratt encouraged Montezuma to stay the course, which he did, graduating in 1889.32 It was the beginning of a relationship that would last the rest of Montezuma’s life. He later commented that even at this early point, Pratt, who was a “very great and good man[,] had had his eye on me.”33 Pratt’s vision of the necessity of civilizing and educating the Indian, bringing Indians to an equal footing with white Americans, corresponded with Montezuma’s views on the subject.
Montezuma’s experiences up to that point had shaped his views on the future of the Indian. As a devout Christian, he firmly believed that Indians could and must “pass from a low and insignificant plane of existence to a higher and more potent sphere of life.”34 To reach this higher sphere, Indians had do the work themselves; no agency, bureau, or organization could do it for them. Montezuma declared, “The Indian must become their own emancipators. There is none to carry the burden for them.”35 This included assimilation, which Montezuma supported. The Indian of today, Montezuma wrote, with his long hair, traditions, superstition, and “racial distinctiveness, and his aspect of contrast with the civilized man, will not be seen in the Indian of tomorrow.” The Indian of tomorrow would be “world-wise.” Such a world-wise Indian, Montezuma believed, would serve as an example to other Indians and would not be “an unfortunate savage, clothed in the accoutrements of his former benighted condition.” Montezuma was proud to serve as an example of such an Indian, and in so doing, he hoped that the Indian of tomorrow would finally assume his place as a “full man.”36
Working for the Indian Bureau
After graduation, Montezuma tried his hand at private practice in Chicago. One can imagine the difficulty he had securing patients as a Native American doctor with relatively few contacts. He corresponded with Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Thomas Jefferson Morgan, in August 1889 about a job in the Indian Service. Morgan was amenable, though Montezuma had written to him that he “did not like the idea of being an office seeker.” Still, he would “most cordially accept any position [Morgan] might offer.” Pratt supported Montezuma in this effort, and had lobbied Morgan in his behalf.37 Montezuma was offered and accepted a position as clerk and physician at the Indian School at Fort Stevenson, Dakota Territory, for an annual salary of $1,000. Fort Stevenson, located seventy-five miles from Bismarck, was quite isolated and mainly served Arikara, Gros Ventre, and Mandan children from the Fort Berthold Reservation. Montezuma embarked on his work in the Indian Service in the fall of 1889, genuinely enthused about what he considered important work. But enthusiasm would only carry him so far. To begin with, these children, though Indians, were not like Montezuma, who had never attended an Indian boarding school. He had no real connection to his Native community, was a Christian, and staunchly supported assimilation. The experiences of the Arikara, Gros Ventre, and Mandan students bore little resemblance to Montezuma’s disciplined, Christian, urban upbringing.38
The idealistic Montezuma urged his students to embrace the new ways of education and civilization. But he soured on his job within a single school year. He primarily clashed with the school superintendent, George E. Gerowe, who leveled numerous charges against Montezuma, claiming that he was incompetent and disrespectful, that the students disliked him, and that he lacked personal hygiene. Montezuma leveled accusations of his own against Gerowe’s handling of the school. Montezuma had arrived to a filthy school, with perpetually soiled bedding, no changes of clothing for the students, deplorable washrooms, and virtually none of the supplies he needed to carry out his duties as clerk and physician. Gerowe asked that Montezuma be removed, and Montezuma wrote to Commissioner Morgan, “I was emphatically told by Supt. Gerowe in a fit of anger yesterday that ‘I must leave this school at the end of this quarter or he will.’” Montezuma was deeply insulted and told Morgan, “I have been wronged, like many of the Indian instructors which have left this institution.”39 The reasons for Montezuma’s problems are fairly obvious. The school was not the type of well run institution Pratt had envisioned when he initiated the federal boarding school system. Furthermore, Montezuma’s lack of substantive experience with Indians for nearly twenty years, coupled with the gulf between his expectations and the reality on the ground, marked the beginning of Montezuma’s disillusionment with the Indian Bureau. He would eventually make eradicating of the bureau and promoting “freedom” for Indians his life’s mission.40
Carlos Montezuma’s time as an Indian Service doctor was the unhappiest period of his professional career. In the summer of 1890, he left his first miserable post at Fort Stevenson for a position at the Western Shoshone Agency in Nevada. His annual salary was again $1,000, and he quickly became disillusioned with this assignment as well. Although Montezuma kept himself busy and did genuine good at Western Shoshone, he found his medical supplies, office, and transportation inadequate for the amount of work he needed to accomplish. For example, in one of his years there, he treated 260 patients, delivered eight babies, and reported seven deaths. He tried to make house calls on the reservation but found his work stymied by traditional medicine men, whom he decried as “diabolical” and a “curse.” He was also frustrated by the inability to treat children away from their homes, which he felt were too filthy for proper medical care.41 Montezuma stayed at Western Shoshone for two-and-a-half years, after which he accepted a position at the Colville Agency in Washington, beginning January 1893.42 His annual $1,200 salary was higher, and Pratt wrote to Montezuma urging him to make this third posting work: “Be a man and be a physician. Make people respect you, make them want you.”43 Montezuma found the usual lack of supplies and inadequate facilities and began complaining almost immediately. He even said that he would have stayed at Western Shoshone if had he known how bad things were at Colville.44 He would not last through the year at Colville.
Montezuma requested a leave of absence in the summer of 1893. He attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and weighed his options. His time in the West represented his first prolonged contact since childhood with other Indians, reservations, and the Indian Bureau. The previous four years had been harrowing for Montezuma. Despite his negative experiences, he decided to give the Indian Service one last chance and took a position at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. He would be close to his mentor, Pratt, and he was attracted by the possibility of being closer to “civilization” in the East.45 Carlisle Indian Industrial School, founded in 1879, was the premier educational institution for Indians. It reflected Pratt’s commitment to racial equality through the education and uplift of Indian students.46 While the curriculum was based around a strict military school model, Pratt’s institution also featured the “Outing Program,” which placed Indian pupils in white homes during the summer months, where they worked as domestic workers, farm hands, and manual laborers. This exposure to white culture furthered the work of detribalization for Indian children and provided a cheap labor source for nearby homes and businesses.47
Working at Carlisle strengthened the relationship between Montezuma and Pratt. Pratt’s views both coincided with and influenced Montezuma’s.48 Pratt believed that the best way to civilize Indians was to place them in the middle of white society and keep them there. He argued for the abolition of the Indian Bureau and the reservation system. By keeping Indians on reservations, the bureau robbed them of the possibility of interacting with enlightening influences and made them dependents. Pratt believed that without these impediments the Indian could take his rightful place in society. Montezuma espoused nearly identical views.49 Montezuma seemed relatively happy at Carlisle. He did not resort to complaining as he had at his other Indian Bureau postings. He worked with the famed Carlisle football team as a physician, and even traveled with the team on road games. He recognized the team’s power as an example of Indian success to convince people of the benefits of Indian education.50 He stayed at Carlisle from July 1892 to December 1895. Pratt sent Montezuma to reservations during the summers to recruit students for the school. The young physician lectured to the Carlisle pupils about the merits of education and the importance of hygiene.51 Montezuma’s views on the Indian Bureau, reservations, and the future of Indians in the United States had crystalized, and he was ready to re-enter private practice as a doctor, serve as an example of what an educated Indian could accomplish, and become the activist he wanted to be. He would do all this free from Indian Bureau influence.
Private Practice and National Indian Reform
When Montezuma returned to private practice in Chicago, in late 1895, he found the going extremely slow at first. He had been away from the city for a number of years, and his already small list of contacts had dwindled. In a stroke of good fortune, he ran into a former classmate from medical school, Dr. Fenton B. Turck, on the street. Turck ran a clinic that specialized in gastrointestinal issues and also taught at the medical school. He desperately needed an assistant and gave Montezuma the job. He worked with Turck for nearly twenty years, becoming a gastrointestinal specialist. Montezuma later wrote, “We carried our studies further in our particular field, I suppose, than anyone else had done up to that time.” When Turck moved on to New York, Montezuma carried on the practice alone.52 For the rest of his life, save for periods of months in Arizona, Montezuma lived and practiced medicine in Chicago. He attended the First Baptist Church of Chicago and became a Freemason. He also took in boarders and travelers at his home, many of them Indians, some of whom were relatives. His medical practice mirrored his time as a student. He was a competent if not spectacular doctor. He often had trouble collecting the fees owed him by patients, and he frequently had to write to them, virtually begging them to pay their bills.53 This may be because he was an Indian doctor in a white man’s world and his patients did not show him respect. But he also treated many lower- and working-class patients, and it is possible that they genuinely could not afford to pay for services rendered.
This period also marked a significant turning point in Montezuma’s life, a time when he reconnected with his Yavapai identity as Wassaja. As early as 1888, when Montezuma was still a medical student, he had written to various individuals in Arizona and the West, trying to get more information about his parents, siblings, and the circumstances of his abduction. Sadly, Montezuma never saw his parents or siblings again.54 He did, however, reconnect with cousins and other Yavapais at Fort McDowell, who welcomed Wassaja back into their lives after decades of absence. He became particularly close to his first cousins Mike Burns and the Dickens brothers, Charles, George, and Richard. In 1894, Mike Burns informed Montezuma that they were first cousins, telling him, “We were boys and played together. My Indian name is Hoo-mo-thigh-a . . . You was taken by the Pima Indians and about one year afterward I was captured by U.S. soldiers . . . Well sir I would liked if you could answer me and hope that you will know me as your play mate—as your jee-kave-vi—or cousin.”55 These relatives and fellow tribal members frequently sent him such items as beadwork or traditional foods and requested money, advice, or help.56 He was accepted as a much-loved relative, even though he lived a great distance from them. He had never left their hearts, and he would also become physically present in their lives.
In January 1900, the Carlisle football team traveled west to play against the University of California at Berkeley. Although Montezuma was no longer a Carlisle employee, Pratt paid his expenses to go on the trip in exchange for visiting Indian schools in the West. Montezuma was not encouraged by what he observed at the schools. It was his first time returning to the Southwest since his childhood, and he made stops in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Phoenix. In the autumn of following year, he took a trip to reconnect with his family and homeland. Guided by the Dickens brothers, Montezuma visited Fort McDowell, Iron Mountain, and Florence.57 He was now in his mid-thirties, an educated middle-class Indian who had been away from home for three decades. Powerful emotions washed over him as he remembered his days as Wassaja. The experience was transformative, and he returned to Arizona virtually every summer for the rest of his life. It was in many ways a happy homecoming as he strengthened kinship ties and laid the groundwork for his future advocacy for Yavapais and other Arizona Indian groups.
Montezuma also emerged as a national figure in the Indian reform movement. He had spoken frequently at venues large and small, which ranged from small civic clubs to the important Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian, finding a particularly interested audience among various women’s reform organizations. By 1910, he had cemented his reputation as a national Indian leader and outspoken critic of Indian policy.58 In addition, Montezuma had courted the Yankton Dakota Sioux educator, musician, and reformer, Zitkála-Šá (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) for a time, and the two were even engaged. The engagement ended bitterly in the fall of 1901.59 He courted a few other women, but did not marry for a number of years. He continued to dedicate himself to his life as a reformer and physician.
A veritable mountain of material on Montezuma’s view of the “Indian problem” exists, as he frequently expressed his opinions in speeches, letters, interviews, and conversations. He believed that both the reservation system and the Indian Bureau should be immediately abolished. His reasoning was that the Indian Bureau was a place where bureau employees cared only about their jobs. For them, the bureau was their place of employment, and it was continually subject to political changes in Washington. Indian Service officials only cared about keeping friends in office and keeping Indians in subjugation to secure their “bread and butter.” Furthermore, the reservation system kept Indians segregated from potential uplift in white society. This led Indians to depend on the federal government and charity instead of supporting themselves as they should.60 Montezuma’s view was influenced by his Baptist upbringing, which called for hard work and self-sufficiency. Said Montezuma, in 1921, near the end of his life:
The guiding policy [in Indian affairs] seemed to be that the Indian must be cared for like a little child. The feeling was general that if he were allowed to look out for himself, he would be cheated out of his property and would starve. I have never seen an Indian starve. . . . No, it is the same with Indians as with all other people. There is only one way to achieve: do things for yourself. This rule is not abridged for the Indian because his skin happens to be brown or red. It is perhaps easy to let someone else take care of you. I could have done it. Thousands of my people have been forced to do it. And what has it done for them? Go to the reservations. You will find them there, gamblers, idlers, vicious, committing crimes worse than I could tell you. Why? Because the Indian is taken care of. He does not have to do things for himself. The law of nature is subserved. The principles by which worthwhile achievement is realized are set aside. . . . My people can [overcome]. Any man, black, red, yellow, brown—or white—can do it against obstacles, if he will. But he must do it himself; it cannot be done for him.61
Montezuma considered himself an example to the white world of what an Indian could achieve. But again, this could only be accomplished through hard work, without the paternalism of the Indian Bureau and segregation of the reservation system, and with the Protestant work ethic.
In 1911, prominent Native leaders such as Charles Eastman, Laura Cornelius (Oneida), and Henry Standing Bear (Oglala Lakota), and non-Native allies in Columbus, Ohio, organized a society for and by American Indians to fight for their interests.62 The resultant organization was the Society of American Indians (SAI). These Indian reformers, commonly referred to as the “Red Progressives,” were an extraordinarily complex group of individuals, each with his or her own agenda and views but collectively committed to battling bad Indian policy and solving the “Indian problem.” A large number of them had been educated in Indian boarding schools or in white schools, had attended college, were Christians, and supported the allotment of Indian land. Some seem to have wholeheartedly favored the assimilationist agenda of the United States. They saw citizenship and its associated rights as the final goal for Indians in mainstream society. Montezuma belonged to this camp, combining the call for an end to the reservation system and Indian Bureau with a call for immediate US citizenship for Indians.63
The Society of American Indians was for a time the premier organization for American Indian reformers. It had stated in the inaugural issue of its journal, Quarterly Journal of the Society of American Indians (later, American Indian Magazine), that its goals were “to promote and cooperate with all efforts looking to the advancement of the Indian in enlightenment which lead him free as a man to develop according to the natural laws of social evolution” and “to promote citizenship and obtain the rights thereof,” among others.64 The reformers often differed in their methods and ideals, but their overarching theme was an end to wardship for Indians and, in the words of scholar Tsianina Lomawaima, to support an “individual Indian’s right to full, valued contribution to the nation’s social, economic, and political life.”65
Although Montezuma did some of his most memorable work during his time with the SAI, “Monte,” as they called him, fiercely clashed with other prominent members. He felt that the organization did not go far enough in its actions. For example, in a famous speech, “Let My People Go,” delivered at the 1915 annual meeting, he called for the immediate end to the Indian Bureau and attacked the SAI for its timidity.66 He argued that once the bureau was abolished, Indians would be freed from crushing bureauism and awakened to a new sense of pride in their race. He stated, “To free the Indian is to free the Indian. There is nothing complicated about that. It is so simple that we cannot believe it.” He believed that the SAI’s “highest duty and greatest object” was to introduce a bill in Congress to abolish the bureau and “let the Indian go.” His call, in Mosaic fashion, was to “let my people go.”67
The SAI struggled with Montezuma’s position for a variety of reasons. For one thing, he never articulated a clear plan for Indians after the bureau, and many of his contemporaries genuinely worried about what would become of Indians without the bureau, even if they disliked it. Many of the SAI leaders were themselves Indian Bureau employees whose livelihoods would be destroyed by such a move.68 SAI leaders expressed their frustrations with Monte, both in public and in private, over and over again. Seneca ethnologist Arthur C. Parker, for example, wrote to Pratt, in 1913, “Dr. Montezuma is making a fight against the Indian Bureau but I am afraid that he is not doing it wisely or in a manner that will secure the cooperation of the better forces.” Parker aimed to work for the same goal, but in a manner “less calculated to stir up adverse criticism.”69 Montezuma’s frustrations reached a boiling point in 1916, when he began to publish his own newspaper, Wassaja. It ran from 1916 until November 1922, and was the vehicle for Montezuma’s criticisms of the SAI, Indian Bureau, and failed Indian policy in general.
Wassaja marked the fully mature Carlos Montezuma.70 The masthead of each issue contained the phrase “Freedom’s Signal for the Indians,”71 and his intentions could not have been clearer. He firmly believed that he could lead Indians to freedom. The first issue declared that the paper’s “sole purpose is Freedom for the Indians through the abolisment [sic] of the Indian Bureau.”72 He wrote in fiery language against the Indian Bureau and unrelentingly criticized bureau employees, commissioners, and even other Indian reformers by name. His used his sharp wit and biting humor to critique many aspects of Indian policy. He also published letters he had received, including from individuals in Indian country. He printed his own poetry, which was both serious and tongue-in-cheek. His critical humor was apparent in a piece titled “Indian Legend of 1918.” In his story, an Indian died and went to heaven. As he strolled in the “Happy Hunting Grounds,” the heavenly host pleaded with Saint Peter to throw the Indian out. After a “great uproar,” the Indian said, “Go, find Indian Agent to put me out.” They searched all over heaven for a United States Indian Agent, but could not find one. Peter concluded, “That being the case . . . surely this is Indian heaven; let him stay.” The Indian stayed, and was eternally happy because there was no Indian Agent “to put him out.”73
Montezuma used Wassaja to continue to call Indians to the modern era, urging them to look forward, not to the past. He was confident that Indians would assume their rightful place in American society as full citizens as long as the Indian Bureau was out of the picture. Writing in 1916, he pleaded with the federal government to “accept the fact that the Indian is a man, a citizen of the United States . . . Let him assume the place to which he is entitled as a member of the national household.”74 Montezuma frequently employed the language of his profession, viewing the Indian Bureau and bureauism as a profound illness, the cure for which was the immediate abolition of the Indian Bureau.75 Writing in Wassaja in 1921, he bemoaned the factionalism that had gripped the SAI, though he was personally to blame for part of it; but he still believed that their work could help Indian country. The battle that raged between those who stood by the Indian Bureau and those who supported abolishing it was the “refining press. It has wrought a mucleus [sic] of strong, loyal and self-sacrificing Indian workers. Out of the calamities of the Society of American Indians there still stands untarnished, immoved [sic], that greatest of principles, that greatest of life—freedom and citizenship for the Indian people.”76 While it often sounded the same note, Wassaja demonstrated the tenacity and strength of character of its editor. Nothing and no one would stand in his way as he sought to help Indians by destroying the bureau and the reservation system, and bringing about their immediate US citizenship.
At the same time, Montezuma’s rhetoric in Wassaja and in his many letters and speeches was complex, reflecting the evolution of his thought. By the time of his rise to prominence as a reformer, Montezuma had spent a significant amount of time in Arizona with his own people and other Indians. He firmly believed in the importance of education and that the Indian needed to take his place in modern society. But this did not necessarily mean that Indians would simply blend into an amalgamated hole. Montezuma was eager for Indians to show that they could succeed as well as any other group if given the chance and that Indians were deserving of access to social standing, cultural relevance, and political freedom.77 He envisioned a pan-Indian national identity in which Indians could be proud of their accomplishments and being Indian need not be a liability. Montezuma was thus able to square his views on Indian progress with a concerted fight for Indians to remain on their own lands and even continue some cultural practices, a struggle that characterized the final years of his life.
Montezuma’s Final Years and Work for Arizona Indians
The years from 1910 until Montezuma’s death in 1923 were among his most frenetic. Besides his work with the SAI and Wassaja, Montezuma, in 1913, married Marie Keller, a quiet woman of Romanian descent. Although Marie did not share his fiery, outspoken character, the marriage was a happy one, and she would remain by his side until his death. He had run afoul of the federal government during World War I by publicly and emphatically questioning the justness of American Indians fighting for a country that denied them citizenship and treated them so poorly. As American soldiers, Indians among them, fought and died in Europe, and there were “no better patriots” than Indians, Montezuma exclaimed, “Oh, God, help America to see the right at home as well as abroad; to see might has enslaved the Indians; to see the Indians are not citizens, and to see the Indians are not free!”78 Montezuma’s language during World War I was that of an Indigenous nationalist intellectual. The Indian was “the first American citizen,” and Indian citizens could truly represent “their country.”79 Montezuma also applied for, and was ultimately denied, membership with the San Carlos Apaches.80 But he accomplished his most important work when he turned to Indian affairs in Arizona and dedicated the last several years of his life to causes specific to his own Yavapai people, as well as to other Arizona tribal nations. Montezuma began this fight in 1912 and only relented at his own untimely passing in early 1923. A major part of his struggle was to challenge the advisability of the government plan to move Yavapais from Fort McDowell to the nearby Salt River Pima-Maricopa Reservation. The Verde River, along which Fort McDowell is situated, often flooded. It was also expensive to irrigate Yavapai land there. Montezuma called for a new dam to be built on the Verde and for improvements to the irrigation works, but the Indian Bureau argued that the cost of making such improvements was prohibitively expensive and that there was ample land available at the Salt River Reservation. Yavapais would be moved there and forced to accept allotments in exchange for their land at Fort McDowell. Montezuma fought a several-year and ultimately successful battle against three separate commissioners of Indian affairs (Robert G. Valentine, Cato Sells, and Charles H. Burke) to prevent this from happening. He also showed a more nuanced view of the reservation issue, since he was defending his people’s right to stay on a portion of their ancestral lands, the Fort McDowell Reservation.81 Montezuma, who had expressed such disdain for the reservation system, realized the importance of his people’s ancestral lands. If their reservation were to be abolished, where would they be moved? Certainly not to the lands of a neighboring people. Montezuma thus recognized the importance of homelands as he himself increasingly lived and worked within his own.
As Gila River Pima scholar David Martínez has pointed out, O’odham communities in Arizona also remember Montezuma for his advocacy on their behalf. Montezuma spoke at meetings in Sacaton in an attempt to galvanize opposition to the bureau and its proposed policies that would adversely affect both Yavapais and O’odhams. Martínez offered fitting tribute:
For Pima and Yavapai alike . . . Montezuma’s lasting legacy is not just seen in his storied opposition to the Indian Bureau, but in something more essential to their existence as tribes. . . . [B]oth tribes were distressed at the idea of Yavapais being forcibly removed to the Pima reservation, due in part to the fact that many still remembered their rivalry as living history, preserved in their respective oral traditions. Consequently, when Montezuma prevented the Indian Bureau from carrying out the injustice of removing the Yavapais to Salt River, not only were the two rival tribes spared the awkward situation of sharing a reservation, but more importantly they were allowed to keep a vital part of their worlds in balance—their connection to their homelands. While both tribes went on to face other challenges to their sovereignty and well-being, they could now do so from a place of power, where they could look around them, see the mountains named in their Creation Stories, and remember who they are.82
Montezuma may have failed in his quest to eliminate the Indian Bureau, but his success in battling threats to the very existence of these Indigenous nations in his native Arizona has not been forgotten.
One episode in particular sums up how Montezuma became Wassaja once again while serving his people. Yavapai elder John Williams related how Carlos Montezuma, Mike Burns, the Dickens brothers, and himself returned to Skeleton Cave, the site of a disastrous 1872 Yavapai massacre by US troops, to retrieve the bones of their murdered kin. Williams recalled decades later: “In 192383 we went with Carl (Carlos) Montezuma . . . to get the bones from [Skeleton Cave]. In that cave, on the wall, it looked like oil sprayed on. Down on the floor it looked like oil. There is that ‘oil’ all over. It is the blood. When the bullets hit the bodies, the blood got scattered all around. Looks awful.” They found the bones of many individuals, both adults and children, and were overcome with grief: “When we bring the bones, Montezuma is standing there crying. And we all start crying right there. We see that blood on the wall. It is too bad for us. It is here that all our people died. For nothing.”84 Montezuma and his relatives returned the remains to Fort McDowell where they are buried in the community’s cemetery. The gravity of what he had experienced as a boy and the violence that had torn him from his people surely must have come crashing down on Wassaja. But he was home, and he would die with his people.
In late 1922, Montezuma knew that his health was failing. He was suffering from diabetes and tuberculosis. He attended his final SAI meeting in Kansas City in October and announced his illness in Wassaja: “No time in the history of Wassaja had he to slow down upon his work. For many years he thought he was made of cast iron physically, but for a year, he found out that he was a mere flesh, bone and blood.”85 He published his final issue in November, in which he called on the SAI to continue in the cause of Indian citizenship and freedom:
Members of the Society of American Indians, if the world be against us, let us not be dismayed, let us not be discouraged, let us look up and go ahead, and fight on for freedom and citizenship of our people. If it means death, let us die on the pathway that leads to the emancipation of our race; keeping in our hearts that our children will pass over our graves to victory.86
Montezuma boarded his final train to Arizona in December, leaving his wife to join him later. He arrived in Phoenix, staying with O’odham friends, and finally made his way to Fort McDowell.87 His relatives constructed an Oo-vah, or traditional Yavapai dwelling, where he planned to complete his life’s circle. John Williams remembered: “My grandmother said, my people, they go some other place when something is wrong. But when they are going to die, they come back [home to die]. Carl Montezuma the same way. He is in Chicago. He is a rich man, he is a doctor, a lawyer, everything. But he came back and he died right there where my corral is now.” They realized that he could have spent the final months of his life in the care of competent doctors, but he chose to die among his people. Williams did not speak English well at the time, but his grandmother urged him to go see the dying Wassaja: “My grandmother had said, ‘This is my first cousin. You go over there and see him.’ They come out from two sisters, they are maya. That’s why she wants me to come down here and see him.”88 His relatives understood, as did Wassaja, that to Yavapais, family is everything. He had frequent visitors during his final weeks. Marie made it to Arizona before he passed away at three o’clock in the afternoon on January 31, 1923. In the traditional Yavapai way, the dwelling and its contents were burned.89 He died surrounded by his people in his ancestral home. He was buried in the Fort McDowell cemetery, where the gravestone reads: “Wassaja Carlos Montezuma MD 1869–1923 Mohave Apache Indian.”
Discussion of the Literature
Although Wassaja remained important in the collective memory of his people at Fort McDowell and in the larger Arizona Indian community, relatively little was written about him until the second half of the 20th century. The first significant Montezuma biography was Oren Arnold’s Savage Son (1951),90 which told a highly dramatized version of the life of Carlos Montezuma. Arnold’s work is a novel that focuses primarily on Wassaja’s childhood and capture, almost in the vein of the old dime-store novels. Anthropologist Edward H. Spicer included a short discussion of Montezuma in his landmark work Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533–1960 (1962).91
Interest in the Progressive Era pan-Indian movements increased in the second half of the 20th century. Hazel Hertzberg published her important work The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements in 1971.92 Montezuma appears frequently in her book, in which eight of thirteen chapters cover the SAI. It was one of the first works to examine the Society of American Indians in detail. Hertzberg does well to point to Montezuma’s prominent position in steering Indian reform during this important time, as well as his combative nature.
Peter Iverson was the next to take up Carlos Montezuma as a biographical subject with his seminal work, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World of American Indians (1982).93 Iverson was the first to research Montezuma’s personal papers in detail, and his biography remains the most important work on the man and his life’s work. Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World of American Indians should be the first volume consulted in any study of the Native physician and reformer.
Carlos Montezuma also appears in the work of scholars of Progressive Era Indian reformers. The special combined issue of Studies in American Indian Literatures/American Indian Quarterly published in the summer of 2013, for example, was dedicated entirely to the legacy of the Society of American Indians. Leon Speroff, a medical doctor interested in Montezuma, published Carlos Montezuma, M.D.: A Yavapai American Hero: The Life and Times of an American Indian, 1866–1923,94 which covers many details of Carlos Montezuma’s life in painstaking detail and gives ample historical context to the various episodes of his life and times. The historiography since the 1970s has viewed Montezuma in increasingly complex terms as a man full of contradictions, yet committed to the survival of his people.
Maurice Crandall’s 2014 article, “Wassaja Comes Home: A Yavapai Perspective on Carlos Montezuma’s Search for Identity,”95 traces Montezuma’s decades-long efforts, and those of his family members, to recreate fractured kinship ties over time and great distance. Crandall, who is a Yavapai-Apache citizen, approaches his work on Wassaja from a Yavapai worldview. During his lifetime, Carlos Montezuma also gave several valuable autobiographical accounts of his experiences. One such is Neil M. Clark’s “Dr. Montezuma, Apache: Warrior in Two Worlds” (1973),96 which draws upon a lengthy interview with Montezuma conducted by Clark in 1921.
Carlos Montezuma was a prolific writer, and many of his letters and personal papers are available in various collections for research. These include The Papers of Carlos Montezuma, 1892–1937 (ten microfilm reels), and Supplement to the Papers of Carlos Montezuma, M.D. (9 microfilm reels), both edited by John W. Larner Jr.; Carlos Montezuma Collection, 1887–1980 (manuscript) in the Arizona Collection in the Hayden Library at Arizona State University in Tempe; and Carlos Montezuma Papers, 1888–1936 (manuscript), Edward E. Ayer Manuscript Collection of the Newberry Library in Chicago.
A number of collections contain Montezuma’s letters written to other individuals. Carlos Montezuma wrote frequently to Richard Henry Pratt, and these can be found in the Richard Henry Pratt Papers, 1862–1972, Yale Collection of Western Americana, and Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Another noteworthy collection is The Papers of the Society of American Indians, 1906–1946 (10 microfilm reels), also edited by John W. Larner Jr. (1987), which contain much correspondence and other materials related to the SAI and its members, such as Carlos Montezuma.
Many of Montezuma’s letters to superiors while he worked in the Indian Service can be found in the National Archives and Records Services, Record Group 75, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Letters Received, 1881–1907.
Unfortunately, notably absent in the primary materials related to Carlos Montezuma are his letters to his kin and fellow tribal members. Regardless, Wassaja lives on in the Yavapai collective memory, and will forever.
Links to Digital Materials
Film Carlos Montezuma: Changing Is Not Vanishing. University of Illinois Board of Trustees, 2014.
Braatz, Timothy. Surviving Conquest: A History of the Yavapai Peoples. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.Find this resource:
Harrison, Mike, and John Williams. Oral History of the Yavapai. Edited by Sigrid Khera and Carolina C. Butler. Gilbert, AZ: Acacia, 2012.Find this resource:
Herman, Daniel J. Rim Country Exodus: A Story of Conquest, Renewal, and Race in the Making. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Hertzberg, Hazel W. The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1971.Find this resource:
Holm, Tom. The Great Confusion in Indian Affairs: Native Americans and Whites in the Progressive Era. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.Find this resource:
Hoxie, Frederick E., ed. Talking Back to Civilization: Indian Voices in the Progressive Era. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001.Find this resource:
Iverson, Peter. Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World of American Indians. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.Find this resource:
Maddox, Lucy. Citizen Indians: Native American Intellectuals, Race, and Reform. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.Find this resource:
Speroff, Leon. Carlos Montezuma, M.D.: A Yavapai American Hero: The Life and Times of an American Indian, 1866–1923. 2d ed. Portland, OR: Arnica, 2005.Find this resource:
Vigil, Kiara M. Indigenous Intellectuals: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and the American Imagination, 1880–1930. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:
(1.) The exact day and year of his birth are unknown, though his baptismal certificate gave an invented date of March 27, 1866. See Leon Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, M.D.: A Yavapai American Hero: The Life and Times of an American Indian, 1866–1923, 2d ed. (Portland, OR: Arnica, 2005), 31.
(2.) Speroff, 1.
(3.) Other Yuman-speakers include Havasupais, Walapais, Cocopahs, and Kumeyaays of Arizona, California, northern Sonora, and Baja California, respectively. Mike Harrison and John Williams, Oral History of the Yavapai, ed. Sigrid Khera and Carolina C. Butler (Gilbert, AZ: Acacia, 2012), 35. Scholars contend that Yavapais migrated east from the Colorado River region, though they are not in agreement as to when that migration took place. Yavapai oral history states that the early people emerged from the underworld at Ahagaskiaywa (Montezuma Well). After their emergence, the world flooded and only a single woman was saved after she had been placed in a log, which came to rest at Boynton Canyon near Sedona, Arizona. She became the ancestor of all Yavapais.
(4.) Some variation in spelling and pronunciation exists for the names of the four Yavapai groups. This spelling comes from Timothy Braatz, Surviving Conquest: A History of the Yavapai Peoples (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), xv. Kwevkepayas (Southern People) are the people of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, located thirty-five miles northeast of Phoenix. Wipukepas (People at the Base of the Mountain) are the people of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, who inhabit the region around Sedona, Camp Verde, and Clarkdale in central Arizona. Yavapés (First Born People) are the people of the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe, located in the central Arizona city of Prescott. Tolkepayas (Those That Are in the Middle) lived in various areas, such as Chino Valley and Skull Creek, and to the west of Prescott. See Karen Ray, Luther Sweet, and Jacquelyn McCalvin, Speak Yavapai Right Now: Conversational Words and Phrases in the Yavapai Language; A Shortcut to Speaking Yavapai Words in English (Denver, CO: Outskirts Press, 2009), 1, 3. This book was produced by Yavapai speakers from Fort McDowell to be used in Yavapai language courses.
(5.) Maurice Crandall, “Wassaja Comes Home: A Yavapai Perspective on Carlos Montezuma’s Search for Identity,” Journal of Arizona History 55.1 (2014): 3.
(6.) The Yavapai word for O’odhams is jo’go ha’na (first or primary enemy).
(7.) Peter Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World of the American Indians (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001), 4–5.
(8.) Neil M. Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache: Warrior in Two Worlds,” Montana: The Magazine of Western History (Spring 1973): 55–59. Clark worked in Chicago for the American Magazine, where he interviewed Carlos Montezuma in 1921. Before the piece could be published, Montezuma had died, and it was never printed. He finally published it in Montana, over fifty years after taking down a first-person account of the doctor’s life story. Montezuma also recalled a number of details from his capture in a short piece he wrote and had published as an adult. See “The Indian of Yesterday: The Early Life of Dr. Carlos Montezuma,” in Carlos Montezuma, The Indian of Tomorrow: The Indian of Yesterday (Chicago, IL: National Women’s Christian Temperance Union, n.d.), 11. This account includes other invaluable details about his childhood. For example, he recalled that in addition to his mother, his father had another wife. This caused considerable jealousy and fighting between his parents. Montezuma wrote that his father was physically abusive to his mother. As a last resort and to protect his mother, young Wassaja threatened his father with a bow and arrow, which resulted in his father leaving his second wife, “and once more happiness prevailed at home.” Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 10. Although the book in which both essays are found has no publication date, “The Indian of Tomorrow” comes from an address he delivered in 1888.
(9.) Co-lu-ye-vah died in an epidemic at San Carlos, where Yavapais were imprisoned, and in a heartbreaking fashion, his mother was shot dead by Indian scouts when, after receiving word that her son was still alive, she attempted to leave the reservation without permission. See Crandall, “Wassaja Comes Home,” 16; and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 26.
(10.) Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 11.
(11.) See Victoria Smith, Captive Arizona, 1851–1900 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009) for a discussion of several Yavapai captives during this time, including Wassaja, Hoomothya or Mike Burns, and Bessie Brooks.
(12.) Anna Moore Shaw, A Pima Past (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974), 239.
(13.) George Webb, A Pima Remembers (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1959), 30.
(14.) Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 12.
(15.) George Webb, Pima Remembers, 31; and Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 5.
(16.) Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 27, 29–30. This chapel, which still stands today, was the first Roman Catholic Church in Central Arizona, having only been completed in 1870, one year before Montezuma’s baptism. See “History of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church,” n.d., official parish website.
(17.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache,” 60. A photo of the three siblings and their sad expressions tells the tale of lives turned upside-down.
(18.) Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 15.
(19.) Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 31–32, 87. Gentile apparently had a sense of humor. Montezuma recalled an episode that occurred while they were traveling on a stagecoach in the West. Seeing a large man in the front of the stagecoach, the boy asked Gentile how he had gotten so big. Gentile told the boy that the man had grown to that size by eating little boys. Montezuma was terrified, and Gentile played on his fears by having the large man pretend that he was going to eat the child. Before Gentile could stop the joke, Montezuma screamed “a real Indian yell.” See “Indian of Yesterday,” 15. On a more tragic note, it is important to remember what happened to the Yavapais who remained in Arizona. The first half of the 1870s was among their darkest times. On December 21, 1871, General George Crook ordered all “roving Apache” (Yavapais) to come into the reservation by February 15, 1872. If they did not turn themselves over to US Army control and reservation confinement, they would be considered hostiles. See Harrison and Williams, Oral History of the Yavapai, 85. In the years that followed, General Crook waged a war of extermination on the Yavapai peoples. In addition to Pima raids, US Army soldiers, often joined by Pima auxiliaries, relentlessly pursued and attacked Yavapai bands. In an episode that still remains fresh in the Yavapai collective memory, shortly before Christmas 1872, the army forced another young Yavapai captive to lead 250 soldiers from the US Fifth Cavalry, one hundred Pima and Maricopa auxiliaries, and a handful of Dilzhe’e (Western) Apache scouts to a secluded mountain hideout in the Salt River Canyon. The Yavapai captive, who had been taken a few days previously, was Hoomothya (Wet Nose), or Mike Burns, Wassaja’s first cousin. The young boy had been out with his uncle looking for a lost horse when the American soldiers overtook them. Abandoned by his uncle, the terrified youngster was intimidated by Apache scouts into revealing the location of his camp. The soldiers literally dragged Hoomothya to the cave stronghold, and they forced him to watch as the soldiers rained a steady stream of bullets onto the Yavapais within. Some of the American soldiers also climbed around the cave and pushed boulders down from the cliff above. The bullets and boulders left scores of Yavapais dead or dying. The Pima scouts rushed in after the firing had ended and, as Mike Burns remembered later in life, “The Pima and Maricopa scouts . . . killed any Indians who were still alive. They pounded their heads in right in front of the [white] soldiers.” See Mike Burns, The Only One Living to Tell: The Autobiography of a Yavapai Indian, ed. Gregory McNamee (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012), 4. The army suffered only one death that day—a Pima scout—while the official report put the number of Yavapai dead at seventy-six. Braatz, Surviving Conquest, 138. Yavapai oral history tells of a much greater slaughter, perhaps over two hundred men, women, and children killed. Burns summarized this time of extreme violence and terror in this manner: “In all history no civilized race had murdered as the American soldiers did my people in the year 1872. They slaughtered men, women, and children without mercy, as if they were not human. I am the only one living to tell what happened to my people,” Burns, Only One Living to Tell, 4, 6. The two cousins—Wassaja and Hoomothya—both lost the majority of their immediate families within a few violent years.
(20.) Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 33–34, 87–90; Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 6–7. One of the individuals with whom Montezuma stayed during these years was a certain Mrs. Baldwin. He wrote that she “cared for me with a mother’s watchful care.” He considered his time with her as a turning point in his life, even his “salvation.” The two kept up a correspondence for many years. Montezuma also recalled that when he had heard church music for the first time, the songs “seemed to charm me.” See Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 16.
(21.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 6–7; and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 90.
(22.) Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 17.
(23.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache,” 61.
(24.) Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 17.
(25.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache,” 61.
(26.) Clark, 61.
(27.) Iverson, 8; and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 93, 96. In 1893, the year before Montezuma graduated from college, Carlo Gentile died of Bright’s disease (a condition causing chronic inflammation of the kidneys). Although he had been to see his first adoptive father before his death, he did not attend the funeral. See Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 99.
(29.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache,” 62.
(30.) Montezuma, “Indian of Yesterday,” 17.
(31.) Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 109, 117, 122.
(32.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 9, 11. Montezuma was the second Native American to become a physician, after Susan La Flesche Picotte (Omaha) beat him to that distinction by mere weeks.
(33.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache,” 62.
(34.) Montezuma, “Indian of Tomorrow,” 3.
(35.) Montezuma, 6.
(36.) Montezuma, 7.
(37.) Carlos Montezuma to Commissioner Morgan, August 11, 1889. Supplement to the Papers of Carlos Montezuma, M.D. ed. John W. Larner Jr. (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001), reel 1, frame 36–37 (hereafter cited as SPCM); Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 12. Montezuma apparently sought other jobs as well, as evidenced by a letter, of April 24, 1889, from Mrs. D. E. Finks, the secretary of the Woman’s Executive Committee of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church. He was told that they had received his inquiry about a job but did not have anything for him at that time. She wrote that “if we can find a suitable there is good prospect that you will receive an appointment.” Finks to Montezuma, SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 30.
(38.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 16–17.
(39.) Montezuma to Morgan, May 14, 1890, SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 47; Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 17–18; and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 131–132.
(40.) See Janet McDonnell, “Carlos Montezuma’s Crusade against the Indian Bureau,” Journal of Arizona History 22.4 (1981): 429–444; David Martínez, “Carlos Montezuma’s Fight against ‘Bureauism’: An Unexpected Pima Hero,” in “The Society of American Indians and Its Legacies: A Special Combined Issue of SAIL and AIQ,” special joint issue, Studies in American Indian Literatures 25.2 and American Indian Quarterly 37.3 (Summer 2013): 311–330.
(41.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 19–20; and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 136.
(42.) Morgan offered a choice of five postings: Warm Springs, Oregon ($900 per year); Umatilla, Oregon ($1,000 per year); Pawnee, Oklahoma ($1,000 per year); Nespilem, Colville, Washington ($1,200 per year); and Blackfeet, Montana ($1,200 per year). Morgan to Montezuma, November 19, 1892, SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 137.
(43.) Pratt to Montezuma, January 11, 1893, SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 163.
(44.) Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 139.
(45.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 430.
(46.) As Frederick Hoxie states, “Though Pratt’s rigid program of cultural transformation would trouble modern multicultural sensibilities, his commitment to racial equality was unbending.” Frederick E. Hoxie, This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made (New York: Penguin Press, 2012), 226.
(47.) Montezuma had advocated for a similar system at Western Shoshone whereby returning students would be placed in jobs among whites or at Indian agencies. See Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 20–21.
(48.) Hazel W. Hertzberg characterized Montezuma’s time at Carlisle as “decisive.” So much so that he “took [Pratt’s ideology] over as his own. He admired Pratt deeply, perhaps because he and Pratt were somewhat alike—intolerant men of simple, unchanging, but strongly held views.” See Hazel W. Hertzberg, The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1971), 44. Pratt’s influence on Montezuma is without question, but Montezuma developed his views from his own experiences and outside influences, among whom was Pratt.
(49.) McDonnell, “Carlos Montezuma’s Crusade.” 430. Montezuma would eventually come to criticize Indian boarding schools—how could schools removed from civilization and tainted with the inefficiency of the bureau properly educate and uplift Indian children? He asked, “Where are the Indian children? They are in Indian schools, supervised by the Indian Office. There is no just reason why the Indian children should not have access to the public schools.” Wassaja: Freedom’s Signal for the Indian, vol. 1, no. 5, August 1916, in The Papers of Carlos Montezuma, M.D., ed. John W. Larner Jr. (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1983), rl. 5 (hereafter cited as PCM). See also Kiara M. Vigil, Indigenous Intellectuals: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and the American Imaginations, 1880–1930 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 114.
(50.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 25–27.
(51.) Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 140–142.
(52.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache,” 63–64. Montezuma also came up with a special salve for his patients, which he never patented or formally promoted, a mixture of vaseline and menthol. The salve, which others later patented and marketed as Vicks VapoRub, could potentially have made Montezuma quite rich. See Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 179, 181–182.
(53.) For example, in a letter dated October 19, 1901, a certain Mr. Gay wrote to Montezuma regarding a bill for $51.00 owed to the doctor. Gay could not pay, and wrote: “You shall never hear from me as long as you bill $51.00 now if you will be a man and cur that then I will try and remit . . . I could not ever think of paying $51.00 but I don’t want to cheat you so cut your bill & forward same.” SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 343.
(54.) See Crandall, “Wassaja Comes Home,” 12–17.
(55.) Hoomothya to Wassaja, May 3, 1894, quoted in Crandall, 17–18.
(56.) Montezuma’s relations even expressed their displeasure with him when they found him incommunicative. For example, his cousin Charles Dickens wrote to Montezuma on September 1, 1905, “I wish you would send me something. I will write you so many letters and did not get any answer from you. please answer this letter by this time.” SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 484.
(57.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 41–42; and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 260–262.
(58.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 28, 63. Montezuma’s work with various women’s reform organizations—he lectured to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which published some of his speeches, for example—was significant.
(59.) The Santee Dakota Sioux Charles Eastman, who was perhaps the only Indian of his day more popular than Montezuma, wrote to him on March 28, 1902, poking fun at his friend for not marrying yet: “Your kind invitation to your big wigwam is accepted; and, permit me to suggest that I defer my coming till you have taken yourself a permanent mistress. It is a surprise to me that you have not been captured by the advances of the impetuous pale-face maidens.” (Eastman himself had married a white woman.) SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 372.
(60.) McDonnell, “Carlos Montezuma’s Crusade,” 431.
(61.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache,” 63. Montezuma even stated in semi-exasperation: “I find that the only, the best thing for the good of the Indian is to be thrown on the world, and so I would impress upon the Indian race to go out into the world. Better send every Indian away. Get hold and send them to Germany, France, China, Alaska, Cuba, if you please, and then when they come back 15 or 20 years from now you will find them strong, a credit to the country, a help and an ornament to this race.” Montezuma, Quarterly Journal of the Society of American Indians 1.1 (1913): 135.
(62.) Although the Society of American Indians was officially founded in 1911, the idea had been in circulation for some time. Eastman wrote to Montezuma in 1902:
In regard to your suggestion of having a strictly Indian society I would say that it is not impossible to have one; but it will require the time, wisdom, skill of someone and some money. It is feasible anda [sic] likely proposition, but it will have to be managed conservatively and judiciously; and I fear it can not be a success till it has overcome the suspicion of a certain class of people who depend solely upon the Indians for a livelihood or for gaining notoriety or for obtaining some public notice thereby. Every Indian agent, in fact, will endeavor to put it down or will belittle it. And, there are many other obstacles that I might mention and they are simply due to reservation practices and systems. Yet, I do not think that such obstacles should discourage us from undertaking the matter . . . I am in full sympathy with you in the idea and will assist you in any way that I can.
He urged further exploration into the matter, but asked that Montezuma not go public with it yet. See Eastman to Montezuma, March 28, 1902, SPCM, rl. 1, fr. 372–374.
(63.) Montezuma wrote, in 1916:
Indians, wake up! If you have money in the treasury, you have a voice in the matter; if you have land, you have a voice in the matter; if you are not free, you have a voice in the matter; if you have a string tied to your citizenship, you have a voice in the matter. You are a man and as such you are entitled to the rights of a man. now is the time to exert your rights. No one can do it for you. You must do it yourself. You have been asleep long enough. Stir yourself to your manhood and look after your own interest. The future is just as bright for you as for any man in the world. (Wassaja, vol. 1, no. 2, May, 1916, PCM, rl. 5)
(64.) “The Objects of the Society,” Quarterly Journal of the Society of American Indians 1.1 (1913): 3.
(65.) K. Tsianina Lomawaima, “The Mutuality of Citizenship and Sovereignty: The Society of American Indians and the Battle to Inherit America,” in “The Society of American Indians and Its Legacies: A Special Combined Issue of SAIL and AIQ,” special joint issue, Studies in American Indian Literatures 25.2 and American Indian Quarterly 37.3 (Summer 2013): 335.
(66.) Although Montezuma characterized the SAI and other reform organizations as “splendid,” he wrote that he “would not be true to his race” if he did not criticize them. In particular, the SAI and other organizations were not “sticking with the Indian through thick and thin against the Indian Office.” Wassaja, vol. 2, no. 12, March 1918, PCM, rl. 5.
(67.) Carlos Montezuma, “Let My People Go,” speech delivered at the SAI annual meeting in Lawrence, Kansas, September 1915, reproduced in its entirety in Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 347–354.
(68.) Montezuma was particularly critical of Indians who worked for the bureau, even though he once had himself. He felt that bureau Indians had internalized bureau culture to the detriment of the race: “They are Indians, but heartless of an Indian’s heart. Their souls are stupid and their hearts asleep. They serve in the invironment [sic] of Indian Bureauism and are helpless to reason anything else. Their personality is lost.” Wassaja, vol. 3, no. 12, March, 1919, PCM, rl. 5.
(69.) Parker to Pratt, November 8, 1913, quoted in S. Carol Berg, Arthur C. Parker, and the Society of the American Indian, 1911–1916,” New York History 81.2 (April 2000): 244.
(70.) Hertzberg wrote, “Even as a Pan-Indian, [Montezuma] was combative, without any gift for compromise. He was perhaps at his best as editor of Wassaja, his personal newspaper.” Hertzberg, Search for an American Indian Identity, 44.
(71.) On later issues the masthead read, “Freedom’s Signal to the Indian.”
(72.) “Introduction,” Wassaja, vol. 1, no. 1, April 1916, PCM, rl. 5.
(73.) Wassaja, vol. 2, no. 12, March 1918, PCM, rl. 5.
(74.) Wassaja, vol. 1, no. 2, May 1916, PCM, rl. 5.
(75.) Julianna Newmark, “A Prescription for Freedom: Carlos Montezuma, Wassaja, and the Society of American Indians,” in “The Society of American Indians and Its Legacies: A Special Combined Issue of SAIL and AIQ,” special joint issue, Studies in American Indian Literatures 25.2 and American Indian Quarterly 37.3 (Summer 2013): 154.
(76.) Wassaja, vol. 7, no. 10, October 1921, PCM, rl. 5.
(77.) Vigil, Indigenous Intellectuals, 147.
(78.) Wassaja, vol. 3, no. 2, May 1918, PCM, rl. 5. He also called the Indian Bureau the “Kaiser of America.” See Wassaja, vol. 3, no. 1, April 1918, PCM, rl. 5. He called upon returning Indian veterans to join the battle against the bureau. “Do this and you have done your duty for your race,” he wrote. See Wassaja, vol. 3, no. 11, February, 1919), PCM, rl. 5. The Bureau of Justice investigated Montezuma in 1919, sending an investigator to his home in Chicago to question him. The federal government ultimately chose not to pursue the issue. See Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 426–427.
(79.) Wassaja, vol. 2, no. 7, October, 1917, PCM, rl. 5.
(80.) Montezuma believed throughout his life that he was an Apache, but he was not alone in this. Yavapais were referred to as Mohave Apaches until well into the second half of the 20th century. His attempts to enroll at San Carlos may seem puzzling—why did he not enroll at Fort McDowell?—but both his parents had died there. In the end, his applications were denied both because the bureau viewed him as a “troublemaker” and because as a civilized, voting, citizen Indian, he was not entitled to tribal membership. In the first half of the 20th century, tribal citizenship and US citizenship were in many ways viewed as mutually exclusive. See Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 158.
(81.) Montezuma also became involved in controversies over Indian dancing, against which the Indian Bureau waged a campaign from 1912–1914. Although he favored assimilation and Christianity, in September 1913, Montezuma requested, and was granted, permission from Commissioner Sells for the Fort McDowell community to hold a dance in Montezuma’s honor. Montezuma brought friends from the East along on many of his trips to Arizona. On the trip in 1913, when the dance was held, Reverend Stedman, now seventy-two years of age, accompanied Montezuma and witnessed the dance. After the episode, Montezuma drew harsh criticism from Indian Bureau officers and missionaries. See Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 219; Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 267–268. For an excellent summary of Montezuma’s fight to protect the land and water rights of Yavapais and other tribes in Arizona, see Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 120–146.
(82.) Martínez, “Carlos Montezuma’s Fight,” 327.
(83.) Williams gives the date as 1923, but Montezuma died in January of that year. He was very ill during that time, and it would have been very difficult for him to make the trip then. Speroff gives the year as 1920.
(84.) Harrison and Williams, Oral History of the Yavapai, 106.
(85.) Wassaja, vol. 8, no. 20, October 1922, PCM, rl. 5.
(86.) Wassaja, vol. 8, no. 21, November 1922, PCM, rl. 5.
(87.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World, 171–173; and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 439–441.
(88.) Harrison and Williams, Oral History of the Yavapai, 365–366.
(89.) Speroff, Carlos Montezuma, 443.
(90.) Oren Arnold, Savage Son (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1952).
(91.) Edward H. Spicer, Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533–1960 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1962).
(92.) Hertzberg, Search for an American Indian Identity.
(93.) Iverson, Carlos Montezuma and the Changing World.
(94.) “The Society of American Indians and Its Legacies: A Special Combined Issue of SAIL and AIQ,” special joint issue, Studies in American Indian Literatures 25.2 and American Indian Quarterly 37.3 (Summer 2013); and Speroff, Carlos Montezuma.
(95.) Crandall, “Wassaja Comes Home.”
(96.) Clark, “Dr. Montezuma, Apache.”