In the beginning of the fall 1998 semester at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas; for my class
of Kansas Characters; as students, we were given time to decide on what Kansas
Character we wanted to do, either as personal characterization or a web
page. For me the choices
were very easy. Charles Curtis as the person and to do a web page (which I had
never done before and therefore a challenge of the first rank!).
I would like to see Charles
Curtis remembered for all of his achievements in Congress (not just for being
1/8th Kansa Indian, 1/8th Osage Indian, 1/8th Potawatomie Indian, and 1/8th
French and 50 per cent English American).
I am a native of Topeka, as
was Charles Curtis. I was born just 96 years after his own birth, and 20
years after his death. Though, my own heritage is German, Scottish and Irish
(and of late some Native Indian - Pawnee DNA somewhere), I was drawn to
Charles Curtis as a intentionally forgotten, intentionally abandoned, real hero of Topeka,
Kansas, in my own opinion.
I was an English Literature
major with a minor in Kansas Studies, I graduated in the Spring of 2000 from Washburn University.
I am now working on turning this web site into a complete book biography on
Charles Curtis and family (working title is "Charles Curtis: Native-American Vice-President - Setting The
Record Straight"). Along with trying to find the Indian in my own
background. I have been
asked to join the DAR (Daughters of Revolution), so I am looking through my
family genealogy history.
Around Topeka, throughout
the years of my growing up, I never felt any difference among the people from
the Indian Reservations around Topeka. When I visited Montana, about age
12, I lived just about one mile from the actual site of the Little Big Horn
massacre of General George Armstrong Custer. I visited the Rosebud
Reservation, different people both Indian and Anglo-Saxon, there was a BIG
difference in the attitudes. It was like living in a time warp! I
was warned not to be on the streets of the reservation after dark.
This difference is why I was
drawn to Charles Curtis. In my own honest opinion, the majority of the people
of Topeka (and Kansas) would say "Charles who?" Since 74 years after his
death, Charles Curtis has been forgotten by his own hometown and home
state. Even on the Kansa Web Page (done by the Kansa Reservation now
located in Oklahoma, SEE Resources), Charles Curtis is sometimes recognized as
a person of their tribe but NOT for his accomplishments, even 74 years after
his death. (The last time I checked the web site, he wasn't even on the site anymore,
changes had been made) According to their web page, Charles Curtis'
ancestors are more important, but they were the ones who had signed the Indian
treaties (1815 for the Kansas part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 from
France) the treaties began the actual decline of the Indian tribes, many years
before Charles Curtis' birth, and certainly before his time in the Whitehouse
office. Though, the current Native-American Indians of today actually blame Charles Curtis for
their problems of today. I have heard him called "traitor" by these Native
American Indians of today, who have the vote, are American citizens, their
land rights protected, all possible from the hard voluntary work of Native
American Indian Kansan Topekan Charles Curtis.
I have collected quite a few history books on
Kansas and the City of Topeka, and I began to notice a pattern, that Charles
Curtis would not even be mentioned (or just a line or two) with Eugene (later
North Topeka) not being mentioned at all, though much of the history, Slave
Road to Freedom (through North Topeka), Civil War, took place in North Topeka.
Now this makes sense, how can people know (or learn) about Charles Curtis when
he is NOT even included in local history books?
The Sardou Bridge in Topeka,
when it was being built, a name was suggested as the Charles Curtis Memorial
Bridge, that was apparently voted down.
The Curtis street that is
located in North Topeka, many of the local people think it was named for
Charles Curtis, the Indian Vice-President, when the actual fact is, the street
was named for his paternal grandfather, William Curtis. Curtis Junior
High School in North Topeka, was named for Charles Curtis, the Indian Vice-President (which is
no longer a school but is being changed into apartments), there are park green
ways named for Charles Curtis, a Curtis Hall at Haskell Indian College and and
Curtis Middle School in Wichita, but so far in my research, this is all that I
can find that is named for Charles Curtis, the Indian Vice-President, but I
would appreciate any information that I can verify.
The Charles Curtis grave site is
neglected (NOT by the Topeka Cemetery where it is located) but by tourists and
visitors to Topeka (pictures of grave under memorials) who do not visit the
site. In doing my
research I became so excited when I found that the original boyhood home of
Charles Curtis built by his grandfather William Curtis in 1864, at 905 North
Van Buren (in North Topeka). That it still existed and was being
restored, I had to go find it. Imagine my frustrations, when I could not
locate the house so I spoke with some neighbors. I was told, yes the
owners wanted to restore it, but the City of Topeka felt the restorations were
taking too long, the house was considered an eyesore to them and wanted it
demolished since the city of Topeka already had the Curtis house. Did
the City of Topeka check into the history of the house? The house was
actually built 20-30 years before The Charles Curtis House at 11th and Topeka
Blvd. Charles grew up in the house that his grandfather William Curtis had
built. I doubt it. The house was demolished (1970s?) . A
picture of the house I managed to find that was taken before it was demolished
is located on the page of the extended family of Charles Curtis in Biography
A, check the page of William Curtis.
In another area of doing my
research, in communicating with the Kansa Indians of today, the Indians seem
to be totally unaware of the FULL scope of just what accomplishments Charles
Curtis was able to help change and actually benefit the Indians and what
changes are still in effect today. They have not checked the actual
legislation in how Charles Curtis participated in. Most people have no idea
just what he stood for, that was for honesty and justice. In my own opinion,
the Indians (Kansa "Kaw" tribe) of today are "judging" Charles Curtis by the
standards they have of the year 2006 and not of the 1880's - 1936 of when
Charles Curtis actually lived, when the only "the good Indian was a
dead Indian", and "shoot first, ask questions later", these seem
like terrible clichés, but these were actually the way of US Kansas
territory/state after the pioneers came to Kansas and after Kansas became a
W A R N I N G
is my humble, and honest opinion that the section written by
Steve W. Tally on Vice-President Charles Curtis, (see Page 249) in his book
"Bland Ambition, From Adams to Quayle - The
Cranks, Criminals, Tax Cheats and Golfers who made it to
Vice-President" ; published in 1992 ISBN 0-15-61340-4 by
Harcourt/Brace, is very much
inaccurate, the article has actually been proven incorrect in places by
historical research for the FACTS; so how much of his entire book is factual
and how much is fake?
There is NO source
documentation used in the book "Bland Ambition, From Adams to Quayle -
The Cranks, Criminals, Tax Cheats and Golfers who made it to Vice-President"
on any of the Vice Presidents, especially no documentation for the article
'written' on Vice-President Charles Curtis, so I would actually as any person
doing historical research begin to question the very authenticity of such
articles written. I have asked Mr. Tally for any source documents that were
used in preparing the article on Vice-President Charles Curtis for his book,
this information is usually provided at the back on a book when 'facts' such
has he has presented; the sources or bibliography, are usually
presented at the back of the book so that the 'research' can be validated;
but was not in the case of this book. None was forthcoming. It is my honest
opinion that this book be considered 'for entertainment purposes only' rather
than a source record.
My Opinion is
based on the facts obtained from 18 years of diligent, extensive and intensive
quest for the facts on the life of Vice-President Charles
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