> Buffalo Soldiers
> Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce
> Chief Pontiac
> Code Talkers I
> Code Talkers II
> Eli Samuel Parker
> Native Americans from History
> General George Custer
> Geronimo
> Jim Thorpe
> Junipero Serra
> Lori Piestewa
> Moundbuilders
> Medal of Honor Recipients
> Navajo Medicine Man
> Notable Native Women
> Papooses
> Pocahontas
> Quanah Parker
> Red Cloud
> Sacagawea
> Sequoyah
> Sitting Bull
> Squanto
> Stand Watie
> Tecumseh
> Wovoka

Ely Samuel Parker

Ely Samuel Parker "Grant's Indian" 1828 - August 31, 1895

Ely Samuel Parker was a Seneca Indian of noble lineage born in Genesee County, NY. He had an encyclopedic mind and enjoyed learning about both the Indian ways and the white man's culture. Educated by white teachers at the local Baptist school, then at the Cayuga Academy in Aurora, NY, Parker went on to study law, even though New York State would not allow an Indian to have a law practice. The imposing 200 pound Indian then learned engineering on the job while working on the Genesee Valley Canal and became a captain of engineers in the New York State Militia in 1853.

Parker's Iroquois title was "Donehogawa", or "Keeper of the western door", which signified that he dealt with outsiders. When Iroquois tried to enlist in New York to join the Civil War effort, they were denied entry. In March 1862 Parker wrote to the commissioner of Indian affairs about the matter; the next month mustering offices in Buffalo were ordered to accept Indian recruits. After Parker received a captain's commission in May 1863, 600 Seneca Indians gathered to wish him well when he departed for the war. Parker was a division engineer before he was assigned to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's personal military staff as a military secretary in September 1863. He had met Grant before the war and now became known as "Grant's Indian". He served with Grant from Chattanooga to Appomattox, where he wrote in duplicate the terms of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender. He later received a promotion to brigadier general that was backdated to the surrender date.

After the war Parker continued to serve on Grant's staff until 1869, when President Grant assigned him to the post of commissioner of Indian affairs. Investigated for allegations of corruption, Parker was eventually acquitted of the charges, but in June 1871 he resigned his post and retired to private business in Connecticut. Having lost his financial gains in the Panic of 1873, Parker lived many years in poverty before dying in 1895 in Fairfield, Conn. His body was reburied 18 months later in Buffalo, NY, beside the graves of other Indians.

Fascinating Fact: When Parker married Minnie Sackett, a white woman, in 1867, Ulysses S. Grant was his best man.

Ely Samuel Parker - A Seneca

E LY SAMUEL PARKER (1828-95), a Seneca, was not Red Jacket's grandson, even though you often see that in print. Ely's mother was Elizabeth Johnson (c1800-1862) of the wolf clan. Her mother was the sister of Jemmy Johnson, another famous chief at Tonawanda (1774-1856) and the chosen successor to Handsome Lake, the Seneca prophet. Jemmy and his sister were the children of Red Jacket's sister. All of them were also members of the wolf clan, which means that Ely was Red Jacket's great-grandnephew. In Seneca tradition, however, granduncles (peers of your grandparents or great grandparents) are called "grandfathers". Therein lies the confusion.

Ely became a condoled chief in 1852 upon the death of John Blacksmith (chief of the wolf clan at Tonawanda). In the Haudenosaunee (6 Nations, Iroquois) world, there are 50 chiefs, each having their own (condoled) name. When one chief dies, another one is chosen by the clan mothers and is given the condoled name. So when Ely was chosen chief of the wolf clan at Tonawanda, he was given the name Donehogawa--the name John Blacksmith held before him. That name is still used at Tonawanda today. Ely's Seneca name was Ha sa no an da, meaning "leading name". He took the name Ely (as he said, rhymes with "free-ly") after a well known Baptist minister/teacher in the area. Parker was a name given by a British soldier (named Parker) to the family, as an honor for treating him so well when he was a captive during the Revolutionary War.

Ely's military career: he was in the militia prior to the Civil War. He was appointed assistant adjutant-general with rank of captain in June 1863; commissioned first lieutenant, US Cavalry in 1866 (he resigned in 1869); brevitted brigadier-general of volunteers, Apr 9 1865; and captain, major, lieutenant-colonel and brigadier-general, US Army on March 2, 1867.(this is all according to Arthur Parker.) At the age of 14, Ely was first sent to Washington, DC as a messenger/representative for the Tonawanda Senecas who were trying to fight the fraudulent 1842 Compromise Treaty of Buffalo Creek. In that treaty (and in its predecessor, the 1838 Buffalo Creek Treaty), the Tonawanda Senecas lost all of their lands in Western New York. Ely remained a representative and advocate until 1857 when the Senecas were able to buy back part of that land.

Parker became Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, not because of his efforts in the Civil War, but because of his friendship with General Ulysses S. Grant. Because of his association with him, Parker had the "ear" of many politicians in Washington both during and after the war who were wrestling with the "Indian Problem". Grant appointed him commissioner in 1868. (Grant appointed many of his former Civil War staff to important positions after he was elected president). Parker was the first Native American to hold a federal office. It was Ely Parker's ideas that were associated with the Grant administration's "Peace Plan" which abolished the treaty system and advocated "assimilate, educate and Christianize". He also stated that if you wanted the Indians to remain peaceful, the government had to deliver what it had promised when they had made treaties with them. (This is why, he thought, the treaty system should be abolished. It just didn't work, and it made the Native Peoples in the US angry, unsettled, and distrustful of the US government). In 1871, Parker resigned that commission after being tried for fraud by the US Senate (he was exonerated).

Ely died on August 30, 1895 from complications from diabetes. He was buried first at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield, Conn, where he, his wife and his daughter lived. Parker was reburied in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY on January 20, 1897 near the graves of several other Senecas, including Red Jacket.

I would like to recommend two books: WARRIOR IN TWO CAMPS: ELY S. PARKER UNION GENERAL AND SENECA CHIEF (Syracuse University Press, 1989), by William H. Armstrong; and THE LIFE OF GENERAL ELY S. PARKER (Buffalo Historical Society, 1919), by Arthur C. Parker. Native American Military Contributions

The commitment and contributions of Native Americans in the United States Military service are astounding. They have served in the United States military since the American Revolution. During the Civil War, there were 3 Confederate units and 1 Union unit primarily made up of Native Americans from the Oklahoma tribes. Two of the most well-known Native American military men at this time were Eli S. Parker and Stand Watie. Ely S. Parker, a Seneca from New York, was the military assistant to General Ulysses S. Grant. Stand Watie, a Cherokee, was the last Confederate Brigadier General to surrender to the Union troops. In World War I, many Native Americans were so eager to join that they went to Canada to enlist before the United States entered the war. 6,000 of the more than 8,000 who served during this war were volunteers. It was this tremendous act of patriotism that persuaded Congress to pass the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924. During World War II, 25,000 Native American men and women fought on all fronts in Europe and Asia, receiving more than 71 Air Medals, 51 Silver Stars, 47 Bronze Stars, 34 Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Congressional Medals of Honor. In the Vietnam War more than 41,500 Native Americans enlisted to serve in the United States Armed Forces. Of those 90% were volunteers, giving Native Americans the highest record of service of any ethnic group in the country. In 1990, prior to Operation Desert Storm, some 24,000 Native American men and women were in the military. Approximately 3,000 served in the Persian Gulf. One of every four Native American males is a military veteran.

Native Americans went into the military for a variety of reasons. To uphold the warrior tradition, economic reasons, personal reasons, the draft, or a combination were the usual reasons given. Those who could not enlist, either because of age or the fact that they couldn't speak English, served on the homefront in a variety of capacities on military bases or in factories. They raised larger crops to feed more people and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the war effort. The numbers that served are surprising considering the often precarious relationship between the United States government and the sovereign nations. Native Americans were not merely defending America as we know it but as America as they knew it. It was their land, their culture, their history, their friends and relations that they were fighting for, but we both believed in something that was bigger than the individual; that was worth preserving and worth dying for.