Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina
These are the papers of Washington, D.C. attorney James E. Curry, whose legal career included work both as a government attorney and in his own private practice. The bulk of the papers reflect his private practice in the area of Indian affairs.
Scope and Contents:
The material in the collection includes documents relating to many aspects of Curry's career but most of it relates to his work with Indian tribes and the National Congress of American Indians. For the most, the collection is made up of such materials as letters exchanged with government officials, Indians, and other attorneys; copies of legal documents; published government documents; notes; and clippings and other printed materials. Of particular significance is a subject file relating to Indian affairs. It includes material concerning affairs of Alaskan natives and the Aleut (Akutan, Pribilof Islands), Apache (including Fort Sill, Jicarilla, Mescalero, San Carlos White Mountain), Arapaho (Southern), Assiniboine (Fort Belknap, Fort Peck), Bannock (including Fort Hall), Blackfeet, Caddo, Catawba, Cherokee (Eastern), Cheyenne (Northern, Southern), Chickahominy, Chickasaw, Chippewa (including Lac Courte Oreilles), Choctaw, Cochiti, Cocopa, Coeur d'Alene, Colville, Comanche, Creek, Croatan, Crow, Dakota (Big Foot, Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Devil's Lake, Flandreau, Fort Totten, Lower Brule, Mdewakanton, Oglala, Rosebud, Santee, Sisseton-Wahpeton, Standing Rock, Yankton), Delaware, Eskimo (including Gambell, Kiana), Flathead, Fox, Haida (including Kasaan), Havasupai, Hopi, Iroquois (Caughnawaga, Seneca, St. Regis), Isleta, Jemez, Kalilspel, Kansa (Kaw), Kickapoo, Kiowa, Klamath, Kutenai, Laguna, Lummi, Maricopa (Gila River, Salt River), Menominee, Missouria, Mohave (Fort Mohave), Mohave Apache (Fort McDowell), Muckleshoot, Navaho, Nez Perce, Niska, Nooksak, Omaha, Osage, Oto, Papago, Paiute (Fallon, Fort McDermitt), Moapa, Pyramid Lake, Shivwits, Walker River, Yerington), Pima (Gila River, Salt River), Potowatomi, Quinaielt, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Sandia, Sauk, Seminole (Florida, Oklahoma), Seneca, Seri, Shawnee (Eastern), Shoshoni (including Fort Hall), Sia, Spokan, Stockbridge, Taos (Pyote clan), Tesuque, Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa), Tillamook, Tlingit (including Angoon, Craig, Juneau, Kake, Ketchikan, Klawak, Klukwan, Taku, Wrangell), Tsimshian (Metlakatla), Umatilla, Ute (including Uintah-Ouray), Walapai, Washo, Wesort, Winnebago, Wyandot, Yakima, Yaqui, Yavapai, Yuma, and Zuni. There are also materials relating to Curry's work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Congress of American Indians, and material that reflects his interest in conditions and events in given locations (often filed by state) and in organizations with interest in Indians. The material relating to Curry's work in Puerto Rico has been deposited in the Archivo General de Puerto Rico, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena, in San Juan.
The James E. Curry Papershave been arranged into 6 series: (1) Daily Chronological Files, 1941-1955; (2) Subject Files Regarding Indian Affairs, bulk 1935-1955; (3) Miscellaneous Files Regarding Indian Affairs, bulk 1947-1953; (4) Non-Indian Affairs, n.d.; (5) Puerto Rico Work, 1941-1947; (6) Miscellany, undated.
James E. Curry was trained in law in Chicago and practiced in that city from 1930 until 1936, serving part of that time as secretary of the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. From 1936 to 1938, he was an attorney with the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, being largely involved with matters of credit affecting Indians. From 1938 to 1942, he continued service with the Interior Department but worked in several capacities involving the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, the department's Consumers' Counsel Division, and the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority.
In 1945, Curry returned to Washington and set up private practice, also maintaining for a time an office in Puerto Rico. In Washington, he became the attorney for the National Congress of American Indians and from that time until the 1950s his practice increasingly involved representation of American Indian tribes, mostly in claims against the federal government. In this work, for a time, he was involved in business relations with a New York Law firm that included Henry Cohen, Felix Cohen, and Jonathan Bingham.
He also often worked closely with lawyers who lived near the tribes he represented, William L. Paul, Jr., of Alaska, for example. This aspect of his practice--representing Indian tribes--was largely broken up during the early 1950s when the Commissioner of Indian Affairs began to use his powers to disapprove contracts between Curry and the tribes. In 1952 and 1953, his official relationship with the National Congress of American Indians was also ended. After this, while Curry continued until his death to act as a consultant in Indian claims with which he had earlier been involved, his career and life developed in a different direction.
Additional material relating to James E. Curry can be found in the records of the National Congress of American Indians, also located at the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center.
The Curry papers were originally donated to the National Anthropological Archives by James E. Curry's daughter Mrs. Aileen Curry-Cloonan in December 1973. In 2007 The Curry papers were transferred from the National Anthropological Archives to the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center along with several other records concerning American Indian law and political rights.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadbast materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to email@example.com.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); James E. Curry papers, Box and Folder Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.
This collection contains 93 photographs shot by amateur photographer Bird Carson (1842-1925) depicting daily life on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, circa 1890-1920. Bird worked as a housekeeper for the local school and her husband John Franklin Carson worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a teacher at Cherry Creek Day School on the Reservation.
Photographs arranged in the original order in which they were organized and donated to NMAI.
Biographical / Historical:
Bertha "Bird" Louise Pickering Carson was born to Hannah Binford Pickering (1842-1925) and Philip Pickering (1837-1909) in Iowa on August 18, 1872. In 1891, she married John Franklin Carson (1860-1935) and they lived on the Cheyenne River Agency at Cherry Creek in South Dakota circa 1890-1920. John Franklin worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a teacher on the reservation and census records show that Bird Carson served as a housekeeper. The couple had four children: Catherine Hannah Carson Spain (1895- 1980); Franklin Morris Carson (1898-1941); John Henry Carson (1900-1964); and Philip D. Carson (b. circa 1902).
Bird Carson was an amateur photographer and photographed daily life on the reservation.
[Excerpt below is from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe website (2022) which borrows text from Cheyenne River Sioux by Donovin Sprague. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S.C., 2003.]
The name Sioux is part of the Ojibway/Chippewa/Anishinabe word "Nadoweisiweg," which the French shortened to Sioux. The original word meant "little or lesser snakes/enemies." The Sioux are really three groups comprised of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota, each having slightly different language dialects. Geographically, the Lakota are the most western of the groups and there are seven distinct bands. Four of the Lakota bands (Minnicoujou, Itazipco, Siha Sapa, and Oohenumpa) are located on the land known as the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. The other three (the Oglala of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Hunkpapa at Standing Rock Reservation, and Sicangu at the Rosebud Indian Reservation and also at Lower Brule Indian Reservation), are all located in western South Dakota. The Standing Rock Reservation also stretches into North Dakota. Some of the Lakota also settled in Canada at Wood Mountain Reserve in Saskatchewan beginning in 1876. Collectively the bands are part of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota.
The present land base of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation was established by the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Prior to this, the bands placed within this reservation knew no boundary to their territory. They were a hunting people and traveled frequently in search of their main food source, the sacred American bison or buffalo.
The Sioux Agreement Act of 1889 set reservation boundary lines and was named the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. West of the Missouri River was the waters of the Cheyenne River, known to the Lakota as the Good River (Wakpa Waste'). The "Post at Cheyenne River Agency" was established seven miles above Fort Sully on the Missouri River in 1870 and became known as Fort Bennett. Fort Bennett was next to the village named Cheyenne Agency, and was the quarters for the Indian Agent and soldiers. Separate from the fort was the agency town which housed U.S. Government employees and this location would later be moved to higher ground away from the river. The fort and town would be moved a total of four times in the coming years, with the name Cheyenne Agency attached to the town adjoining Fort Bennett. As reservation land was ceded following the Dawes Act of 1887, the town was moved again since it was now off the new reservation boundaries. After 1891, Fort Bennett was closed by the military and the reservation was believed to be safe without a military fort beside it. The next location of the agency would be between the Cheyenne River (Good River) and the Moreau (Owl) River at the site of Chief Martin Charger's camp. It was called Cheyenne Agency.
The final location of the Agency would be to the town of Eagle Butte in 1959, a move necessitated due to the construction of the Oahe Dam near Pierre, South Dakota, which flooded tribal lands along the Missouri River. When people refer to the Old Agency or Old Cheyenne Agency, they are referring to the Agency location prior to the move to Eagle Butte, which is now the tribal headquarters offices. There is also confusion about the name Cheyenne as people often think the four bands here are of the Cheyenne Tribe. Although the Lakota's have been close allies with the Cheyenne, they are, nevertheless, a separate tribe. The tribal headquarters of the Northern Cheyenne are located in Montana and the Southern Cheyenne are in Oklahoma.
The first towns were Evarts and then LeBeau which were trading posts. LeBeau was established by Antoine LeBeau, a French trader. Evarts and LeBeau became non-existent when railroad service left and the town of LeBeau burned. Both locations are now under the waters of the Missouri River. The old main home camps of the Minnicoujou were in the towns of Cherry Creek, Bridger, and Red Scaffold in the western area of the reservation. Cherry Creek is believed to be the oldest permanent community in South Dakota. The home camps of the Oohenumpa went from Iron Lightning, Thunder Butte, Bear Creek, and White Horse along the Moreau (Owl) River. The Siha Sapa located around the Promise and Blackfoot areas in the northeast part of the reservation. Green Grass and On The Tree communities were home to the Itazipco. Green Grass is the home to the sacred Buffalo Calf Pipe. There would soon be some reshuffling of the band locations as allotments were chosen and intermarriage. Many Itazipco joined the Minnicoujou and the Siha Sapa had earlier camped in close proximity to the Hunkpapa on the neighboring Standing Rock Reservation. Today, other communities on or near the reservation include Eagle Butte, Dupree, Red Elm, Takini, Bridger, Howes, Glad Valley, Isabel, Firesteel, Timber Lake, Glencross, Swiftbird, La Plant, Ridgeview, Parade, and Lantry. There are also many rural areas on the reservation.
There are different spelling preferences by individuals of the band names and the spellings in this writing appeared on a tribal flag. An older name for Minnicoujou was Howoju meaning "the people." Minnicoujou means "planters by the water," Itazipco means "Without Bows," and the French called them Sans Arc. Siha Sapa means "Black Foot," and Oohenumpa means "Two boilings/Two Kettle." The Black Foot Lakota should not be confused with the larger Blackfeet/Blackfoot nations of Montana and Canada. Many tribal members are a mixture of the four bands.
Gift of the family of Catherine Spain, 2022.
Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Bird Carson photographs of Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, image #, NMAI.AC.425; National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Smithsonian Institution.
Footage taken at a July 4th rodeo in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Parade shots at the rodeo include Ben Black Elk in buckskins and war bonnet and truncated versions of the war and kettle dance as well as a fancy dancer. Footage also includes a Sioux Indian Dog feast held by Chief Roan Bear at the Cheyenne River Agency, South Dakota, showing preparation of a shunka (dog) accompanied by cooking of buffalo meat, tipsina (Indian turnip), radishes, and other vegetables.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or Anthropology Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.
Received from the Red Cloud Indian School Heritage Center in 1988.
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.