Elias C. Boudinot: “If the competition were not so stiff, Boudinot might be ranked among the great scoundrels of the Gilded Age.” Richard White

Trust him at your peril.
Trust him at your peril.

So you think all Native Americans were noble? Think again. Some liked Gilded Age corruption as much as the next guy. Richard White says he was dashing (in the Custer kind of way). I say smarmy, but that’s me.

Interesting factoids: Elias was a pro-slavery Democrat despite being raised by a New England mother.

He was the son of Elias Boudinot, editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper. His father and some other relatives were assassinated in 1839 as retaliation for having ceded their Cherokee (Trail of Tears) homeland in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. (Wiki)

He served in the Confederate Army as a lieutenant colonel under his uncle Stand Watie and then opened a tobacco company with him after the war only to have it confiscated for not paying taxes.

Okay, yeah, I do like the beard.
Okay, yeah, I do like the beard.

He was a bought man for the railroad builders who wanted their trains run through Indian Territory (they even sold bonds to European investors as if they already owned the Indian land). Elias used his Indian status to get ahead and to help powerful men get their way. He was hated by other Cherokee and worried he might be killed by one of them when with the help of railroad big bugs he erected a huge fence surrounding a portion of Indian territory for the railroads.

He supported disbanding tribes, breaking up Indian Territory and complete and total assimilation–he’s hated even today for his work making that happen in what is now Oklahoma. The bill of goods sent east was that the tribes lived like savages (or like Sioux), but they were indeed quite civilized farmers, shop keepers, teachers and editors. They even had a Female Seminary.

Dapper or despicable?
Dapper or despicable?

The Dawes Act happened and railroads did as they pleased with even reformers in the back pockets of the powerful and dear Elias was right there with them.

 

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