Former professor pens Arapaho book

Ex-Missouri Southern professor Bobbie Steere, department of education, has just released his book The Trace of the Southern Arapaho.

The book is a chronology of westward expansion’s effect on the Arapaho tribe. It begins with the tribe as a whole and moves to a specific Arapaho named Little Bird. The book is mostly based around government records of the American Indian reservations, which Steere studied and researched for about five years.

“They didn’t have a written language back then and they didn’t have a written language until the last 30 years,” Steere said. “Our research is based on other people’s writings from the plains and then we went to the national archives and researched all the government records of the Arapahos.

“In the 1850s, after they defeated the Indians, they [the government] began to round them up and put them on reservations and it began to drastically change the Indians’ way of life. One of the most interesting things to us is how the culture of plains Indians changed with association of the whites. The whites thought the best way to help the Indians was to make them Christians and to take away their lifestyle.”

One example was the extermination of the buffalo.

“The government finally said, ‘We’ll kill their buffalo,’ so they wouldn’t kill the Indians, but make them subservient,” he said. “Thinking back, the buffalo provided them with everything they needed. They made tools from the bones of the buffalo and the skins made everything from teepees to vessels to hold liquids.

“It became fashionable for Easterners to get on trains and go across the plains and shoot them just for sport to leave the carcasses to rot.  It was so devastating to the Indians to take their life blood away.”

After forcing the American Indians into submission, the United States government forced the Arapaho onto reservations and forced them to farm. The Arapaho generally disapproved.

“The Indians believed that the only man that works is the man who is not a good hunter,” Steere said. “Their primary role was to hunt and protect the family and tribe. The women did most all the work. They did all the cooking and all the sewing. The men mostly just made tools. When they went on the reservation, what was there for a man to do? Most of the men did not believe in farming. It was the white man’s road.”

Finally the book tells about the Darlington Indian Reservation. Major Lee was the agent. Lee wanted to get rid of the Arapaho who wouldn’t farm and keep the ones who would.

“He convinced John Seger to take these ones that would farm to a place known as Colony and John Seger took them by the hand and he gave them patches of land,” Steere said. “He got them to build fences, to farm, to grow crops and slowly they began to accept the white man’s way.

“One of those initial 18 men who went with Seger to Cob Creek was a man named Little Bird. He is one who my wife and I have researched for several years and he is my wife’s great-grandfather.”

Steere has donated a copy of the book to the Spiva Library, which will be available soon in the archives section. It is also available for sale at [email protected]