Eastman, Charles Alexander, (Ohiyesa) 1858-1939

Eastman, Charles Alexander, (Ohiyesa) 1858-1939


Indian Boyhood ~ Charles Eastman, a Santee born in 1858, wrote extensively about his life and Sioux culture. He became a physician and was present on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the Wounded Knee Massacre when he cared for many of the wounded.

Stories about Eastman, Charles Alexander, (Ohiyesa) 1858-1939


    Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman (Sioux: Ohiyesa, February 19, 1858 - January 8, 1939) was a Native American author, physician and reformer. He was active in politics and helped found the Boy Scouts of America.

    Ohiyesa was born on a reservation near Redwood Falls, Minnesota. He was the son of the Dakota Many Lightnings and his mixed-blood wife, Mary Nancy Eastman, who died at his birth. Mary Eastman was the daughter of the painter Captain Seth Eastman. During the Minnesota Uprising of Dakota in 1862-63, Ohiyesa was cared for by paternal relatives who fled into North Dakota and Manitoba. When he was later reunited with his father, now using the name Jacob Eastman, and older brother John, the Eastman family established a homestead in Dakota Territory.

    With his father's encouragement, Eastman attended mission and preparatory schools and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1887. He graduated from Boston University, with a medical degree, in 1889. Eastman worked as agency physician for the Indian Health Service on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and later at the Crow Creek Reservation, both in South Dakota. He also established a private medical practice. Between 1894-97, Eastman established 32 Indian groups of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). In 1899, he helped recruit students for the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. In 1910, along with Ernest Thompson Seton of the Woodcraft Indians and Daniel Carter Beard of the Sons of Daniel Boone, Eastman helped found the Boy Scouts of America.

    Eastman was active in politics, particularly in matters dealing with Indian rights. He served as a lobbyist for the Dakota between 1894 and 1897. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt assigned Eastman the responsibility for revising the allotment method of dividing tribal lands. In 1923-25, Eastman served under Calvin Coolidge as an Indian inspector. He was also a member of the Committee of One Hundred, a reform panel examining federal institutions and activities dealing with Indian nations. In 1925, the Bureau of Indian Affairs asked him to investigate the death and burial location of Sacagawea, the woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. He determined that she died of old age at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming on April 9, 1884, although later historians believe it more likely that she died as a result of an illness in 1812.

    Eastman was the recipient of the first Indian Achievement Award in 1933.

    Eastman was married to Elaine Goodale, and had six children. Goodale briefly served as superintendent of Indian education in the Dakota Territory, and was a well known poet.

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