2018 Spring Newsletter

FROM TEPEE TO VP C harles Curtis, Kaw Indian, became our 31st Vice President of the United States in 1929. He was born in Topeka (1860) on Kaw Indian Reservation lands along the Kansas River. One of his great-great-great grandfathers was White Plume, a Kaw chief who assisted Lewis & Clark. His mother died when he was three and he was raised by his mother’s parents. He learned French and Kansa prior to knowing English. His father, who was white, had remarried and served in the Civil War, but was not active in Charles’ early life. He went to Council Grove, living with his mother’s parents on the Kaw Reservation. He learned to shoot arrows and learned the games of young Indian boys.

full-fledged jockey at his grandfather’s race track. He was a successful jockey and won many races and was known as “The Indian Boy.” However his guardian grandparents deemed he should do better than be a jockey at the race track with all its gambling and other vices. So they enrolled him in Topeka schools and he did well, eventually graduat ing from Topeka High School. His grandfather died in 1873, and he considered going to live with his mother’s parents again, who at this time were living on the Kaw Reservation in Oklahoma. The Kaw Indi ans had been moved from Council Grove to Oklahoma. But his grandmother encouraged him to further his education in order to improve his prospects in life. So heremained in Topeka rather than go to Oklahoma. When he was offered a position of Jockey in the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial his grandmother said no and he returned to school. Working as a custodian and as a hack driver he saved funds to attend law school. In 1881, at age 21 he was admitted to the Kansas bar. He also had inherited some lands along the Kaw River in North Topeka, and with that he starting selling real estate and building on his lands whilepracticing law. He married and eventually had three children. He began his career in pol itics as a Republican and in 1884 was successful in being elected Shawnee County Attorney. He gained great reputa tion as a “law and order prosecutor”, even helping to close his own family owned saloon due to the prohibition laws that had been passed. In 1889 he ran for the U. S. Representative, but lost by 1 ote. He continued to pursue politics and worked with Wil liam Allen White who was most impressed with his smile

A much younger Charls Curtis

After a few years he returned to Topeka for formal educa tion and lived with his father’s parents, William and Par melia Curtis.Charles was an excellent rider and became a

President Calvin Coolidge, his wife Grace and Charles Curtis riding in their inaugural parade

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