April 14, 2011

Jew who became Sioux

New frontiers in Wild West for Jew who became Sioux

By Orlando Radice and Jim WinnermanIf you thought the Wild West was no country for Jews, you haven't heard of Julius Meyer.

Meyer emigrated to America from Prussia, washed up in Nebraska in 1867 and became a frontier-land legend. Captured by Sioux during a buffalo hunt, he lived with the tribe for several years. A speaker of six Indian languages, Meyer was known by the Indians as "Curly-Headed White Chief with One Tongue" because of his honesty. Later in his life, he served as an Indian interpreter to Congress and as an Indian agent.

According to St Louis writer Jim Winnerman, who, until a few years ago, thought his grandparents were virtually the only Jews to strike out for the Wild West, such stories are missing from the American-Jewish narrative.
Comment:  The article doesn't say whether Meyer became a member of the tribe. He could've, and other white people in his position did. It's a typical example of how tribal membership has always been a political and cultural distinction, not a genetic one.

For more on the subject, see "Swindians" Among the Sioux and White Man Leads Indian Tribe.

Below:  "Julius Meyer (top right), who lived with Sioux Indians for several years, photographed with (front, left to right) Sitting Bull, Swift Bear and Spotted Tail. Meyer went on to interpret Indian languages for the US Congress."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just find this hilarious in light of your "Nazis tried to subvert Indians" post, that the Sioux (Aryan as per Goebbels) made first contact with the Jews and...noticed his honesty.

The immigrant experience in the West was different for different people. The West was probably easier than the East, simply because a friend's a friend, and you won't have another one for miles. Though populism, especially in recent years (Palin referred to herself as "the Christian candidate" for governor of Alaska against the also-Christian Jon Stein.), has its antisemitic side, due to the stereotype of Jews as intellectuals.