As Politico reporter Josh King wrote in his 2013 article Dukakis and the Tank, “the first rule of political photo ops is: Never put anything on your head,” a rule that arguably can be traced to an “encounter between President Calvin Coolidge and some feathers.” This is that image.

Native History: Pres. Coolidge Summers In Black Hills, Adopted By Sioux

Alysa Landry

This Date in Native History: On June 23, 1927, the Sioux County Pioneer, a newspaper in south central North Dakota, reported that U.S. President Calvin Coolidge would be adopted into the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Coolidge, who was celebrated for signing the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, spent the summer of 1927 in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, working out of an office in Rapid City High School. When Sioux Chieftain Chauncey Yellow Robe, a descendant of Sitting Bull, learned the President would be there, he suggested he be adopted into the tribe.

The Sioux County Pioneer, a weekly publication that came out every Thursday, reported that Yellow Robe had urged his people to extend to the President “a united welcome and genuine western hospitality.”

“It has been asked ‘What the Indians are thinking of President Coolidge’s coming to the Black Hills,’” Yellow Robe reportedly said: “The Indians are like anybody else, they are also anxious to see him come. Our population of more than 20,000 Sioux Indians, the first people of the Hills, will also open their hearts with most sincere and hearty welcome of President Coolidge to the land of the Dakotas and if the occasion should permit, President Coolidge will be adopted into the Sioux tribe. We hope he will find in these beautiful Pahasapas (Black Hills) rest, peace, quiet and friendship among us.”

Coolidge, a Republican attorney from Vermont known by various nicknames including “Silent Cal,” served as vice president under President Warren Harding. When Harding died suddenly in 1923, Coolidge was sworn in and served the remainder of the term. He was elected in 1924 and served until 1929.

During the summer of 1927, Coolidge and his wife, Grace, fled the bustle and humidity of Washington, D.C., said Rushad Thomas, program and editorial associate at the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. They arrived in Rapid City, South Dakota on June 13 and liked it so much they stayed for three months.

The Coolidges stayed at the Game Lodge in Custer State Park, and while the President worked or fished, Grace knitted on the lodge porch and enjoyed nature walks, states a 2011 article in South Dakota Magazine.

Their stay also coincided with the sculpting of Mount Rushmore. Coolidge, who participated in a widely publicized dedication ceremony in August of 1927—two years after the project began—later supported legislation to fund completion.

The carving into the mountain the Sioux call Six Grandfathers began October 4, 1927. (gizmodo.com)


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