Laura Cornelius Kellogg

When we think of heroic people we tend to assume they were flawless and we are often let down when we read about their flaws. People who do heroic things are just like you and I, they have idiosyncrasies and flaws just like other humans. Frequently they are the victim of someone else’s wrath. Sometimes a person who is a hero to one generation may not be to another, for example, Thomas Jefferson. While he is the writer of a beautiful document espousing freedom he was also a slave owner, quite a moral conflict. Or, envy, jealousy and personal gain may lead to the destroying of an honorable person’s activism, as our current president has tried so desperately to smear James Comey. Laura Cornelius Kellogg was such a hero.

Laura “Minnie” Cornelius Kellogg, the granddaughter of the famous Oneida leader Daniel Bread, was born in 1880 on the Oneida reservation in Wisconsin. While she was one of a few Native American women of her time to attend college, studying law and other subjects at Barnard College, Cornell University, the New York School of Philanthropy, Stanford University, and the University of Wisconsin, she never attained a degree from any university.


Oneida Leader Daniel Bread

She was one of founding members of the Society of American Indians in 1911 and a founding member of the Sherman Institute in Riverside, California where she taught classes.


Society of American Indians

Ms. Kellogg was a true ‘over-achiever’; fluent in Oneida, Mohawk, and English, an orator, an organizer, and an activist for Native American rights, a short story writer, playwright, poet, and political essayist. I say ‘over-achiever’ in jest and admiration, certainly I admire anyone who has the capacity for work and creativity on the scale she did. Sadly, most of her books and pamphlets have not survived. “A Tribute to the Future of My Race” (shown at the end of this article) is her only known surviving poem.

Her actual death and burial location are unknown but historians believe she died in 19149 in an unknown location.

Kellogg was an advocate for the sovereignty of the Six Nations of the Iroquois. She fought for communal tribal lands, tribal autonomy and self-government. As we see 100 years later the fight is still necessary as we watch the US government force pipe lines across tribal lands and revoke rights from tribes. “The decision is the latest concerning sign that the Trump administration is willing to use its discretionary powers to attempt to take lands away from tribes, said Jean-Luc Pierite, of the North American Indian Center, a Boston-based advocacy group.” 

Ms. Kellogg and husband, Orrin J. Kellogg, persevered in reclaiming land in New York on behalf of the Six Nations people during the 1920s and 1930s. Kellogg developed the “Lolomi Plan",  a Progressive Era idea for a Bureau of Indian Affairs control, which would institute a tribal self-government and promotion of economic development. The Lolomi Plan is evident today in the success of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.


Typical of many poltical activists there are those who seek to take them down and destroy their efforst. Laura Kellog was a victim of this tactic. The first meeting of the Society of American Indians met On October 12, 1911, at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Kellogg announced to the society, "I am not the new Indian; I am the old Indian adjusted to new conditions." and presented "Industrial Organization for the Indian", proposing turning Indian reservations into self-governing "garden cities" with a "protected autonomy" that would interact with the market economy (a bit like today’s tribal casinos where a community has grown around them in support). Many of her colleagues were skeptical of her proposal to promote the reservation as a place of opportunity, wanting instead to abolish the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Oneida supported her idea but others had differing views of Kellogg, as described by Patricia Stovey:

Charles Edwin Dagenett, for example, called her "a visionary full of schemes but not practical." (Isn't that all nay sayers say?) Arthur C. Parker admired her intellect but found the intimidation of her rhetoric, "go my way or I will ruin you," unmanageable. Carlos Montezuma described her as a "cyclone", moving from one issue to another, wanting to do everything "without considering the consequences." However, Rev. Sherman Coolidge remembered her differently. Recalling the first time he heard her speak, Coolidge said, "tears came to his eyes to realize that we had a woman of brilliance among us and to think of the great good she could do for the Indian people."

Trouble began for Ms. Kellogg at the Third Annual Meeting of the Society in Denver, Colorado, in 1913. At the time, Oklahoma was a nest of corruption in Indian affairs. The Kelloggs were arrested on orders of a U.S. District Court in Pueblo, Colorado, on charges of obtaining money under false pretenses and impersonating federal officials. The Kelloggs, accompanied by federal agents to Colorado, were released on bail. Kellogg claimed she was framed by the Indian Bureau, "Another move in the game now being played in Osage County between the Department of the Interior, various big factors in the oil world, and the advance guard of the Robinson investigating committee." On January 31, 1914, Judge R. E. Lewis of the U.S. District Court at Denver, Colorado, upon hearing the evidence, ordered the jury to acquit the Kelloggs. The Kelloggs were exonerated of any financial wrongdoing, but as a result of the arrest she was dismissed from the Society, "an injustice and humiliation she never forgave." After the 1913 Denver Conference, Kellogg was no longer listed as a member of the Society.

There were more legal problems for Kellogg in New York as she tried to fight for her nation. Like we see today in the political arena, often those who are presumed to be on the same team often undercut each other. She was met with strong resistance from local, state and federal government, and even pressure on Six Nations leadership to stop her efforts. There was publicized in-fighting among and within the tribes was publicized in an effort to discredit Kellogg's efforts and reputation. In 1925, Kellogg, her husband were again arrested with Chief Wilson K. Cornelius of the Oneida Nation.


After this her campaign lost steam. Laura Kellog died quietly and poor never seeing her dream come to fruition.

However, her Lolomi vision helped create the success of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin where land holdings by the Tribe have increased from approximately 200 acres to more than 18,000 acres in the past 40 years. The economic impact is estimated in excess of $250 million annually.

If you would like to read more about Laura Kellogg I suggest this book.



A Tribute to the Future of My Race

Laura Cornelius Kellogg

Not a song of golden “Greek,”
Wafted from Aegean shores,
Not from an Olympian height
Come my simple syllables:
But from the northern of Wisconsin,
From the land of the Oneidas,
From the chieftain clan Cornelius,
From the friendly Iroquois
Comes the greeting of the wampum
And a tribute, humble, simple,
From the pines’ soft, lingering murmurs,
From the “pleasant water courses,”
From the morn-kissed, mighty highlands,
From the breezes and the flowers
Nodding secrets to each other,
From the din of metropolitans,
From the wisdom of their sages,
I have caught this sage’s epic.
Ye who love the haunts of nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches
And the rushing of great rivers
Thro’ their palisades of pine trees,
Ye whose hearts are kind and simple,
Who have faith in God and nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings,
For the good they comprehend not.
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in that darkness
Touch God’s right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened.
Ye, who sometimes in your rambles
Thro’ the green lanes of the country
Pause by some neglected graveyard
For awhile to muse and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Writ with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, yet each letter,
Full of hope, and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the here and the hereafter—
Stay ye, hear this rude-put story
Of the future of a nation.
Many moons have waxed and waned
Since their chieftain clans were numbered,
Since from seas of rising sun
To the far coast of her setting,
From the white bear’s colder regions
To the high-noon of their borders
Roamed an infant, warrior people,
A whole continent their own!
Ah, who were they? All barbarians? Were they men?
Without legend or tradition,
Without heroes, gods, religion,
Without thought of the hereafter?
Did they enter nature’s gardens—
In her temples of the forest
With their warriors’ hearts unmelted?
Did they tread her wreathed pathways
Without learning tenderness?
Did they see the roses’ dew-drop
And not wonder whence it came from?
And traced savage eyes the hemlock
Without learning majesty?
Is it nature’s law to teach not?
Ah, too often do we think not
That the human race for ages
Suffer countless throes, upheavals,
Ere they blossom beauteous.
But to day my epic telleth
Not the lore of idle camp-fire,
Not the past so buried deeply
’Neath the mound of gracious kindness,
But of beauteous enlightenment.
Who has made it? Who will make it?
That the golden sun of freedom
May shine brighter and still further
Till our glorious America
Be the world’s salvation—haven.
Ah, I’ve seen her high-born heroes
Who’ve attained life’s highest summits,
Stretch their hands to weary climbers
Without thought of race or color,
That a man may yet be saved!
And among the foot-sore climbers
I’ve beheld a stoic brother
Climbing silently and slowly,
All unnoticed, all alone?
Till perchance, he puts his step where
In a moment he has lost it.
Then the world’s quick recognition!
“He has fallen! He has fallen!”
Hark! a voice from yonder summit—
He is up, and tries again.
And—I can’t tell how I know it—
But two guardian angels’ trumpets
Blow against the gate of heaven,
And their descending volumes turn
To earth’s bright gladness and her flowers.
Then another rises onward
With chieftain fire in his eyes.
I see him mount unmindful
Of the rocks and sounds of way
Till at length I see him reach it,
And he, too, stand among
The heroes of that band!
So for him who mounts through
All the hardships of the mountainside.
I pray, to him give patience,
For, what the future holds
In the imperial sway of Time
No man can tell. No sentence
Without first indubious conviction
And, ere conviction, just chances, give.
And, oh, ye sons of Tonner hall
And all ye daughters, true,
Ye have it in your power to say
Of what, and when a race shall be;
Ye spring from noble warrior blood,
As brave as Saxon, Roman, Greek,
And the age that waits upon you all
Has begot a race of kingly men.
May your careers be as complete
As the arches of your mater halls,
And when the noon of mankind comes
May it find you all more nearly
With the noblest offspring
Of our dear, great land,
Such as Smiley, Pratt and Garrett,
Such as—oh, a thousand more
Along your young paths daily known!
Ah, they’ve taught us, we’ll remember
Beauteous enlightenment,
Then to each with one accord
We will extend the wampum strand
Made of friendships, purest pearl,
Made of gratitude, deep-rooted,
Made to last eternal summers.
Yea, the hearts’ right hand we give them,
Blue-eyed Royalty American,
Theirs, our native land forever,
Ours their presence and their teachings.
Ours the noblest and the best.

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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