I Wanted to Live Like the White Man

Chief Long Lance, an Indian, has run the gamut from cowboy to college student, to soldier, to boxer, to newspaper and magazine writer. They told him that he could never “live white,” that sooner or later he would go back to the feathers. They were mistaken, and in this article he tells why.

CHIEF BUFFALO CHILD LONG LANCE May 15 1926

I Wanted to Live Like the White Man

Chief Long Lance, an Indian, has run the gamut from cowboy to college student, to soldier, to boxer, to newspaper and magazine writer. They told him that he could never “live white,” that sooner or later he would go back to the feathers. They were mistaken, and in this article he tells why.

CHIEF BUFFALO CHILD LONG LANCE May 15 1926

I Wanted to Live Like the White Man

Chief Long Lance, an Indian, has run the gamut from cowboy to college student, to soldier, to boxer, to newspaper and magazine writer. They told him that he could never “live white,” that sooner or later he would go back to the feathers. They were mistaken, and in this article he tells why.

CHIEF BUFFALO CHILD LONG LANCE

MISSIONARIES on a Blackfoot Indian Reservation in southern Alberta taught me my A B C’s— but an old-fashioned bartender out in Wyoming first thrilled me with the idea that I might become educated and really make something out of my life.

This man was a Pennsylvania Dutchman and so he happened to know about Carlisle Indian School. He asked me one day when I was in the old Central Bar at Laramie with a crowd of cowboys why I did not go to Carlisle and become educated. He explained that it was free for Indians.

“But I can’t even speak good English,” I told him. “Well,” he said, “you can educate yourself for entrance to Carlisle by reading. Read, read all the time—anything and everything you come across.”

I was at that time sixteen years old and a full-fledged cowhand. I could break and ride bucking horses. I could barely sign my own name and spell out words. But I could ride almost anything that stood on four feet.

I had just been fired from a ranch for losing my temper and striking a horse with my fist and I thought I was through with the white men. I thought

they had mistreated me because I was an Indian. And that afternoon I bought an unbroken cayuse for seven dollars, threw my tarpaulin over his back, in lieu of a saddle, and went north to the Indians, breaking him as I rode.

Shortly after this I was included among a band of Indians selected to make a tour with Colonel Cody, who was known all over the world as “Buffalo Bill.” We traveled widely for a year—I do not know where we traveled, as all cities looked alike to me then, but I often see places now where I know I have been before. I was still a boy, and my bobbed hair had again grown so that I could braid it.

“I Am Going to be Like That”

SOMETHING happened at the very , beginning of this tour which had a tremendous influence on my life. One afternoon the chiefs and some of -the older Indians were taken out to a wealthy and cultured home and some of us youngsters were taken along. This was the first time I had ever met people of real culture and seen how they lived in their homes—and I liked them. They were different from any I had ever met. They had the dignity that the Indian likes, and they did not yapicta—talk too much. An Indian distrusts anyone who talks a lot. These people so impressed me with their bearing and their environment that I decided on the spot, “I am going to be like that.” Then it was that I remembered the bartender’s advice, and on the strength of that and the smattering of the “three R’s” I had learned at a mission, I began forthwith to read everything I could get my hands on. I bought a dictionary to

help me translate the English tongue. I never passed a word in my reading without finding out its full meaning, with its principal synonyms and antonyms. By the fall of 1909 I had prepared myself for entrance to the Carlisle Indian School.

Though I had a tremendous will to learn, my brain was as tough as raw buffalo meat when I arrived at this famous old institution. I could not make the first-year class, but the instructors evidently sensing that I was a willing student, shoved me into the class anyway, and sat up nights teaching me on the side. I was almost a hopeless case, but I had one faculty which saved me, and that was my thoroughness for learning every detail of a thing, and once learning it, ngver forgetting.

I skipped the junior class and graduated in 1912 as the honor graduate and valedictorian. Having gone into athletics to offset the indoor life and the mental strain of learning, I now found that it was possible to go on to higher schools on my athletic ability. I attended Conway Hall, Dickinson College, a year, and then received a scholarship to St. John’s Military Academy, at Manlius, New York, where I took post-graduate work and graduated in 1915 with a silver medal for class and athletic honors.

At St. John’s, old temper, which I thought I had conquered, popped up again one day, and I struck a fellow cadet. I was court-martialed and reduced to the ranks. At the time I was under appointment to West Point by President Wilson but I “flushed” the entrance examinations and decided that the best place for a chap who could not keep from disgracing himself and his friends was fighting under the colors of an army that was upholding a world cause. So back west and north I came. Three

weeks after I had “coughed” and said “Ah-h” for the medical officer, I was on my way to France on the Olympic, as “Sergeant B.C. Long Lance, C. Company, 97th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.”

What college did not teach me about holding my temper the war did. After seeing men lacerated day in and day out intermittently for nearly three years, the vengeful ego in me disappeared. It has been supplanted by a desire to fight only for things big enough to be a principle of protection to others.

“You’ll Go Back to the Feathers”

VI/'HEN I returned from overseas in 1919 and got * » my discharge in Calgary, I walked out of the armory wearing civilian clothes for the first time in ten years. -In fact, they were about the first civilian clothes I had ever worn; for before I had gone to the military schools, about the nearest I had got to white civilian clothes was a wide-brimmed, two-gallon hat.

My real problem was: What was I going to do with myself? I knew absolutely nothing about earning a livelihood. All I knew was arts and science and how to construct trenches for warfare. I had entered school, ten years before, an immature cowboy, not knowing even the rudiments of that “profession.” I had emerged from the kaleidoscopic whirl of college and war. an educated person with a white man’s biain—yet an Indian. And I was three years behind time—years that were more valuable to an Indian trying to fight his w'ay from college into civilization than to a white college man who returned to a civilized home, friends and prospects of a position.

The day after I got out of the army I met Major C. W.

Maclnnis, of Edmonton, former chief intelligence officer of the Canadian Forces wdth whom I had worked after being disabled by wounds. We met on Eighth Avenue, Calgary. He said: “What are you going to do now, Chief?” “Oh, I’m going to get a job somewhere and carry on.”

“I’ll make you a bet,” he said. "I’ll bet you a hundred dollars that two years from now you’ll be back into the blanket. I’ll just give you that amount of time. You might think you are going to stick it out, and you may stick it a year. But I know you better than you know yourself. You are going to get disgusted and go back to the feathers, and the reservation.”

That was the best thing that anyone could possibly have said to me. In athletics I always had fought better in the opposition’s territory. To be against me was to be with me. So now' I had the Major to game with—I’d show him.

Looking for a Job

I LOOKED around Calgary, and it w'aa jammed with soldiers out of work. The Department of Soldiers’ Civil Reestablishment said that they would put through an aoplicatior for admission to university so I could finish my college work. I made out the application and forgot about it.

Then, I remembered the one thing that I could always fall back upon, professional athletics. I had boxed successfully in the army and I decided to go down the Pacific Coast and become a professional boxer. I went to Los Angeles, and on my way down was singled out on the train by a boxing promoter, who immediately took me under his wings—once a boxer, one can never conceal the fact afterwards, for some mysterious reason.

Arrived at Los Angeles, I was introduced to another promoter who, after watching me do my stuff, offered to match me against the middleweight champion of the Pacific Coast for $500. But it was not to be. The next morning I received a letter from the D.S.C.R. at Calgary, informing me that my recommendation for a journalistic course at one of the universities had gone through, and to report immediately.

The next morning I cancelled the fight engagement and started for Calgary. When I arrived the D.S.C.R. informed me that I could either go to college and learn journalism or be placed on a newspaper. I chose the latter and was started on the Calgary Herald at ten dollars a week.

I would still be on the Herald, no doubt, if I hadn’t felt a little urge for some excitement one morning three years later, and placed a fake bomb in the city hall. The joke was more successful than I had anticipated. One of the city commissioners jumped through two panes of window glass and landed in the snow a story below with a few cuts and bruises. It was a foolish joke—I came to realize afterwards—and I got what I deserved— dismissal from the Herald.

I still had my athletics to fall back upon; so I decided again to go to Los Angeles and turn pro. I was more confident now than ever; for I had boxed with Dempsey in Calgary two months before, and he had said to me: “If I had you three months, Chief, I could make a chamDion of you.” So, to Dempsey, at Los Angeles I would go. But again, it was not to be. I missed the weekly boat from Vancouver to Los Angeles, and had neither enough money left to go by train or remain in Vancouver a week for another boat.

Again fate had decreed that brawn should give way to brain. With many regrets that I had overslept that morning, I went over to the Vancouver Sun and got a job there. For six months I traveled through British Columbia and parts of Alaska, visiting all of the Indian tribes and writing their story for the Sunday feature section of the Sun. That province completed, I decided to do this in every province in the West; so I went to Regina and wrote the history of the Indian tribes of Saskatchewan for the Regina Leader. Later, I signed with the Winnipeg Tribune to cover the Indians of Manitoba for their feature section.

It was about this time that I was successful in selling a series of articles to MacLean's Magazine, and I might count my comparative success as a free lance from that date. I wrote for MacLean's and the Toronto Star Weekly for almost a year. Then I was taken on the staff of Press Department of the Canadian Pacific Railway, from which I have not yet been fired. I spend my summers at Banff, and through the personal contacts which the Canadian Pacific has enabled me to make with the editing and publishing world I am now having some success as a magazine and newspaper contributor.

As a result I am pretty much of a free man. I travel about a bit, lecture a bit, write a bit—and when summer comes I’m up in the Rockies. My play-work at Banff is better than being all the prizefight champions in the world.

Two or three times a year I go back to my Indian reservation, where I spent my boyhood and where my people still live. I was proud when they elected me a Chief. I had won my spurs fighting side by side with the white men—and my tribe had recognized this.

I’m proud to be as much like a white man as I am—but I’m proud, too, of every drop of Indian blood that runs through my veins. I’m proud of my Indian heritage—and I’m proud, too, of the land and people of my adoption.

I have reached no dizzy heights of material success, but I have succeeded in pulling myself up by my bootstraps from a primitive and backward life into this great new world of white civilization.

Anyone with determination and will can do as much.