A pair of old pictures, rather than being worth the proverbial thousand words each, leave more questions than answers.
Who was this man? What tribe? Who was his family? Where did they live? Why was he imprisoned? How long was he in? to mention just a few.
Half-length portrait, facing front;
Photo created about 1905 by Edward S. Curtis.
Library of Congress image.
Ben Long Ear was born about 1875. On December 16, 1886, age 13, he arrived at the famed Carlisle Indian Industrial School where he was supposed stay 5 years, until he was 18. He was sent home, departing Carlisle September 17, 1890, according to his Carlisle Descriptive and Historical Record of Student. Follow-up information shows that he was a farmer in 1910 and 1913.
In the 1893, Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, Benjamin Long Ears is recorded as a cooper’s apprentice.
A Spokane Daily Chronicle article, January 10, 1906, relates an “elopement” of Ben Long Ear, son of Chief Big Medicine, with Mrs. Crooked Arm, both married to others. In related articles in other papers, United States authorities are said to be looking for the runaways. (Other sources indicate that he was Big Medicine’s son-in-law, husband of Grace Big Medicine.)
Indians Who Eloped Charged With Bigamy
Cody, Wyo. April 2 – Ben Long Ear and Mrs. Crooked Arm, the Crow buck and squaw who eloped from the Crow agency in January, have been returned to the reservation by officers.
When they left the agency, Mrs. Crooked Arm took her little papoose and $300 of her husband’s money. Crooked Arm said he didn’t care for the money, but wanted his papoose back. Mrs. Long Ear, who was deserted, says she still loves her husband and will gladly take him back.
The couple will be tried on the charge of bigamy. Long Ear is ill from exposure in evading arrest.
In trouble with federal authorities in 1906 and a farmer in 1910 and 1913. What happened after that?
Ben Long Ear, Inmate #2454, 1914
McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary, Washington
National Archives image.
Did this man commit crimes that actually harmed others? Were his offenses a result of indigenous people running up against the morality of the newcomers to the land? Was he railroaded so that others could take some advantage?
It appears that the answer may be murder.
Joseph discusses how Indian policeman, including Fire Bearer, were expected to control alcohol during prohibition cattle rustlers, such as Garvin, convicted murderers, such as Ben Long Ears, and horse thieves, such as Cherokee Cherry Adams. (Summary of oral interview of Joseph Medicine Crow)
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