The Yale Indian

The Education of Henry Roe Cloud

The Yale Indian

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: June 2009

Author: Joel Pfister

American Studies, History > U.S. History, Native and Indigenous Studies

Honored in his own time as one of the most prominent Indian public intellectuals, Henry Roe Cloud (c. 1884–1950) fought to open higher education to Indians. Joel Pfister’s extensive archival research establishes the historical significance of key chapters in the Winnebago’s remarkable life. Roe Cloud was the first Indian to receive undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale University, where he was elected to the prestigious and intellectual Elihu Club. Pfister compares Roe Cloud’s experience to that of other “college Indians” and also to African Americans such as W. E. B. Du Bois. Roe Cloud helped launch the Society of American Indians, graduated from Auburn seminary, founded a preparatory school for Indians, and served as the first Indian superintendent of the Haskell Institute (forerunner of Haskell Indian Nations University). He also worked under John Collier at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where he was a catalyst for the Indian New Deal.

Roe Cloud’s white-collar activism was entwined with the Progressive Era formation of an Indian professional and managerial class, a Native “talented tenth,” whose members strategically used their contingent entry into arenas of white social, intellectual, and political power on behalf of Indians without such access. His Yale training provided a cross-cultural education in class-structured emotions and individuality. While at Yale, Roe Cloud was informally adopted by a white missionary couple. Through them he was schooled in upper-middle-class sentimentality and incentives. He also learned how interracial romance could jeopardize Indian acceptance into their class. Roe Cloud expanded the range of what modern Indians could aspire to and achieve.


“[A] thought provoking and refreshingly original profile of the inner experience of one of the twentieth century’s most influential Native leaders, a figure whom surprisingly few have written about. Scholars of American history, culture, politics, education, and indigenous studies will surely find this an engaging text and an innovative approach to American Indian biography that brings emotional and psychological experiences to the fore.”
— Doug Kiel, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

“I found much in this book that was thought provoking and insightful. I particularly appreciate Pfister’s emphasis on social class, an aspect of Native American experience too often marginalized in favour of culture and race as categories of analysis.” — Nancy Shoemaker, Journal of Historical Biography

“[A] commendable study. . . . Pfister has drawn heavily on the extensive Roe Cloud correspondence in Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library to construct a convincing analysis of Roe Cloud's education, which he aptly deems ‘a cross-cultural encounter’ (p. 99).” — Margaret Connell Szasz, Journal of American History

“[A] strong work of psychobiography—well researched, written, and illustrated. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” — D. Steeples, Choice

“Joel Pfister’s study of the career of Henry Roe Cloud makes a useful and insightful contribution to the growing body of knowledge about the group of American Indian intellectuals and activists whose careers flourished in the early part of the twentieth century. . . . Roe Cloud’s career offers a study not of adaptation but of a specifically American kind of self-determination, in this case through a canny awareness of the crucial significance of class.” — Lucy Maddox, American Historical Review

“The real value of this book, it seems, is that Pfister is a talented cultural studies scholar who offers a new framework for understanding Henry Roe Cloud. Further work on Roe Cloud will benefit immensely from the The Yale Indian’s conceptual framework.” — Francis Flavin, Ethnohistory

The Yale Indian advances a project begun in Joel Pfister’s Individuality Incorporated and also breaks new ground. This book, based on archival research, is about the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Henry Roe Cloud (1884–1950), the first full-blood Indian to graduate from Yale (BA 1910, MA 1914). Mostly overlooked by historians, in his era he was recognized as one of the greatest Native leaders. Roe Cloud expanded the meaning of ‘Indian,’ in part by striving to develop a university-trained professional and managerial class of Native people at a time when the Carlisle Institute was educating Indians to work on Ford’s assembly lines. This is a rich and important book.” — Arnold Krupat, author of Red Matters: Native American Studies

“A provocative anatomy of the privileges and penalties of an elite early-twentieth-century liberal education for one accomplished Native American, Henry Roe Cloud, the “Yale Indian” of the title. Drawing upon a rich array of Roe Cloud’s personal and professional correspondence as well as published papers, Joel Pfister lays bare the effects of powerful and mutually sustaining operations of Indianization, individuation, sentimentalization, spiritualization, professionalization, and bureaucratization on Roe Cloud’s life course and chances. In the process, he brilliantly illuminates Roe Cloud’s strategic and successful self-fashioning as a classed, raced, sexed, and gendered modern subject at a particular place and time. As Indian-White history, The Yale Indian also extends and deepens our sense of the productivity of private life in forging and maintaining what Ann Stoler has termed the ‘tense and tender ties’ of U. S. Empire.” — Laura Wexler, author of Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U. S. Imperialism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Joel Pfister is Professor of American Studies and English at Wesleyan University. He is the author of four books, including Individuality Incorporated: Indians and the Multicultural Modern, also published by Duke University Press, and Critique for What? Cultural Studies, American Studies, Left Studies. He is a co-editor of Inventing the Psychological: Toward a Cultural History of Emotional Life in America.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction. Chapters in the Education of Henry Roe Cloud 1

1. Yale Education 23

2. Sentimentalized Education 83

3. Cultural Incentive-and-Activism Education 127

Coda. The Indian Ethos of Service 161

Appendix. Sometimes History Needs Reminding 175

Notes 177

Index 243
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4421-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4402-5
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