Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 6, No. 1
A Personal Sketch: of Bertrand Nicholas Oliver Walker
Written by Himself
Most of this article was written by Mr. Walker when he expected to have it placed in one of his books. It was never finished and was found in his desk after he passed away, June 27th, 1927…….
I was born in Old Wyandotte, now Kansas City, Kas., Wyandotte County. Am the youngest of a family of eight children. My father, Isaiah Walker was an eighth degree blood Wyandot Indian, belonging to the Ohio band of Wyandots, of the Little Turtle Clan. My mother, Mary Walker, was a quarter-blood Wyandot belonging to the band which long resided in Canada, along the Detroit, near old Fort Malden, of the Big Turtle Clan. She with her parents removed with her parents westward with the Ohio Wyandots in 1843.
I am of about three-sixteenths Wyandot Indian blood, a member of the Oklahoma band, of the Big Turtle Clan, in what was formerly Quapaw Indian Agency, now Ottawa County, Oklahoma. I say about three-sixteenths degree, for this reason: to give which it becomes necessary to go into traditional tribal family history. My paternal great-great-grandfather, James Rankin, and my maternal great-grandfather, Adam Brown, were white men (the latter a captive taken when a child in Virginia, and adopted and reared by a Wyandot woman) who both married Wyandot women, members of the band living along the Detroit. The women that they married were both of the Big Turtle Clan, known within the tribe as French women; since they were of French blood, descendants of a French Officer of the first fleet of French vessels which came up the St. Lawrence River, who took as his wife, the daughter of the Chief of the village. Two daughters were born of this union, and my two great grandmothers were descendants of these two daughters. My paternal great-grandfather, William Walker, was also a white captive from Virginia, who was adopted in the tribe and who married Catherine Rankin, a Wyandot girl, daughter of the aforesaid James Rankin. Article 8 of the Treaty at the Foot of the Rapids of the Miami of Lake Erie, negotiated in September 1817, grants to “Catherine Walker, a Wyandot woman, and to John R. Walker, her son, who was wounded in the service of the United States, at the battle of Maugaugon, in one thousand eight hundred and twelve, a section of six hundred and forty acres of land each, to begin at the northwestern corner of the tract hereby granted to John Vanmeter etc.” Said John R. Walker and a brother, W. W. Walker also signed this treaty as sworn interpreters. The treaty of Brownstown, Michigan, in November 1808, is signed by Adam Brown, my great-grandfather, as one of the principals of the delegation of Wyandot chiefs, and by my great-grandfather, William Walker, as one of the sworn interpreters. Great-grandfather Brown was also one of the signers of the Treaty of Fort Industry, July 1805, and of the Treaty of Greenville, August, 1795. I mention these incidents to show that my people have been among, and influential with the Wyandots, for nearly two hundred years. When the war of 1812 occurred, Great-grandfather Walker and one of his sons fought on the American side, while Great-grandfather Brown in Canada, was with the British, to whom he always remained a loyal subject. I have in my possession, the faded scarlet gold embroidered flap from the pocket of his military uniform; also a pair of silver cups given him by Col. Grant of the British Army, as a token of friendship and esteem. Until his death he was held as an authority on Indian affairs with the British, as also was Great-grandfather Walker and his sons so held by United States Officials, as to Indian Affairs in the Ohio North-west.
When a child I removed with my parents from Kansas to Old Indian Territory, where I have ever since resided, except for the time that I spent in the Indian School Service, at other Indian Agencies. I was so employed in the Government Service, as teacher first, afterwards as clerk, from 1890 until 1917, in Old Indian Territory, Kansas, Western and Southwestern Oklahoma, California and Arizona.
I first attended school at a Friends’ Mission School established about the year 1872, near Wyandotte, Oklahoma. It was afterwards taken over by the Government and is now known as the Seneca Indian School. I afterwards attended the public school at Seneca, Mo., for a short time, then took up individual study for four years under an old College Professor who tried to establish an Academy in this locality. I then taught school for ten years, always doing a lot of individual study. Have always been a student and a reader. Was reared on a farm, and have always been a country boy and a lover of the woods and out-of-doors, doubtless an inherited trait. I greatly enjoy meeting people, but do not like to mingle in a crowd. My home is on the old place where my parents settled when they came to Old Indian Territory in 1874, a portion of which was allotted and patented to me as a Wyandot Indian. My place is out in Oklahoma, about two miles southwest of Seneca, Mo., which place is our nearest town and postoffice.
I have lived among Indians all of my life, and have always been interested in everything pertaining to them. Have always enjoyed talking with the older people of the various tribes I have been among, and have thus, made myself familiar with their “olden times,” legends, myths, ancient customs, rules, manners, etc. And as I have told you that my ancestors have been among the Indians for several centuries, I guess that it is not either strange or remarkable that I should have been interested in these things. I recall my Mother’s telling me one time that when I was but a few weeks old, Tauromee, the last full-blood Wyandot chief, who was then leaving Kansas to come down to this country, came to our house to see me. He said to her in Wyandot: “Well, he don’t look much like it, but he’s a Wyandot, and he’ll always stay with his people.” The old fellow seems to have had the gift of prophecy, truly.
Concluded by Czarina C. Conlan
At the time of Mr. Walker’s death he was Chief Clerk of the Quapaw Agency at Miami, and made his headquarters there. Yet he maintained his home at the old homestead six miles from Senaca, Mo., in Ottawa County, Okla. He was laid to rest in the old family burying ground near the home attended by hundreds of friends. He left two old brothers, Isaac and Thomas Walker who made their home with him. A sister also survives him, Mrs. Mathew Murdock, of Senaca, Mo.
Mr. Walker was 57 years old and had never married. He had been in the Indian service over twenty-five years. A more loyal and true friend of the Indians never lived. Their interest were ever on his heart. He was never happier than when doing them some kindness or helping them over some of the problems that confronted them.
As a natural consequence there was no man in that part of the state who was more loved by the Indians and the people in general. As a demonstration of the esteem in which he was held, while he was in a hospital during his last illness many of the Indians went to see him, and were solicitous that every thing possible should be done to save his life. They wanted his physician to have a specialist in consultation. One was sent for. When the case was diagnosed, he said everything was being done that could be, and he was ready to return to St. Louis. One of the friends suggested that if he could stay longer he might find something could be done. He was told if he remained another day it would be very expensive, in fact he would have to charge a $1,000 fee. Immediately the man took out his check book and wrote the specialist a check for that amount.
All who knew Mr Walker were aware that he had spent the most of his income for years in a beneficent way He was in many ways an unusual man. Very versatile and talented. He could play the piano well and had a pleasing voice. He possessed literary ability, and had written an interesting book on “Tales of the Bark Lodges.” A book of poems under the name of Hen-Toh. The history and legends of the Indians especially of his tribe had always been of great interest to him. Being a great student of history he had surrounded himself with a splendid library. In his old home were many valuable old relics of his family which he loved to keep as they had been placed there by his mother and father. In his library hung a large picture of William Walker, Chief of the Wyandott Nation, the first Governor of Kansas Territory, who was his great uncle.
One of the priceless relics in the State Historical Society was placed there by him in 1924. It is a string of wampum from parts of the belts or tribal records of the Huron Wyandotte tribes of Indians, the first people whom the early French discoverers met when they sailed up the St. Lawrence River. When the wampum was sent a note accompanied it. In closing he said “May the wampum never again be removed, but forever remain in Oklahoma the home of the Redman.”
“Oh that the whole wide world could now
Accept the Redman’s ancient symbol
Offering its incense to the Universe;
Bringing Good-will to earth again
With Peace, white Peace.”