Author: St Jean, Wendy
Date published: October 1, 2011
The Outlaw Statesman: The Life and Times of Fred Tecumseh Waite. By Mike Tower. (Bloomington, Indiana: Authorhouse, 2007. 237 pp. map, notes, bibliography, index. Paperback $14.49.)
When researching about various Chickasaw statesmen, I kept encountering Mike Tower's book The Outlaw Statesman: The Life and Times of Fred Tecumseh Waite. This book, though from a vanity press, has not received the attention it deserves. As a history buff published in journals such as the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Tower is well versed in the geography and changing boundaries of Chickasaw and Choctaw towns in Indian Territory.
A treasure trove of information about Chickasaw politics is found in this book, mostly covering the last two decades of the nineteenth century. The writing style is clear, helping the reader move with ease through the often confusing and tedious landscape of legal and political machinations. In short, Tower makes the subject accessible and readable. Another strength of the book is his charting of the family relationships between Secretary Fred Tecumseh Waite and the Paul and the McClure families. This alone makes this book a valuable resource for Chickasaw genealogists and local historians.
Waiters mother, Catherine McClure, was Chickasaw and a stepdaughter of Smith Paul and a stepsister to the notorious, violent-tempered, Chickasaw Progressive politician Sam Paul. Waiters father, Tom Waite, was a white man who partnered with Smith Paul in developing Rush Creek Valley. Although Fred T. Waite was briefly involved in the "Regulator" activities alongside William Bonney (Billy the Kid) that section of the book only comprises a few pages, which makes the book's title unfortunate since such violence did not define the entirety of Waite's life. Indeed, Waite was remarkable for his advanced university education and checkered career (29).
Growing up near Fort Arbuckle, Fred T. Waite and his family lived in constant fear of Comanche and Kiowa raids. Eventually, the threat to their persons and livestock subsided, and Waite's white father and stepgrandfather used slaves and white migrant workers to build and fence large farms. In 1868, Fred Waite's father Tom Waite welcomed sixty white families to and Smith Paul's jointly controlled farmlands and ranches. Although the Chickasaw nation owned the land, Tom Waite and Smith Paul leased thousands of acres to white sharecroppers for personal profit.
After he finished college, Waite became a wanderlust and got mixed up with cattle rustlers and bank robthrough love of adventure (not financial need). Waite returned to Indian Territory in 1879, a wanted in Lincoln County, New Mexico. Back in Indian Territory, Waite got in trouble by acting as his Uncle Sam Paul's posse man. Although a commissioned U.S. Indian Police Corporal, Sam Paul was trigger-happy, and he and Waite faced murder charges at Fort Smith in 1882. Waite proved his innocence but Paul was imprisoned until he received a Presidential Pardon in 1884. The common experience of arrest, jail, and trial brought Waite and Paul closer together and they remained staunch political allies for the rest of their short lives.
The main thrust of the story is how Waite became a "dynamic and respected statesman battling Washington bureaucratic attempts to dismantle his people's government in order to create the State of Oklahoma" (viii). Under the Chickasaw's Progressive Party Governor William Guy's administration, Waite's steady rise to political prominence began. In 1886, Waite served as a delegate to an inter- tribal council to discuss U.S. pressures to open Indian Territory to white settlement and government. The next year Waite became a Constable of the U.S. Indian Police and opened a liquor store, contrary to Chickasaw and federal law (84). Chickasaw officials looked the other way (as did they earlier when Sam Paul operated a saloon). In 1889, Waite became editor of a newspaper owned by Sam Paul, the Chickasaw Enterprise, which advocated a territorial form of government, and was elected Speaker of the Chickasaw House of Representatives. Next, Waite was elected to the Chickasaw Senate in 1890, as a member of the Progressive Party. When Sam Paul was killed in 1891, Waite became a party leader and moderated the Progressive Party's tone. Pullback Chickasaw Governor Jonas Wolfe chose Senator Waite as Attorney General, and Waite rose to the position of National Secretary under moderate Progressive Governor Palmer Mosley.
Waite tried to slow the U.S. government's efforts to allot and detribalize the Chickasaw. He sought better terms that protected less educated Chickasaws from whites5 designs on their lands. In the Purcell Register, Waite wrote: "We do not deny that allotment will come, but we hope to defer that time until our people are sufficiently educated to accede to the management of so great an estate" (179). As a stalling measure, Waite played on industrialists' fear of strong federal control over private enterprise. He asserted that if Congress destroyed patents to Indian lands, it could also destroy titles to corporations. However, Waiters industrial support crumbled as businesses saw a profit to be made in land speculation, banking enterprises, town site schemes, and mining ventures (187). Waite died at the age of 42 in 1895 of declining health and rheumatoid arthritis before the statehood question was resolved.
Though a vanity press book, the author has produced a good work that anyone interested in the history of the Chickasaw should put on their shelves. Though the book deals with politics and internal issues among the Chickasaw it does open the way for further research into issues of government, identity, masculinity, and violence in the Chickasaw Nation. As mentioned above, it is also a must for those interested in Chickasaw genealogy.
Wendy St. Jean
Department of History
Purdue University Calumet