Item #3669 Iapi Oaye / The Word Carrier. S. R. Riggs J. P. Williamson, A. L. Riggs, F. B. Riggs.
Iapi Oaye / The Word Carrier.

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Iapi Oaye / The Word Carrier.

Greenwood, DT (Dakota Territories, present day South Dakota): Dakota Mission, 1878–1887 and Santee, Nebraska: Santee Agency 1888–1936. Folio, black calf spine and blue cloth boards, black lettering piece at spine; multiple partially bound issues and a few loose issues. Total of approximately 800 issues: Dakota/English, June 1878–December 1883 (lacking July 1880, Dec 1882); separate Dakota/English, January 1884–March 1913 (lacking Jan–Feb 1884 Eng., Mar–Apr, Aug–Sept 1885 Eng., June 1887 Eng., Jan 1905 Dak., Eng. & Dak., Aug–Sept 1928 Dak.); separate Dakota/English, January 1916–August 1930 (lacking Aug–Sept 1928 Dak., Aug 1930 Dak.); selected daily issues: October 15, 21, 28 and November 4, 11, 18, 1936. CONDITION: Good, some damage to edges of pages, very occasionally a corner of a page missing and only one instance with loss of a few words.

A scarce run of this long-lived publication targeted at both the Sioux and white Christian readers.

Iapi Oaye was begun by Reverend J. P. Williamson in 1871 for the people of the Dakota Mission, which was founded in 1835. It was printed in Chicago until 1883, when it moved to the press at the Yankton Agency. The introduction of English-language columns and eventual addition of the English title “Word Carrier” transformed it into a fully-fledged bilingual periodical in English and the Santee dialect of Dakota. A transfer in 1877 from the Yankton Agency to the Santee Agency preceded the 1884 separation of Iapi Oaye and Word Carrier into two separate publications. These developments were accompanied by editorial shifts among J. P. Williamson and three generations of Riggs men: Stephen R., Alfred L.,and Frederick B. Riggs. The latter assumed editorship of the Word Carrier after his father Alfred’s death in 1916 and of the Iapi Oaye after Williamson passed away the next year.

The separated periodicals began to address divergent areas of interest, the Word Carrier tending to focus on Mission and Santee Normal Training School news with a potentially munificent east-coast audience in mind, and Iapi Oaye tending to discuss matters of local, native, and religious interest. This is likely due to the striking philosophy of A. L. Riggs, who was also the principal of the Santee School. Riggs was anomalous in his adamancy that the school be taught in both English and Dakota: “Things, not names, are what the true teacher must grasp” (Annual Report, p. 162). Riggs’ insistence that the most personal, cultural, and religious sway was to be gained through people’s native tongues clashed fatally with the U.S. Government’s educational funding policies, but the papers were popular and continued to be published until 1939.

Iapi Oaye and the Word Carrier contain first-hand accounts and original editorial commentary, as well as excerpts from other journals, to give a variegated and intimate perspective on historic events and attitudes. “Several of the correspondents responsible for the content of Iapi Oaye were Dakotas practicing Christianity. These writers’ articles add a texture that helps explain the complex cultural transformations working in the Sioux community. The Dakota record reveals two anxious communities, one ruthlessly dedicated to its crusade among the Sioux and one struggling (literally under the gun) to cope with massive social and cultural changes” (Kerstetter). Of particular interest is the Word Carrier’s coverage of the Ghost Dance, the death of Sitting Bull, and the Wounded Knee Massacre over the course of several issues in the winter of 1890–91. Iapi Oaye was the only contemporary paper to cover these topics in a native language, albeit with less stress on the facts and more on admonition.

A trove of information on a wide range of matters relating to the condition, culture and history of the Sioux and their interactions with missionaries.

REFERENCES: Pilling, Siouan, p. 40; Siebert Sale #1061; Ayer Linguistics ; Allen Dakota 476 (part of entry for Williamson’s “An English-Dakota school dictionary”); Kerstetter, Spin Doctors at Santee: Missionaries and the Dakota-Language Reporting of the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee in Western Historical Quarterly, pp. 45-67; A. L. Riggs in Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1887, p. 162; Riggs, S. R. Mary and I, p. 263.

Item #3669


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