Monday, May 11 at 10:30 p.m. – A Warrior in Two Worlds
(Rochester, NY)– Ely Parker was a Seneca chief, a legal scholar, an engineer, a Civil War hero, and a Cabinet-level commissioner--all by the age of 40. At first glance a life of success and triumph, Parker died in poverty far from the land of his birth. A Warrior in Two Worlds, which airs Monday, May 11 at 10:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (DT21.1/cable 1011), depicts Parker's remarkable accomplishments and tragic struggles to remain true to his people.
Ely Parker was born Ha-sano-an-da in 1828 to Elizabeth and William Parker. As white settlements pressed in on their home, Parker was sent to a Baptist Mission school. There he adopeted the name Ely. As relations with the white men grew increasingly unstable, Ely was appointed translator, scribe, and interpreter for crucial correspondence and meetings with government leaders.
In 1846, Parker went to Washington, D.C. as the Senecas' "voice" in their fight for the Tonawanda reservation. For a year he lobbied at the White House and Capitol, but his efforts ended in a stunning defeat. Despite promises of support, a Senate Committee voted against the Tonawanda petition. In future years, Parker would negotiate a treaty that allowed the Tonawanda Senecas to buy back about two-thirds of their reservation land.
After the Civil War, Parker followed General Grand to Washington, D.C. to become a spokesman for "great-grandfather in Washington" on Indian Policies. As Parker's political power grew, so did the criticism from the Tonawanda Senecas. His marriage to white socialite Minnie Orton Sackett was a turning point in his now poor relations with his people. They saw him rejecting tradition and aligning himself with white America.
In 1869, Parker was appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs. As the administrator of the Peace Policy, parker's support of military force was controversial, but effective to supress the Indian Wars. A Warrior in Two Worlds illustrates the difficulties Parker faced in working for both the white and Seneca worlds.
The PBS documentary Warrior in Two Worlds was produced by WXXI Public Broadcasting, in collaboration with the Rochester Museum & Science Center. The program is also a co-presentation with Native American Public Telecommunications.
Pictured: Wong Chew Mo and Chow Kun Ling of Grandview Film Company
Credit: Courtesy of National Archives
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