Henry S. La Croix


Henry S. La Croix. The task that missionaries and educators among the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma have failed to accomplish, the field agent of today is attempting to accomplish, i.e., the education of the Indian in the conduct of the ordinary business affairs of his everyday life. Neither the missionaries nor the educators neglected wholly the vital essentials of citizenship as contained in business transactions; but it always has been of seemingly secondary importance in their schemes of mental, religious, social and industrial development. With Comparatively few exceptions, the Indian today of more than half blood is not competent to dispose of his land advantageously; nor is he competent to properly handle the funds received in return. This accounts for Congress having passed strict law’s relating to the removal of restrictions from these Indians and their lands. The government realized that in protecting the Indians against the desecration or loss of their substance, it must provide also that they be taught the lessons of trade, commerce, conservation and thrift. Hence it created Indian agencies and placed under their direction and supervision field agents whose duty it is to act as guardians for the Indians, assist them in conserving their resources, and direct the expenditure and investment of the major portion of the moneys that come into their hands.
The agency at Madill, which is in charge of Henry S. La Croix, himself a five-eighth Indian of the tribe of Sioux, is one of the most important in the state, for the reason that its territory embraces that section of the former Chickasaw Nation where,n live a majority of full bloods and other Indians of more than half blood of this nation. Marshall, Johnston and Bryan counties are in this territory, and in each of these counties probably three-fourths of the land yet remains in the hands of Indians.
The secret of the good offices of the field agent lies in the fact that he saves the average Indian from profligacy. If the red man desires to sell his land, he must make application to the field agent for the removal of restrictions. This application is forwarded to the Union Agency, at Muskogee, and if passed upon favorably is sent to the Interior Department at Washington, District of Columbia, where the proper credentials giving title to the purchaser are issued. The field agent advertises for thirty days the fact that the land is to be sold, at auction and to the highest bidder. The money received for it is paid into the treasury of the Government and expended for the benefit of the Indian, the latter getting in cash at the time only a small per cent of the amount. If a tract is sold for $1,200, the field agent will invest for the Indian about $600 of the amount in a house on his homestead, if a house is needed, and probably $500 in horses or mules and farming implements. In other words, the money is spent to the best advantage of the Indian in buying what he most needs, and every investment is a practical lesson in economy to the Indian. The field agents make all purchases and enter into all contracts for their wards, even to the preparing of plans for his house and the selection of carpenters to build it. Agent La Croix recalls a case in which an Indian who was having a house built under his own contract agreed to pay a carpenter $250 for the labor. The agent was advised of the agreement in time to save the Indian nearly $200 on the labor. There are many ways in which the agent conserves the resources of the Indian, and the necessity for it is patent in view of the susceptibility of the Indian to the wiles of unscrupulous white men.
It is the duty of the field agent to supervise the execution of all leases on Indian lands. These consist of oil and gas, mineral, grazing and agricultural leases, and regarding them the agent has more complaints than arise in the other departments of his work. There is a class of Indians who may lease their lands without the approval of the agent, but the department is seeking to have the agency oversee every sort of lease contract. Lands for some purposes have a lease value of about $3 per acre, although cases are on record where owners have leased eighty acres for $50 a year.
The Madill office, under Mr. La Croix, receives from 75 to 150 applications a year for the removal of restrictions from Indian lands in order that they may be sold, but not all applications are approved, and here is a case of the field agent intervening in behalf of the welfare of the Indian, for many times a disposition of the land would be sheer unwisdom. The services of three men are required at the Madill office, but five probably will soon constitute the force. Wherever possible, competent Indians are favored for appointment in the offices, and it was this custom that brought Mr. La Croix into the service, a work for which he has shown remarkable aptitude.
Mr. La Croix was born at the Santee Indian Agency, in Nebraska, in 1889, a son of Oliver S. La Croix, who was for seventeen years a carpenter at that agency, the son of a Frenchman who came down from Canada, and a full blood Sioux woman. There were nine children in the family: Henry S., of this notice; Oliver S., who is a tanner and resides on the allotment of his deceased father in Nebraska; Mrs. Noble Lunderman, who lives at Herrick, South Dakota; Mrs. Paul Downs, who lives at Burke, South Dakota; Raymond, who is a farmer in Nebraska; and Agnes, Clarence, May and Lillian, who are living with their mother in Nebraska.
Henry S. La Croix was educated in the district school at the Santee Agency, the Riggs Institute in South Dakota, and at Haskell Institute, at Lawrence, Kansas, receiving his degree from the latter institution in 1910. Later in the year he became stenographer in the office of the superintendent of Haskell Institute, and subsequently filled a clerical position in the office of the Union Indian Agency at Muskogee. Later he was promoted to the position of assistant district agent and still later made assistant field agent, being promoted, July 1, 1915, to the position of field agent, which he has since retained.
The nice feature of appropriateness through Indian relationship that attaches to the work of Mr. La Croix is enhanced by a bit of romance in connection with his marriage. Many years ago a man named Pennel, of North Carolina, moved to South Dakota, and in course of time married a full-blood Sioux woman. After a child had been born, Pennel decided to explore regions of Montana and other states of the Northwest and sent his wife and child back to his relatives in North Carolina. He never returned from his journey, dying in the West. Florence Pennel, the child, grew to womanhood in North Carolina, receiving her higher education at Haskell Institute, where she met Mr. La Croix. After he had made progress as a man for himself, he went to North Carolina, claimed his bride and they were married and returned to Oklahoma. Mr. and Mrs. La Croix have one child ; Henry Edmond, aged two years. The family are members of the Catholic Church.