Victor M. Locke, Jr. In his position as principal chief of the Choctaw tribe of Indians, Victor M. Locke. Jr., has made a nominal honor and dignity a source of inspiration and power to the people who have invested him with all the delegated responsibility which remains^ as a vestige of what the office of principal chief once meant and signified. Many of the most important facts concerning the Choctaw people, considered from the standpoint of their former national unity, can be understood most clearly through Chief Locke’s work and his messages.
In October, 1915, he delivered a message to the council of the legislative branch of the Choctaw tribe of Indians, and from that message are quoted the following sentences:
“William Penn was the first notable dealer in Indian lands. That was back in 1641. He bought the State of Pennsylvania from a band of Indians and paid for it in soft words and a few bushels of beads. William’s figure in bronze stands today on the tower of the city hall of Philadelphia–the city of Brotherly Love. He looks over the tops of its great buildings with quiet composure and something of his spirit seems to have followed the ages.”
Through this significant illustration Mr. Locke emphasized his criticism of the manner in which affairs of the Choctaws is being handled by the United States Government today. His words concerning William Penn were especially applied during his discussion of the subject of the removal of restrictions on the alienation of lands belonging to individual members of the Choctaw tribe. The entire message, the recommendations in which were approved by the council, is the outline of a campaign that is to be made before Congress by Chief Locke and his lieutenants.
One feature of the procedure of the Indian office which comes in for Chief Locke’s particular criticism is its method of transacting personal business matters for individual Indians, through Indian agents, and conditionally. As an illustration he calls attention to the procedure wherein an Indian’s restricted land is sold and the proceeds invested in a house and other conveniences on his homestead, and in livestock and farm implements, the remainder to be paid to the Indian in monthly installments. However, if a team of mules is purchased each is branded “U. S. I. D.”–United States Indian Department.
“I do not question the good intentions of those who put these regulations in practice,” says Chief Locke. “I question their judgment as to the best manner in which to teach grown up men self respect and self reliance. If restrictions must be removed, and the law directs that they shall, I insist that it should be done unconditionally and the money paid over to the owner thereof to be used as his best judgment directs. I can not look back thirty years and feel that the old fellows I knew at that period would observe with any degree of pride the spectacle of their sons driving a pair of mules up and down the road branded ‘U. S. I. D.’ Our people lived in houses and wore breeches a full hundred years before the Dawes Commission came among us to tell us that the Choctaw people were fully competent to take their place in the white man’s business world and succeed; and the inconsistency of their practices at present compared with their preachments of a former date should be met with business like protestations by a spirited people.
‘The removal of restrictions on the alienation of lands allotted to our people,” he said, “entails a procedure by which everything is going out and nothing coming in. It opens up an avenue by which the individual Choctaw is being separated from his land, and this avenue steadily leads onward–it’s a story as old, as the history of this country;” whereupon he makes an illustration of the case of William Penn.
“The spiritual, educational and industrial future of the Choctaw Indian lies in the tribal school,” declared Chief Locke. He recommended to the council a petition to Congress asking for a continuation of the schools that are conducted at the expense of the Choctaw tribe of Indians. “Do our children attend the public school established under the State government?” he asks. “We all agree that they should attend these schools, but as a matter of fact do they attend and what percentage take advantage of school facilities provided under the State government? To my mind the question of education for our Choctaw children should take precedence over all other matters submitted here for your consideration. In reaching your conclusion let me urge you to keep in mind the undeniable fact that in being possessed of this vast estate we owe the race a debt that cannot be paid off by this generation.”
The United States Government now has approximately $7,000,000 to the credit of the Choctaw tribe of Indians. In his message Chief Locke urged, and the council concurred, that this be distributed pro-rata among the Indians. There are approximately 21,000 Indians on the Choctaw rolls and if this money were distributed each would get about $330. “ I feel certain.” says Chief Locke, “that the sentiment of Congress is favorable to a payment for our people. They have demonstrated it time and again by their votes. There is no doubt in my mind but that the approaching session will give us this long sought relief.”
The council also agreed with Chief Locke in his unqualified opposition to the reopening of the Choctaw rolls in order that Mississippi claimants to citizenship might have an opportunity to share in the estate of the tribe. “I am happy to say that the sentiment of Congress appears to be largely opposed to the reopening of our rolls, and I do not anticipate that those who seek to induce Congress to violate its solemn obligations will succeed; but in my judgment just as long as the Choctaw people have an undivided interest at stake, just that long will people of every hue and color be ambitious to become Choctaws.”
No recommendation is made by the Choctaw chief regarding distribution of the segregated coal and asphalt lands. “I am led to believe,” he says, “that it was the intention of Congress to set aside all minerals belonging to the Choctaw people as a permanent source of school fund for the education of Choctaw children. I readily admit that I have no recommendations to make. I simply await an expression from our people as to their wishes with regard to these valuable properties.” The Atoka Agreement of 1898 provided that these lands, aggregating more than 750,000 acres, should be held in common by the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes. A supplemental agreement made in 1902 provided that they might be appraised and sold. An act of Congress of 1906 provided that the lands should be reserved from sale pending the expiration of existing leases.
Principal Chief Locke was appointed by President Taft to the highest position in the Choctaw tribe February 15, 1911, succeeding Green McCurtain, under whom he had served as secretary. An Act of Congress of 1906 continued the existence of the tribal government but took from it all functions of government save the power of petition and recommendation. The duties of the principal chief relate principally to matters of which Chief Locke spoke in his October message. There are fifteen members of the council and twenty members of the House of Representatives, and Gilbert W. Dukes, a former principal chief, is president of this council. In 1911 a session of this legislature was held, and was the only session thus far under the administration of Chief Locke.
Principal Chief Locke was a member of the council in 1903, and at the same time was United States Government Interpreter for paying parties. On July 1, 1908. he was appointed by Secretary of the Interior Garfield as District Indian Agent for the entire Choctaw tribe. He was chosen secretary to Principal Chief Green McCurtain, February 1, 1910, and remained in that position until the death of McCurtain. His appointment as principal chief was ratified by the Choctaw people. The cabinet of Chief Locke consists of Pat J. Hurley of Tulsa, national attorney; William R. McIntosh of McAlester, mining trustee; Henry F. Cooper of Stigler, tribal school representative. In carrying out his negotiations at Washington. Chief Locke and the national attorney for the Choctaw Nation were assisted by two delegates, Peter J. Hudson, a full blood Choctaw of Tuskahoma, and Dr. J. H. Miller an intermarried citizen of Antlers.
Victor M. Locke, Jr., was born at the old Indian village of Doaksville, near Fort Towson, in 1876. His parents are Victor M. and Susan Priscilla (McKinney) Locke. His father, who is now seventy-five years old and a resident of Antlers, is a white man and a native of Tennessee, but came to Indian Territory in March. 1866, after serving through the Civil war as a Confederate soldier, and on his return to his old home in Tennessee finding it in ruins and his relatives gone, he entered the Indian country from Texas, and lived for a time with the McKinney family, near Wheelock Academy. He moved with the family to Lukfata, and there was married to a daughter of Mr. McKinney, who was of Choctaw blood. He became a trader in cattle and merchant at Doaksville. In September, 1886, Victory M. Locke, Sr., cut the first tree on the present town site of Antlers and later built the first business house and established the first business there. Under the administration of Principal Chief Jefferson Gardner he was superintendent of public instruction of the Choctaw tribe in 1894-96. The father of Mrs. Locke, Sr., was Thompson McKinney, who once was superintendent of public instruction of the Choctaw tribe and who represented his people in Washington for a number of years.
The first school attended by Victor M. Locke, Jr., was taught at White Church, six miles east of Antlers, by Nolan Henson, a white man, who afterwards married an Indian girl. Lumber for this school building was hauled overland from Fort Towson and the bell was bought for it by the senior Locke. Later Mr. Locke attended school in Antlers and still later was a student in Jones Institute at Paris, Texas. In 1893 he entered Austin College at Sherman, Texas, where he remained two years. Meantime his father had been appointed superintendent of public instruction and he was selected to accompany a party of Indian boys to Drury College at Springfield, Missouri, where he remained one year.
In 1913 at Caddo, Oklahoma, Principal Chief Locke married Mrs. Vivia Nail Robertson, daughter of J. H. Nail, a prominent Indian citizen, who was related to the well known Choctaw family of Folsoms. Her father’s grandfather once was a chief in the Choctaw tribe. She was born and partially reared near the site of Fort McCullough, on Blue River, near Caddo. Fort McCullough was erected during the Civil war. Mr. and Mrs. Locke have a daughter, Rose Ba-nat-ima, the later being a Choctaw word meaning charity. This daughter was born December 7, 1914. Mr. Locke has a sister and several brothers. His sister is Mrs. Charles E. Archer, wife of a banker in Antlers. Mrs. Archer organized the Antlers Camp of the Daughters of the Confederacy and in 1915 was elected historian by the state organization of the Daughters of the Confederacy. She was educated in the North Texas Female College at Sherman. Chief Locke’s brother, Ben Davis Locke, was educated in Christian Brothers’ College, in St. Louis; Edwin S. Locke, another brother, was educated at Sacred Heart College, in Oklahoma and in the City of Rome, and now lives in Kansas City.
Chief Locke is a veteran of the Spanish-American war, though he never got into active service. In 1908 he organized Company L of the Oklahoma National Guard, and Governor C. N. Haskell appointed him captain of the company. On December 20, 1915, he was promoted by Governor Lee Cruce to the rank of major in the National Guard, and was succeeded as captain of the company by his brother Ben Davis Locke, who is his private secretary. He is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Spanish War Veterans, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Army League of America. He also belongs to the National Security League, is a member of the Catholic Church, is a republican in politics, and was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1904 which nominated Theodore Roosevelt for President.
Principal Chief Locke, while possessed of more than half American blood, is Choctaw to the core. The interests of the Choctaw people are his interests, and they are vital interests in view of the vast estate of these people and the efforts of the chief among them to make good American citizens of the lowliest among them. Mr. Locke spends in Washington all the time that Congress is in session and appears before congressional committees and before the various departments of the Government as the official spokesman of his people. His ambition is to have the Choctaws educated that they may be careful and saving of the money that one day must be theirs, and that they may make useful citizens of the state. The career of Mr. Locke presents many interesting and romantic features. He was born in the backwood hills of an Indian nation. Facilities and opportunities were very meager. However, he has much of the culture and mental discipline of the ablest in the white race. In fact, he has kept pace with the white man, and is a courageous, high minded and high spirited leader of one of the most distinctive branches of the Indian races in America.