Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Samuel Miller: Chief Uhm-Pa-Tuth

A few years ago I was doing some research in the Arvid E. Miller Memorial Library-Museum (the Stockbridge Mohicans' museum), and John Miller, the tribe's Director of Human Resources came in and passed around an article (from the May 19, 2004 issue of The Country Today) about a deceased relative of his, Samuel Miller. Actually, the article is really about a white person's childhood memory of seeing Miller's alter ego, "Chief Uhm-Pa-Tuth," during one of his speaking tours.

Samuel Miller's speaking tours or lecture circuits were designed to accomplish two goals: 1) to raise money for Lutheran missions to Indians and 2) to dispel some stereotypes that white people had about Indians. Wearing a Sioux headress, however, may have fed into some of the stereotyping that he was crusading against.

Like most performers, Uhm-Pa-Tuth mostly spoke to rather small crowds. However, when a nationwide Lutheran body celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the Chief appeared in front of a packed house of 3000 people at the Strand Theater in Albany, New York. (Incidentally, his speech that night was also put on the airwaves by a local radio station.)

During that stay in Albany, Samuel Miller decided that he wanted to visit Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The Berkshire County Eagle (see photocopy above) had quite a lot to say about Miller's visit, including that he took "great interest" in the Stockbridge Bible and the communion set which had been acquired by Mabel Choate only a few months earlier. In fact, Miller apparently told a reporter that he had corresponded with a "Rev. C. Williams Fisher," (maybe he actually said "Thomas Knox Fisher," a Presbyterian minister to the Stockbridge Mohicans from 1889 to 1891).

Unfortunately for us, exactly what Samuel Miller may have felt or thought about the Stockbridge Bible - and the fact that it was now in white hands - was not something that was covered by the Berkshire County Eagle.

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