History 430: Theory and Practice

Document Type

Undergraduate Research

Publication Date

Spring 5-9-2012


On January 4, 1918, the Miami Record Herald ran a story that had become quite common in the years preceding. The newspaper out of Miami, Oklahoma received a story that the United States Government had declared three members of the Quapaw tribe incompetent to manage their funds and land. The rumor mill declared a bad investment led to Ben Quapaw, Se-Sah Quapaw, and Wah Tah Neh Zah Goodeagle to receive the declaration. In the minds of many, it was just another Indian wasting their mining money. What was happening was a far more troubling situation. Two attorneys who had been working for Benjamin and Se-Sah had discovered that a declaration of incompetence would allow them to become the managers of their clients' funds. After having them both declared incompetent, the two lawyers went on a two-year spending spree that used $170,000 of the two tribal members' money, a figure that would translate to almost 3 million of dollars in modern currency. From 1926 to 1929, Bureau of Indian Affairs agent J.L. Suffecool authorized the spending of $262,000 of vehicles, which would cost approximately $500 apiece. The Tri-State mining area was a godsend to many members of the QUapaw tribe, but corruption within the government and strangling restrictions made it difficult for the Quapaw people to function with their tribal identity intact.