July 25, 2014

Truman Washington Dailey,last native speaker of the Otoe-Missouria dialect of Chiwere


Truman Washington Dailey, (October 19, 1898 – December 16, 1996) also known as Mashi Manyi (“Soaring High”) and Sunge Hka (“White Horse”), was the last native speaker of the Otoe-Missouria dialect of Chiwere (Baxoje-Jiwere-Nyut’chi), a Native American language, and a Roadman in the Native American church.


Truman Dailey was born on October 19, 1898, on the Otoe-Missouria reservation in Oklahoma Territory. He was a member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians. 

His father, George Washington Dailey, was a member of the Eagle Clan of the Missouria and belonged to a traditionalist group within the combined Otoe-Missouria tribe called the “Coyote Band.” As a result, Truman Dailey was well-versed in the traditional lore of his people.

Dailey attended Oklahoma A&M College until 1922. While at Oklahoma A&M, he performed in the college band and was made a member of Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity.

In 1928, he married Lavina Koshiway, daughter of Jonathan Koshiway, who was one of the founders of the Native American Church. By 1938, Truman and Lavina were conducting their own church services, where he was considered a Road Man (ceremonial leader). Road Man, or Road Chief, is a title given to the leader of the peyote ceremony in the Native American Church.

During the next decade Truman Dailey served in administrative offices in the Native American Church of Oklahoma and the newly formed Native American Church of the United States.

During the 1960s, Dailey worked at Disneyland as the announcer for the American Indian programs. When Walt Disney hired him, he allowed Dailey to use one of his own Indian names in the show, simply changing it to “Chief White Horse.” During this time he also appeared on The Steve Allen Show.

After leaving California, he and Lavina returned to Oklahoma in 1970, where he taught the Otoe-Missouria language in tribal classes and later served as a consultant for the University of Missouri native language project, in order to record Otoe-Missouria for posterity.

Dailey remained a vocal advocate of Native American ceremonial rights.

In 1974, he testified in Washington, DC, and in Omaha, NE, regarding the ceremonial use of feathers and other natural objects in opposition to the Migratory Bird Law. Dailey also testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs in 1978 (Senate Joint Resolution 102).

The resulting legislation, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, was signed into law by President Carter but was only partially successful, so that in 1992, Dailey, now 93 years of age, was called upon once again to give testimony to the Senate committee. This time the subject was the Native American Church’s most notable characteristic, the ceremonial use of peyote. The resulting amendment to the Act legalized the use of peyote for official Native American religious purposes.

The following year, the University of Missouri at Columbia awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Lavina Koshiway Dailey had died in 1988. Truman Dailey died on December 16, 1996, and was buried next to her in the Otoe-Missouria Tribal Cemetery.

Siouan-Catawban Language Family
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