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Oklahoma Journeys

Roy Hoffman and Chitto Harjo

2010-03-06

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Roy Hoffman and Chitto Harjo first met each other in March 1910. Hoffman was a Colonel in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and Harjo was also known as Crazy Snake. Hoffman was ordered to put down the rebellion Crazy Snake was responsible for. The Crazy Snake Rebellion the story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Roy V. Hoffman, with his family, came to the territory in 1889, first settling in the Sac and Fox reservation. He then moved to Guthrie where he founded the Guthrie Daily Leader, the first daily newspaper in the Oklahoma Territory. During the Spanish American War, he joined the Oklahoma Territory Battalion of the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a private but was soon commissioned as a Captain.

Meanwhile Chitto Harjo, it is believed, was born around 1854 in the Creek Nation. Nothing is known of his early life except that he was a follower of the leader of the federal element of the Creeks during the Civil War.
In 1892 the long-feared specter of division of tribal lands took tangible form when the Congress created the Dawes Commission for the purpose of inducing Indians to agree to the allotment of their lands. Harjo at once became the acknowledged leader of the dissenting faction, continually warned his people that allotment of lands would lead to the final step in the white man's domination over the Indian.

Harjo was most widely known as Crazy Snake. Chitto is a Creek word meaning snake, and Harjo signifies one who is brave beyond description, foolhardy, or in a loose sense, crazy. Thus Chitto Harjo became known to the whites as Crazy Snake.

From 1900 to 1909 Harjo led and coordinated resistance to the federal government's interference in Creek tribal affairs. The Snakes, as the group was called, formed their own break-away Creek government and abided by their own laws and rulings. The headquarters for this insurgent group was the Creek ceremonial site known as the Hickory Grounds in present-day Okmulgee County, and it was there that Harjo and Hoffman would meet. Governor Charles Haskell ordered Hoffman to take his guardsmen to quell the Crazy Snake Uprising near Henryetta in 1910. The militia found no armed resistance nor any evidence of a Snake uprising for the full-bloods were still in their hill-country homes.
Meanwhile, the sheriff had secured a warrant for the arrest of Crazy Snake, whom he considered to be the cause of the trouble. The old Snake at this time lived in McIntosh County at the base of Tiger Mountain. The sheriff and several deputies went there to arrest him. They fired at him without warning. Crazy Snake was shot in the hip, and Charles Coker, his lieutenant, was shot through the chest.

Chitto Harjo lived with his friend, Daniel Bob, for the last several years of his life. He died in distress from the gunshot wound on April 11, 1911. Hoffman, meanwhile, went on to a distinguished career in the Army and Oklahoma National Guard, eventually commanding a division in World War One.

The Oklahoma Historical Society holds thousands of documents, artifacts and resource materials on the history of the Creek Nation in the Indian Territory as well as on the allotment process, and you are invited to investigate the story of our wonderful state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City.Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.