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Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)
illustration ©2012 Robby McMurtry
Charles Alexander Eastman was born in Minnesota in 1858. During the “Sioux Uprising of 1862” Ohiyesa was separated from his family, whom the tribe thought had been killed by the whites. He was raised by his grandmother until age fifteen, when his father, who had fled into exile, reappeared. The father had converted to Christianity and taken the name Jacob Eastman. The reunited Eastman family established a homestead in Dakota Territory. After two years in missionary school Ohiyesa also accepted Christianity, and took the name Charles Alexander Eastman. He studied at Beloit College, Knox College, Kimball Union Academy, Dartmouth College and Boston University, where he graduated in 1890 with a medical degree. Eastman worked as an agency physician for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and later established a private medical practice, but struggled financially. At the urging of his wife, he tried writing stories he had learned in his childhood. His first book, Indian Boyhood, was published in 1902, and was an immediate public success. He subsequently wrote a total of eleven books, including Red Hunters and the Animal People (1904), in which On Wolf Mountain first appeared. In 1910 Eastman, with Ernest Thompson Seton, founded the Boy Scouts of America, incorporating Indian craft and lore as a large part of the organization. Eastman was in high demand as a lecturer and public speaker, traveling extensively in the U.S. and abroad until his death in Detroit at age eighty. His story appears in Native American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22.