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Ioway Cultural Institute : History :

Truman W. Daily (1898-1996)


Truman Washington Dailey, the last fluent speaker of the Otoe-Missouria (Baxoje-Jiwere-Nyut'chi) language, passed away on the 16th of December, 1996, at the age of 98, after several years of failing health. His Eagle Clan name was Mashi Manyi ("Soaring High"); he was also known by his man's name, Sunge Hka ("White Horse").

He was born on October 19, 1898 near Red Rock in Oklahoma Territory, a mere 18 years after the tribe left its traditional homelands in Nebraska, and migrated to Oklahoma Territory in an effort to escape the westward non-Indian settlement. His father was George Dailey (XraS'age "Old Eagle"), Missouria & Otoe; his mother was Katie Samuels, Ioway & Otoe. He was also raised and influenced by his Ioway maternal grandmother, Rachel McCrary (Ewo'jigreMi "Makes Tree Fall Woman" [Beaver Clan]). He had several siblings, but only a sister, Lizzie Harper, lived past childhood. She recently passed away at the age of 103.

He married Lavina Koshiway on March 17, 1928, and together he served as a Road Man (ceremonial leader) in the Native American Church. They were unable to have children.

His father belonged to a group (the "Coyote Band") that resisted giving up traditional ways of life, and young Truman was well versed in the oral literature and history of his peoples. He genuinely lived this tradition by regularly supporting the ceremonial life of the tribe, as well as applying his traditional teachings in all his dealings with the larger world. He was the last elder to be able to explain the reasons and meanings behind the rituals during tribal gatherings and ceremonials of the tribe.

Truman began teaching the Otoe-Missouria language to tribal classes during the 1970's cultural renaissance. A gifted storyteller, his vivid memory, use of comparisons, and cultivated command of both his native language and of English allowed him to pass along much of the knowledge and history that he acquired from his own elders. In 1988 he again volunteered to serve as a language consultant for Louanna Furbee of University of Missouri and her dedicated students to record his language for posterity. It is thought by some tribal members that certain differences between his speech and the usual Otoe were remnants of the Missouria dialect of his father.

In addition to their respect for tradition, his family recognized the need for academic education and the ability to participate fully in the non-Indian world, and Truman attended Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater. He was awarded an honorary Doctor's degree in 1993 by the University of Missouri.

Truman was himself the subject of a doctoral dissertation (Lori Stanley, _The Indian Path of Life: A Life History of Truman Washington Dailey of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe_, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia, 1993). This work, and the continuing use of his language, will be the ultimate tribute to his efforts. He was laid to rest in the manner he lived with a ceremonial prayer and song service of the Native American Church that celebrated his life, his language and his traditional knowledge that he shared and mentored for so many of us.

Jimm G. GoodTracks

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