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Doc Hubbard, Part 2


Last Wednesday, we introduced to you Ralph “Doc” Hubbard, who for many years ran the Fur Trade Wild Life Indian Museum in Medora. Hubbard’s great-grandmother was Mohawk, and he spent his childhood on the Seneca Indian Reservation in New York, where his parents developed the famous Roycroft line of fine art and furniture. Roycroft was so popular that famous figures of the late 1800s became regular guests at the family’s dinner table.

Hubbard got his nickname, “Doc”, while going to college. He wanted to be a medical doctor like his grandfather, but his father, a grade school dropout, thought education was a waste of money. So, Doc financed his education by waiting tables and working in livery stables. When he ran out of money, he would take a semester off to work on his Uncle Elmer’s ranch out in Montana. Doc graduated from Cornell in 1910 and immediately headed west. He did a short stint as a teacher on the Crow Reservation in Montana and then enrolled in the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Shortly before receiving his master’s degree in 1915, Doc noticed a group of students clustered around a newspaper. The headline read, Lusitania Sunk by Germans; the story was accompanied by a list of prominent citizens believed dead, including a picture of Doc’s dad, Elbert.

Doc enlisted in the army the following year. Three of Teddy Roosevelt’s sons were in his regiment, and Doc gained the opportunity to meet TR. They talked about Medora, and Doc agreed that Roosevelt’s plan to set aside the Badlands as a park was a good one.

After the war, Doc resumed his study of Native American history, crafts and dancing, which he integrated into one of his other passions, the Boy Scouts. In 1920, he was put in charge of the American Indian program for the International Jamboree in London. Afterwards, he built a summer boys’ camp on his Colorado ranch, complete with guest cabins, library, 60 cows, and 64 horses. His mother taught French and literature, his sister taught horsemanship, and Doc taught Indian lore and dancing.

Doc lost his ranch in the Great Depression, which also hit his Native American friends very hard. He helped them out the best he could and, whenever possible, he took frozen meat to the Pine Ridge Reservation. This meat was supplied by a sympathetic game warden, who, among other things, gave him carcasses that had been confiscated from poachers. For his kindness, Doc received many gifts and artifacts from his friends; he later displayed them in his Medora museum.

In 1946, Doc moved to Minot, where he taught biology at the high school and college for ten years. After several other moves after that, Doc moved to Medora to work with Harold Schafer in 1964. The museum they created was recently demolished to make room for the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Doc Hubbard died in Medora in 1980 at age 94. Brian Green, who runs Lone Buffalo Tours in the Badlands, describes his first encounter with Doc’s grave. “I stopped at the Medora cemetery to check out the historical headstones,” he says, “and that was when I saw, in this cemetery full of cowboys, a marker with a feather on it and the Lakota name Wanbli Wakan. The grave had a marble bed on it with a headboard that has his cowboy boots on the shelf, and a Louis L’amour book and reading glasses lying on the bed. Doc’s marker is at the foot of this bed.”

Doc Hubbard’s Lakota name means Medicine Eagle; elder warriors gave the name to him while he was visiting the Standing Rock reservation during the depression.

Sources: A Man as Big as the West: The Story of Ralph Hubbard. Pruett Publishing, 1979.

Brian Green, personal correspondence. 2004.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm