On this date in 1910, reaction was swift to a news story given to reporters in Grand Forks. The story related how C. M. Ziebach, a 107- year-old Indian had been arrested on the Fort Totten Reservation by Deputy U. S. Marshall H. P. Wood. According to Wood, the elderly Indian had been taken into custody for unlawfully introducing liquor to the reservation. Wood’s story pictured Ziebach with pure white hair to his waist and pure white whiskers to his chest. The news item further stated that Ziebach had witnessed the years of greatest strife between the white man and the Indian, and how the proud warrior, now at an advanced age, will be compelled to face a federal grand jury.
When the story was picked up by the Associated Press, it ran in newspapers all across the country and touched the hearts of many. The C. M. Ziebach was living on the Fort Totten Reservation, but instead of being a 107-year-old Indian, he was actually the middle-aged Superintendent of the Reservation, who was basically unaware of the hoax that Deputy Wood had concocted. Upon learning of the story and its national impact, Ziebach pressed upon Wood to issue a public retraction, which he did willingly. In a letter written on November 17, Wood stated, “The article in The Evening Times which appeared Nov. 2, with regard to the arrest of Major Ziebach ... was a canard, pure and simple ... (Such stories) are capable however of doing harm at times and I take the first opportunity of stating the story is utterly without foundation.” But Wood’s letter did take a little jab at the news reporters when he included the line, “Such stories generally come from simple minds and are calculated to please only the same.”
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Bowbells Tribune November 11, 1910The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican November 17, 1910