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Colonel Clement Lounsberry

12/7/2015:

Colonel Clement Lounsberry was a well-known North Dakota figure. Following his service in the Civil War, he started his journalism career with newspapers in Minnesota. As the railroad moved west, so did Lounsberry. In July, 1873 he published the first issue of his Bismarck newspaper.

In 1889, Lounsberry was appointed special agent of the General Land Office. On this date in 1890, he passed through Grand Forks on his way to investigate Indian land claims in the Turtle Mountain region. Lounsberry sat down with a reporter from the Grand Forks Herald and took issue with the widespread anti-Indian sentiment in the west.

Lounsberry had many ideas on how to decrease the conflict. He asserted that “Bread is cheaper than bullets,” arguing that if Indians received adequate rations, there would be far fewer problems. Lounsberry also suggested that since the Plains Indians measured wealth by their ponies, it would make sense to encourage them to breed ponies for the cavalry. If they were paid a decent price, they would quickly become self-sufficient. He was also adamant that the Indians were routinely cheated by unethical Indian agents and traders. He said that as soon as Indian agents were appointed, they began scheming to exploit the position. He felt the appointments were too often political in nature.

There is no doubt that Lounsberry held some unconventional views. The reporter asked him what he would do with the Indians. He replied, “I would recognize them as human beings.” He acknowledged that the United States had entered into treaties, only to break them. He also complained about forcing religion upon the Indians, asserting that he would allow them to worship in their own traditions.

Lounsberry never became governor of North Dakota as he had hoped. But he is still remembered as a great newspaperman, as well as for his role in establishing the North Dakota Historical Society. In 1905, he moved to Washington, D.C. where he continued to work for the General Land Office. When he died in 1926, he was buried in Arlington Cemetery. For all his accomplishments, he is not often remembered for his farsighted attitude towards the Indian inhabitants of the state. But that is an aspect of his life that should not be overlooked.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Arlington Cemetery. "http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/calounsberry.htm" http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/calounsberry.htm Accessed 6 November, 2015.

Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. "http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.med.005" http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.med.005 Accessed 6 November, 2015

Grand Forks Herald. “Col. Lounsberry. The Colonel Tells a Herald Scribe a Few Things About Indians.” 8 December, 1890.

Robinson, Elwyn B. History of North Dakota. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.