Friday, February 5, 2010

The Spread of Freemasonry Among the American Indians of the United States by Dr. Patrick Neal Minges

The Spread of Freemasonry Among the American Indians of the United States
by Dr. Patrick Neal Minges

On January 20, 1791, a curious assembly of Americans appeared before thebrethren
of the Prince of Wales Lodge #259 in London, England. The minutes of theLodge
recorded the event: William Augustus Bowles, a Chief of the Creek Nation, whose
love of Masonryhas induced him to wish it may be introduced into the interior
part of America,whereby the cause of humanity and brotherly love will go hand in
hand with thenative courage of the Indians, and by the union lead them on to the
highest titlethat can be conferred on man, to be both good and great, was
proposed by theRight Worshipful Master, with the Approbation of the Prince to be
admitted anHonorary Member of this Lodge. He was seconded by the Secretary, and
receivedthe unanimous applause of the whole Lodge.1 Though Bowles was not
actually an American Indian, he was considered among theChiefs of the Creek
Nation by the Indians themselves and was also appointed by theGrand Lodge of
England to the "provincial grand master of the Creek, Cherokee,Chickasaw, and
Choctaw Indians." 2 Bowles was accompanied by three Cherokee and twoCreek
headman and it is reported that they visited the Grand Lodge of England as well
asseveral other lodges. Though Bowles and his associates were "lionized by
London society in 1791," heand his associates were neither first Native American
Freemasons nor even the firstIndian Freemasons to visit England. That honor
belongs to Joseph Brant(Thayendanegea), the principal War Chief of the Mohawk
Nation who also translated the 1 William R Denslow, Freemasonry and the American
Indian (St Louis: Missouri Lodge of Research, 1956, 125. 2 Denslow, 58.

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Gospel of Mark and the Book of Common Prayer into his language. He received
hisdegrees in Hiram's Cliftonian Lodge No. 417 at some point before the onset of
theRevolutionary War. When he sailed to England in 1776, Brant was presented to
the court,wined and dined at the expense of the government, and had his picture
painted by one ofthe outstanding artists of England. The British government, who
sought to bestowdegrees and Masonic titles as a means of soliciting support
among influential colonistspulled out all stops for Brant; it is given on good
authority that Brant received hisMasonic apron at the hands of King George the
Third. 3 The British appeal worked perfectly. Brant spent much of his time
trying to amassthe support of his people, but many natives resented his fidelity
to the British Crown. Infact, revisionists often hold Brant accountable for
dividing his people and destroying theLeague of Six Nations. While nations such
as the Mohawks and the Seneca sided withBritain; the Oneida and the Tuscarora
supported the Americans throughout most of theRevolutionary period. 4 Even
though he sided with the British, his loyalties were neverunclear; on several
occasions, Brant spared the lives of fellow Freemasons and yetenemies when at
the point of despair, they presented "the great mystic appeal to a Masonin the
hour of danger." 5 In case it has missed your grasp, we appear to have plunged
right into the deepwith respect to the spread of Freemasonry among American
Indians; that is with intent.We are not addressing "Indian Masonry." There have
been numerous treatises written the 3 Denslow, 101-102.4 History Television
[Canadian Broadcasting Corporation], "Joseph Brant"
[] (Accessed
September 13, 2003) 5 Sidney Hayden, in Cornelius Moore, Leaflets of Masonic
Biography, (n.p., 1863), 27.

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attempt to find relationships between the philosophies and practices of the
indigenouspeoples and their corresponding principles and practices within
Freemasonry. There havealso been quite a few discussions of how travelers to the
Western Frontier encounterednative peoples who hailed them with the signs and
symbols of the brotherhood. Equallyso, many persons have found affinities
between Indian "secret societies" and "fraternalorders" and those of
Freemasonry; even the great Arthur C. Parker, himself a Freemason,stated that:
The Masonry of the Indians as philosophers dealing with moral truths grew out
oftheir experiences with nature and the actions of humankind. The wise men of
thetribes knew that a band of men pledged to uphold morality and to enact
rituals itsadvantage would constitute a dynamic influence.6 However, in his work
Indian Masonry, Robert Wright comes to the following conclusion: There us no
Indian Masonry in that small and narrow sense which most of us thinkof; that is
one who pays lodge dues, wears an apron like ours gives signs so nearlylike ours
that we find him perforce a Mason in any degree or degrees we know,and which
degrees we are prone to watch, just as we do a procession of historicalfloats,
which casually interest us, and maybe a little more so if we can but secure
aplace at the head of the procession, the true meaning of which we have but a
faintidea about. This makes our own Masonry as meaningless as the interpretation
ofIndian signs by an --deleted-- trapper. 7 What we are addressing is the spread of
Freemasonry among those persons ofAmerican Indian heritage and brought up within
the culture and traditions of theindigenous peoples of the Americas in general
and the United States in particular. It isquite important to stress at this
point that there is no such thing as an "American Indian"in the generic sense in
which they have easily definable common traits and characteristicsany more than
we can state that the Irish, the German, and Italian have the same. Thenative
peoples of the Americas had thousands of mutually unintelligible languages and 6
Arthur C. Parker, American Indian Freemasonry (Buffalo, Buffalo Consistory, A.
A. S. R. N. M. J. U. S. A., 1919), 36p. 7 Robert Wright, Indian Masonry. Ayer
Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 1905.

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distinct social, political, and cultural practices that defined and often set
themselves inopposition to other indigenous persons in the midst and from afar.
Today there are about500 American Indian peoples, each with its own language and
cultural traditions rootedin their historical experience with their surrounding
environment, the creatures thatinhabit it, and whatever divine force they
believe made it all possible.Why would persons of Native American descent wish
to become associated withthe philosophical traditions and ritual practices of
Freemasonry? To me, there is a verysimple answer -- for the very same reasons
that every other person who has chosen tobecome affiliated with the craft. I
will no more attempt to articulate these reasons for youthat I would ask you to
expose the inner workings of your own heart and soul to a curiousand
exploratory, but often --deleted--, interloper. What is important is that
countlessAmerican Indians across history have chosen to become Freemasons and
continue to doso even unto this very day. They are our brothers in every sense
of the word and whateverpolitical, religious, and even cultural differences that
they express from us are eclipsed bythe three great lights of our brotherhood.
There can be but one simple answer to thisquestion as to why Native Americans
join our brotherhood… "so to act, that the principle of his actions may be
exalted to a law of nature; to actin that manner only in which he thinks that He
who has given to nature itsimmutable laws, would have compelled him to act, had
He chosen to introducecompulsion into the realm of mind, in order to realize his
design."8 That they have done so is indisputable. Some of the most important
leaders of thevarious nations that make up our indigenous peoples have chosen to
become a part ofFreemasonry. Tecumseh, a Shawnee prophet who reportedly "was
made a Mason whileon a visit to Philadelphia," was the leader of a Pan-Indian
movement in the eighteenthcentury. Alexander McGillivray, a mixed blood leader
of the Muskogee, and LouisAnnance, of the Alnombak people of the Abenaki Nation,
were skilled political leaders.Red Jacket, famous orator of the Seneca and
leader of the traditionalist resistance amongthe Iroquois, was a Freemason. His
nephew, General Ely S. Parker, was General U.S.Grant's Adjutant and drew up the
conditions of surrender at Appomattox. He went on to 8 The Masonic Monthly, "The
Lesson Taught By The Three Great Lights"
[] (Accessed September 13,

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be the First American Indian Commissioner of Indian Affairs under Grant. Leaders
onboth sides of the Civil War in the Indian Territory including John Ross,
Opothle Yahola,Elias Boudinot, John Jumper, Peter Pitchlyn, Stand Watie, the
last Confederate general tosurrender. Coming forward into history, we find
Carlos Montezuma, doctor andspokesman for the Yavapai Indian; Arthur C. Parker,
Scientist, Scholar and LiteraryFigure from the Seneca Nation; Philip DeLoria,
Sioux leader and Episcopal Priest; andlast but certainly not least Will Rogers,
American humorist and philanthropist. 9 Thoughmany of these names may not be
familiar to you, they can be considered among theilluminati of the First Nations
of the United States.The story of the first American Indian Freemasonic lodges
has yet anotherinteresting aspect. J. Fred Latham, in The Story of Oklahoma
Masonry, reports that notonly were Native "chiefs" made Masons in the East, but
that because both the NativeAmerican leaders and the military officers who
removed them during the "Trail of Tears"were Masons, it made the process of
removal "more orderly." 10 General Winfield Scott, aFreemason, who presided over
the removal of the Cherokee, gave explicit orders topursue this distasteful
activity with civility, "Every possible kindness...must therefore beshown by the
troops, and if, in the ranks, a despicable individual should be found capableof
inflicting a wanton injury or insult on any Cherokee man, woman, or child, it is
herebymade the special duty of the nearest good officer or man, instantly to
interpose, and toseize and consign the guilty wretch to the severest penalty of
the laws. 11 When asked bythe leaders of the Cherokee Nation to postpone removal
because of drought and sicknessamong the Cherokee, General Scott again showed
compassion for his fraternal brothers.Negotiating with General Scott was Chief
John Ross, a Master Mason in good standingwith the Olive Branch Lodge of the
Free and Accepted Masons in Jasper, Tennessee. 12 9 Patrick Minges, "Famous
Native American Freemasons" []
(Accessed September 13, 2003). 10 Latham, 2.11 Winfield Scott quoted in Grace
Steele Woodward, The Cherokees (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963),
204. 12 Woodward, 214.

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Finally, when it appeared that his troops could not handle the process of
removalas well as the Cherokee themselves, Scott agreed to a plea from Chief
John Ross to allowthe Cherokee to manage removal themselves. When Andrew
Jackson, Former GrandMaster of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, heard of Scott's
brotherly relief, he wrote, "Iam so feeble I can scarcely wield my pen, but
friendship dictates it and the subject excitesme. Why is it that the scamp Ross
is not banished from the notice of thisadministration?" 13 Upon arrival in the
new territory, former members of the Freemasonic lodgesfrom the East began to
organize the craft in their new home. J. Fred Latham describesthis particular
phenomenon in The Story of Oklahoma Masonry: The history of the Indian
Territory, and indeed that of Freemasonry in the presentstate of Oklahoma, is so
closely interwoven with that of the Five Civilized Tribes itwould be difficult
-- almost impossible -- and entirely undesirable to attempt toseparate them. 14
A number of the ministers, merchants and military personnel were members ofthe
craft. Along with the many Indians inducted into the craft, they began to
havemeetings throughout the Indian Territory. These meetings moved from very
informalsocial groupings into fellowship meetings where Masons met and enjoyed
fraternaldiscussions. Applications for authority to organize lodges in several
places were made,but urgent domestic problems prevented the satisfactory
organization of lodges.According to J. Fred Latham, members of the craft took an
active part in the stabilizationof the community through the organization of law
enforcement and through their activityin the political affairs of the Five
Nations. 15 In 1848, a group of Cherokee Freemasons made application to Grand
Master R.H.Pulliam of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas and were granted a
dispensation to formulate a"blue lodge" in the Cherokee capital 16 Brother
George Moser, Secretary and Historian of 13 John P. Brown, Old Frontiers
(Kingsport: Tennessee, 1938), 511.14 J. Fred Latham, The Story of Oklahoma
Masonry (Oklahoma City: Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, 1957), 8.15 Latham, 5. 16
Albert Mackey describes a "blue lodge" as: "A symbolic Lodge, in which the first
three degrees are conferred, is so called from the color of its decorations." A
"blue lodge" is the common determination for

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the Cherokee lodge presents the information as follows, "Facts as taken from
theproceedings of the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas show that
theCommittee on Charters and Dispensations did, on November 7, 1848 at the hour
of 9:00a.m., recommend that a charter be granted to `Cherokee Lodge' at
Tahlequah, CherokeeNation, and that it be given the number `21'". 17 The
officers were sworn in at SupremeCourt Headquarters on Keetoowah Street on July
12, 1849; it was the first lodge of IndianFreemasons established in the United
States. 18 In 1852, the Cherokee National Council donated several lots in
Tahlequah to beused jointly by the Masonic Lodge and the Sons of Temperance for
the construction of abuilding to house their respective organizations. The
building was erected in 1853, andowned jointly by the two organizations; the
Sons of Temperance 19 occupied the firstfloor and Cherokee Lodge #21 occupied
the second floor. The lodge building was usedfor a number of community services,
including lodge meetings, temperance meetings,educational instruction, and
church meetings; later, because of the noise, bothorganizations used the upper
floor, leaving the lower floor for church services and publicmeetings. 20
Freemasonry flourished among the Native Americans in Indian Territory,
leadingthe Grand Master of Arkansas to comment upon his "red brethren" in 1855:
this lodge as opposed to lodges that grant higher degrees such as the Scottish
Rites or York Rites. (Mackey,120) 17 George Moser, quoted in Latham, 6.18 T.L.
Ballenger, History of Cherokee Lodge #10, T.L. Ballenger Papers, Ayer
Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 5; J. Fred Latham, The Story of
Oklahoma Masonry (Oklahoma City: Grand Lodgeof Oklahoma, 1978) 5- 8. 19 The Sons
of Temperance modeled its constitution on those of the Freemasons and Odd
Fellows and based their organization around simple initiation rituals. As time
progressed, the Sons of Temperance andorganizations such as it developed
increasingly complicated rituals even further aligned with those of
theFreemasons. (Carnes, 8) 20 Ballenger, 6. It is important to note that the
Cherokee Indian Baptist Association, consisting of six "colored churches" held
its first organizational meeting in the Cherokee Masonic Lodge in 1870.
[J.M.Gaskins, History of Black Baptists in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Messenger
Press, 1992), 118)]

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All over the length and breadth of our state the (Masonic) Order is
flourishing,and amongst our red Brethren, in the Indian Territory, it is taking
deep hold, andnow embraces a goodly number of Lodges and Brethren. The members
of theseLodges compare very favorably with their pale-face neighbors. In fact,
it isreported of them that they exemplify practically the Masonic teachings and
ritualby living in the constant discharge of those charities and moral virtues
so forciblyinculcated in our lectures, thereby demonstrating to all that Masonry
is not onlyspeculative, but that it is a living practical reality; of great
utility to the humanrace, and of eminent service to a social community. 21
Freemasonry was indeed "taking deep hold." From the very first lodge formed
among theCherokee in Tahlequah, the brotherhood had spread among missionaries,
merchants, andNative Americans throughout Indian Territory. Reverend John
Bertholf, member ofCherokee Lodge #21, relocated to the Creek Nation and was
appointed Superintendent ofthe Asbury Mission in Eufaula in 1859. George Butler,
government agent and juniorwarden of Cherokee Lodge #21, became one of the
charter members of the military baselodge at Fort Gibson Lodge #35. Doaksville
Lodge #52 was organized in the ChoctawNation and led by Chief Peter Pitchlyn,
Sam Garvin, Basil Laflore, plantation ownerRobert Jones, and also American Board
missionary Cyrus Kingsbury. Walter Scott Adair,Worshipful Master of Cherokee
Lodge #21, left Lodge #21 to organize Flint Lodge #74near the Baptist Mission
deep in Keetoowah country in the southeastern corner of theCherokee Nation.
Joseph Coodey, nephew of John Ross and Junior Warden of Cherokee Lodge
#21,resettled in the Creek Nation at North Fork Town near Eufala. 22 In the
Creek Nation,Benjamin Marshall, George Stidham, and Samuel Checote, all
affiliates of the AsburyMission, formed Muscogee Lodge #93 at the Creek Agency
near the border of theCherokee Nation. One of the early members of Muscogee
Lodge #93 was a prominent 21 Ballenger, 5.22 G.W. Grayson, A Creek Warrior for
the Confederacy: The Autobiography of Chief G.W. Grayson, W. David Biard, ed.
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 127.

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traditional leader (and relative of Asi Yahola, i.e., Osceola ) 23 by the name
of OpothleYahola. 24 When the winds of the Civil War hit the Indian Territory,
it sent a bitter chillthrough the lodges. In 1855 Brother John Ross, the Chief
of the Cherokee Nation,discovered the emergence of "a secret society organized
in Delaware and SalineDistricts" dedicated to the promotion of slavery and the
removal of abolitionist interestsfrom the Cherokee Nation. 25 According to Ross,
at the core of this "sinister plot" were so-called "Blue Lodges" established in
the Indian Territory by officials from Arkansas. 26 Many of the pro-slavery
factions in the Cherokee Nation had ties to Arkansas and it wasbelieved by Ross
that these elements were using the "Blue Lodges" associated with theArkansas
Grand Lodge to "create excitement and strife among the Cherokee people." 27 The
"Blue Lodges" were so closely affiliated with the Southern Methodist church
thatsome considered them to be the spiritual arm of the organization, "The
[Southern]Methodists take slavery by the hand, encourage it, speak in its favor,
and brand all thosewho oppose it with opprobrious epithets. As they support
slavery, of course slaverysupports them." 28 23 Asi Yahola (Osceola) was a
prominent leader of the African American/ Seminole resistance movement in
Florida. He was married to an African American runaway slave. Some reporters
state the cause of theSecond Seminole War was the seizure of Osceola's African
wife by merchants who sought to sell her backinto slavery. Osceola was finally
murdered following treachery by federal authorities. In a practice whichhas
become common among Florida authorities, his brain was "donated to science" and
kept on a shelve formany years. 24 Denslow, 70-75. For information on Opothle
Yahola, see John Bartlett Meserve, "Chief Opothleyahola" Chronicles of Oklahoma
10 (Winter, 1931): 439-452; Clee Woods, "Oklahoma's Great Opothle Yahola"North
South Trader 4, (January-February): 22-36; Mrs. Clement Clay, "Recollections of
Opothleyahola"Arrow Points 4 (February 1922): 35-36. 25 John Ross to Evan Jones,
May 5, 1855, "Correspondence of Missionaries to Native Americans, [microform],
1825-1865," American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, N.Y. 26 I use the
term "Blue Lodges" because that is what most of the scholars, including
McLoughlin and Mooney use to describe these lodges. However, the fact that Ross
was a Freemason meant that heunderstood the term "Blue Lodge" quite well and
would not have used it unadvisedly. In all probability,these "Blue Lodges" were
Freemasonic lodges tied to the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. 27 John Ross to Evan
Jones, May 5, 1855, "Correspondence of Missionaries to Native Americans,
[microform], 1825-1865," American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, N.Y. 28
John B. Jones, July 12, 1858, "Correspondence of Missionaries to Native
Americans, [microform], 1825- 1865," American Baptist Historical Society,
Rochester, N.Y.

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History records the "Blue Lodges" as being the seat of the pro-slavery
movement,but this appears to be an inaccuracy rooted in a too-convenient
association of the "BlueLodges" with the pro-slavery movement. It is easy to see
from the membership roll ofCherokee Lodge #21 that there were also members of
the Ross Party who belonged tothese so-called "Blue Lodges." It seems that there
was a split within the Freemasoniclodges within Indian Territory along the lines
of party affiliation related to the efforts ofthe Grand Lodge of Arkansas to use
the lodges to promote the issue of "SouthernRights." 29 Some members of the
lodges were opposed to the efforts of the ArkansasGrand Lodge, as revealed in a
later discussion by Lodge historian T. L. Ballenger:There seems to have
developed some misunderstanding between themother Lodge and Cherokee Lodge at
that time, the exact nature of whichthe records fail to reveal: possibly it was
a coolness that had grown out ofdifferent attitudes toward the war. The
Cherokees were divided, some ofthem fighting for the North and some for the
South. It happened that theleading members of the Lodge sympathized with the
North. 30 As a result of the split within the lodges within Indian Territory or
perhapsprecipitating the split, some of the members of the "Blue Lodges" became
associated witha secessionist secret society by the name of the "Knights of the
Golden Circle." Othermembers of the "Blue Lodges" within the Indian Territory
became associated with atraditionalist secret society in the Cherokee Nation
entitled the Keetoowah Society.Throughout the duration of the Civil War, these
two competing "secret societies" foughttooth and nail for the fate of the Indian
territory and the bitter struggle between these two 29 This opinion is supported
by evidence that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas refused to recognize the charters
of many of the lodges in Indian Territory following the cessation of the Civil
War. In addition, theGrand Lodge of Arkansas considered many of the charters
"forfeited" and would only grant the lodges newcharters if the were reorganized
under a different name. Cherokee Lodge #21 became Cherokee Lodge #10when it was
reorganized after repeated attempts for recognition in 1877. Fort Gibson Lodge #
35 becameAlpha Lodge #12 in 1878. Flint Lodge #74 became Flint Lodge # 11 in
1876.(Starr, 185). Muskogee Lodge#93 and Choctaw Lodge #52 also forfeited their
charter following the Civil War. The Grand Lodge whichrefused the recognition
was led by J.S. Murrow, the "Father of Oklahoma Masonry," a Baptist ministerwho
was a Confederate States Indian Agent during the Civil War. (Latham,10; West,
103) 30 T.L. Ballenger, History of Cherokee Lodge #10, T.L. Ballenger Papers,
Ayer Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., 12; "Pin Indians" in Robert
Wright, Indian Masonry, (n.p., 1905) Ayer Collection,Newberry Library, Chicago,
IL., 105.

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groups was carried out with a ferocity that left not even innocent persons
unharmed. Theeffect upon the Indian Territory was devastating:The events of the
war brought to them more of the desolation and ruinthan perhaps to any other
community. Raided and sacked alternately, notonly by Confederate and Union
forces, but also by the vindictive ferocityand hate of their own factional
divisions, their country became ablackened and desolate waste. Driven from
comfortable homes, exposedto want, misery, and the elements, they perished like
sheep in asnowstorm. Their houses, fences, and other improvements were
burned,their orchards destroyed, their flocks and herds were slaughtered or
drivenoff, their schools broken up, their schoolhouses given to the flames,
andtheir churches and public buildings subjected to a similar fate; and
thatentire portion of their country which had been occupied by theirsettlements
was distinguishable from the virgin prairie only by thescorched and blackened
chimneys and the plowed but now neglectedfields. 31 When the war was over and
nations such as the Cherokee needed healing, theyelected Bro. William Potter
Ross to be the new Principal Chief of the Reunified nation.One of the founding
members of Cherokee Lodge #21, he was to go on to become theWorshipful Master of
the lodge in 1851 -- a time before the lodge would split over theissues that
ultimately led to the Civil War. In addition, William P. Ross had been theleader
of the reconciliation of the Cherokee Nation following the Treaty of 1846:He
(Ross) and the other headmen of the Cherokee nation were at thecapital to
arrange a treaty made necessary by the late enforced removal oftheir tribe from
Georgia to the Indian Territory. These headmen werearrayed in two hostile
factions, and the negotiations were at a standstill.But at one of the meetings
of Federal Lodge (Federal Lodge #1,Washington, D.C.), the rival leaders, all
Freemasons, were broughttogether by the exertions of Worshipful Master S. Yorke
and othermembers, and the treaty was successfully completed. 32 31 Charles
Royce, "Cherokee Nation," Fifth Annual Report (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian
Institution, Bureau of Ethnology, n.d.), 376. 32 "History of Federal Lodge #1,"
quoted in Denslow, 183. William Potter Ross was raised to the Third Degree on
April 25, 1848 in Federal Lodge #1 in Washington, D.C. [Denslow, 183].

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In spite of their political, social, and party differences, one of the key
elements that hadbrought together the disparate elements of Cherokee Society had
been the interest in andpromotion of brotherhood by the Freemasonic lodges in
the Cherokee Nation. Ross usedthis background to his advantage. Many of the
leaders of the Keetoowah Society and theKnights of the Golden Circle were former
Freemasons in the lodges of the IndianTerritory. Many of the government agents,
military officials, religious authorities, andinfluential citizens of the Indian
Territory were also Freemasons. That William P. Rosswas a power broker and a
conciliatory force in the Cherokee Nation under the auspices ofthe Freemasonic
brotherhood is a factor that cannot be ignored. 33 However, Freemasonry among
Native Americans is not just an historicphenomenon. In Oklahoma today, there are
Freemasonic lodges in nearly every IndianNation; the Order of the Eastern Star
is also quite popular. The Oklahoma Indian Degreeteam is perhaps the most
well-traveled of group of Freemasons in the United States; theytour the nation
constantly and sometimes internationally. Dressed in the full regalia oftheir
American Indian heritage, they raise Masons to the third degree in our ancient
andesoteric ritual.The Oklahoma Masonic Indian Degree Team was organized in 1948
after thedeath of Brother Will Rogers. The team currently consists of 15 active
members, 11 ofwhich are Past Masters. Nine recognized tribes are represented:
Apache, Cherokee,Choctaw, Creek, Oneida, Osage, Ottawa, Seminole, and Sycamore.
States visited include:Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,
Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, 33 William R. Denslow, in his work
Freemasonry and the American Indian, describes Ross's influence, "In later
years, passions broke all bounds and some of the darkest pages of Cherokee
history were written. Inretrospect, the influence and principles of Freemasonry
can be seen as the greatest healer of these oldwounds within the Cherokee
family. This fact is emphasized by the thought of Chief William P.
Ross,presiding in the East over a Cherokee lodge, while the men around the altar
would have thought it apatriotic duty to slay him only a short time before. The
roster of the Cherokee lodge is a revelation to thestudent of the times, and, if
it were not for its undisputed authority, it would hardly be believed in
thisgeneration." (Denslow, 69).

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Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachuetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire,
NewJersey, New Mexico, New York and Texas. Oklahoma lodges represented are:
BrokenArrow #423, Cherokee #10, Delta #425, Daylight #542, Dustin #336, Ottawa
#492,Sapulpa #170 and Skiatook #416. One of the most interesting of all groups
of Indian Freemasons is the AkdarShrine Indian Dance Unit of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Its members come from diverse nationssuch as the Cherokee, Navajo, Quapaw,
Creek, Shawnee, Apache, and Kiowa. Whatunites these men of divergent nations are
two things – their love of Freemasonry and theirlove of traditional forms of
dance. They regularly perform traditional dances at specialevents, pow-wows, and
shrine circuses in Oklahoma and throughout the Southwest andMidwest. The Akdar
Indians, being the only all-Native American unit in Shrinedom, notonly share a
common heritage, but also share a common bond with their fellow Nobleseverywhere
— to help spread the word about the free medical care offered by
ShrinersHospitals for Children. More than 40 years ago, in 1954, the unit was
established as the Akdar IndianPatrol with about 20 members; today, Akdar
Indians' 50 members represent six ShrineTemples and 20 Tribes from North
America. Representatives of the five civilized tribesof Oklahoma — Cherokee,
Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole — along with theComanche and Apache
Indians, make up the majority of unit members. According toBill Tyndall, an
Omaha Indian from Akdar Temple, a recent change in the unit's by-lawsallows
Nobles from any Shrine Temple to join, as long as they are Native Americans. Not
only do they participate in many of the Temple's fund-raising activities
forShriner's Hospitals, but they also raise money by hosting an annual Indian
dinner withNative American food, and an arts and crafts show. They put on
educational dances,explaining the types of dances and the clothing worn by each

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Throughout the year, members perform for the general public and for
variousShrine functions. Their most enjoyable performances, according to
Tyndall, are the onesheld at the Shriner's Hospitals. "It's there that we get to
see first-hand what our hospitalsare all about and we can give the kids an
up-close look at real Indians and the costumesthat they wear," he explained. A
unique aspect of the Akdar Indians is that the Nobles are often joined by
theirfamily members — women and children — when they perform some of their
traditionaldances, especially at the Shriner's Hospitals. One of the members has
commented thatone of the greatest benefits of being in the unit is being able to
help children whileeducating others about his culture. "We love to promote
Native American culture," heremarked. "The non-Indian sees us as we are shown on
TV. But what we are trying to dois educate people about what we do and what we
are about." That is, of course, inaddition to informing the public that
Shriner's Hospitals provide free medical care tochildren in need. As we meet
together here today in Columbus on this January day some twohundred plus years
after Brother Bowles and his collected Indians met before theirastonished
British brethren, another collection of Americans is again meeting a body
ofastonished British brethren. Next Monday, the Oklahoma Masonic Indian Degree
Teamwill performing demonstrations at the Surrey Secretaries' Golden Jubilee
Lodge No. 9764meeting at Surbiton and at a special meeting to be held at Croydon
in the Province ofSurrey England on Tuesday 27th January 2004. Just as their
brothers some two hundredyears ago welcomed these unusual brethren from across
the seas, these modern daytravelers will be equally greeted. Rest assured that
the more we learn about Native Americans and theirinvolvement in Freemasonry,
the more that we learn that their interests, inclinations, andexcitement about
the craft spurs from the same quest for wisdom and enlightenment thatdwells
within us all. Though it easy enough to put upon fanciful notions about
secretsigns, secret societies, and the incorporation of "pagan" rituals and
symbols into theancient and accepted order, nothing could be further than the
truth. Such creations have

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always been the practices of small minds and have often been the bane of the
existence ofreasonable and intelligent practitioners of all of the higher orders
of religion andphilosophy. The world will be a better place when we put myths
such as these to rest.