Biographical, Historical, Fiction

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The Huffman farm continued to prosper and Oskar was able to add another section to his land so he was now farming about 1400 acres. The weather had been cooperative for the past six years. Only one short period of drought had occurred and they were able to irrigate from the lake and the streams to get through that period.

The teacher, Alfred, was working out beautifully. Alfred was very intelligent and loved teaching and helping his students to grow intellectually. He had graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He had many opportunities to teach in the East and turned down many jobs. He wanted to see the West. Alfred was not a particularly adventurous fellow but he thought it important to learn about the ways of the Western pioneers.

The children were learning all that Alfred could teach them. The two German hands now spoke passable English and there was little more that Alfred could teach them. Alfred was glad to be able to help take care of the kitchen garden. He had spare time and anything that kept him busy was welcome. He would go into the garden with his hoe and chop weeds until it was dark. The kitchen garden had been expanded to two acres to accommodate the additional food needed for the growing number of people.

One day a young woman arrived at the farm looking for the teacher. Her name was Gertrude and her family had a farm about eight miles away. She was 19 years old and could not read nor write in English. Her parents had immigrated to America from Russia and only could teach her the cryllic alphabet. She longed to be able to assimilate into the American way and needed the ability to read and write in English to make that happen. She asked Oskar if Alfred could teach her. Alfred was more than happy to help but it would only be possible on weekends as his teaching duties during the week kept him busy. That was fine with Gertrude and she was sure that her parents would not object to her being away on weekends. Marie liked her and offered to make a place for her to stay for one night a week so she would not have to travel back and forth.

Gertrude would not be described as an attractive young woman. She could be described as overly plump. Her nose was much too large for her face and her chin was difficult to find. She was soft spoken and very polite. She also had a funny streak that made people laugh. She was pleasant to be around and to have around. The children adored her and she was excellent with them. Alfred was not to be described as handsome. He was too thin and angular. His face was thin and he had very thin lips. Alfred was 26 and was already tending towards being bald. He also had to wear spectacles to read and to teach. It wasn’t long before Alfred and Gertrude developed a mutual affection for each other. Some of the teaching was done on long buggy rides on the prairie. Some of the teaching was done on intimate picnics by the lake. When winter set in, it was not possible for Gertrude to travel from her home so Marie made her a permanent member of the household and she helped Marie with the children and the cooking and washing.

Right after the first of the year it was decided by Alfred that Gertrude would be a very good wife for him and Gertrude agreed. A date was set for the wedding. They couldn’t live in the bunk house and the main house would not accommodate another married couple so the men set to work building a small house attached to the school house. The house was not large but had a great room for cooking, eating, and socializing. It also had a rather large bedroom and another smaller room for a dressing room or a nursery. The wedding took place in March and Alfred and Gertrude were very happy together.

The Huffman family was getting older. The boys were able to do much of the farm work and the girls were learning to be good cooks and homemakers. The youngest child, a boy, Helmut was the exception. He did not appear to have much interest in farming. He would spend a lot of time with Marie’s Indian family. He was learning the Indian ways and was fascinated with the culture and the traditions. He would only ride horses bareback as his cousins did. He would spend time hunting with his cousins. He had the build of Oskar, large boned and well developed muscles. He had the look of Marie with dark eyes, dark hair and tawny skin. Overall, Helmut was a very handsome young man. Helmut was also the best student Alfred had ever seen. He had a hunger to learn and a thirst for knowledge. By the time Helmut was 17, there was nothing more that Alfred could teach him. The year was 1867 and the American Civil War was over. Alfred talked with Oskar about having Helmut go away to college. Alfred knew that Helmut would have a bright future with more education. Oskar was not happy about his youngest son leaving but he also recognized that Helmut would never be a farmer so he agreed. Alfred still had connections at Dartmouth College and arranged for Helmut to attend.

Helmut loved Dartmouth College and excelled at everything he tried. He was the best player on the lacrosse team. He was president of the student council. He was the valedictorian of his graduation class. The college had kept Alfred informed of the progress that Helmut was making and, of course, Alfred told Oskar and Marie. The entire family was very proud of Helmut’s accomplishment.

After his graduation from Dartmouth, Helmut returned to the family farm for a visit. His plan was to read for the law and become a lawyer. During his visit, Oskar had to go to Nebraska to see Edgar Williams about some farm business so Helmut decided to join him for the trip so they could spend some time together. They arrived at the Williams ranch and were warmly welcomed. Edgar and Emily were doing very well. They had the children come in to say hello. The last to arrive was Alice. Helmut remembered a skinny little blond girl that was always in the way and couldn’t believe that this was the same Alice. Helmut decided that it may be well to stay in the area for a while to get to know Alice a little better. Edgar and Emily saw in Helmut a very well educated and mannerly gentleman and encouraged him to stay. To shorten a long story, Helmut and Alice married and moved to Washington for Helmut to pursue his law career.

Helmut obtained his law license and began practicing in Washington. His connections, his personality, his intelligence, and his skills determined that he would be very successful. What many did not know, as Helmut had never stated it, was that he was very interested in furthering the cause of the American Indian. One of his first cases involved the Sioux tribe of his Mother. As they were his relatives, Helmut was anxious to help them. The problem was that the tribe had been moved onto a reservation. The reservation concept was designed to assure that the tribe always had land that outsiders could not take from them or be farmed by settlers. It was their protection. The Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior viewed the reservation differently. Their interpretation was that the Indian had to stay on the reservation and could not leave. Many of the young men and women were anxious to gain an education and enhance the future but opportunities for that to happen did not exist on the reservation.

Helmut argued the case at the District Court. When he lost he went to the District Appellate Court. When they failed to reach a decision the case was sent to the Supreme Court. Helmut argued the case. His argument was that the constitution of the United States guaranteed all citizens the right to liberty. By forcing the Indians to stay on the reservation they were making the reservation a penal institution and denying the Indians the right to freedom of movement. The Supreme Court agreed with Helmut and now all Indians that had been forced onto reservations were free to leave if they chose to leave.

Helmut was now a celebrity, especially amongst the American Indian Tribes and many more cases came his way. Soon, Helmut was running a law firm with twenty lawyers doing all kinds of work. Helmut was a success. The Bureau of Indian Affairs now had a new parameter to deal with. It was called the Huffman Test. Anyone in the bureau, whether an individual or committee, had to consider if a new rule or decision would benefit the Indians. This was the Huffman Test. If the answer to the Huffman Test was no, they would not implement it as they knew that Helmut would challenge it in court and win. The culture of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was forever changed from one of controlling the American Indians to one of helping the American Indians.

Helmut now had 20 lawyers in the Huffman Law Firm. Four of the young lawyers were partners and the rest were associates. Helmut and Alice had grown tired of Washington. It was too crowded and too dirty. They longed for the peace and quiet and the clean air of the frontier. Helmut left the firm in the hands of the partners and they left Washington to return to the Dakota Territory. The year was 1886 and Helmut was not yet 40 years old. On returning to the Dakota Territory they found much talk of making the territory a state. A delegation was sent to ask Helmut to assist in writing a constitution for the new state and he agreed. While working on the constitution they learned of a group to the north that was working on the same thing. Helmut led a group to meet with the people from the north. At the meeting it was decided that instead of one state they would ask to have two states, South Dakota and North Dakota. When the constitutions were completed, and accepted by the people of the territory, Helmut led a group to Washington to lobby for statehood for the two areas. They were successful and on November 2, 1889, South Dakota and North Dakota became states. The first governor of the new state of South Dakota was Helmut Huffman. One of his first acts as governor was to establish a state Department of Indian Affairs. He saw the good that could be accomplished with a functioning department. Helmut served his two terms and after eight years of running the new state, Helmut retired from politics and public life. He sold his interest in the Huffman Law Firm in Washington. Helmut and Alice and their children moved to Mitchell where Helmut practiced law and did some farming.

Helmut also found a new endeavor to absorb his time. Alfred and Gertrude wanted to start a boarding school for Indian children and wanted to make Mitchell the home of the school. Alfred loved to teach. He loved seeing that first glimmer of understanding in a child’s eyes. Gertrude loved to administer. Together they ran an incredibly successful school. Helmut was instrumental in getting the school established and funded and served on the board of directors for the school. Helmut was able to get the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to pay $200 per year for each student and the state gave $100 per year for each student. They agreed to take 45 students and hired two additional teachers. The town of Mitchell donated the land for the school and the citizens of Mitchell built the buildings.

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