In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Soul of UnityThe Quarterly Journal of the Society of American Indians, 1913–1915
  • Gregory D. Smithers (bio)

The Society of American Indians (sai) published the first issue of its Quarterly Journal in 1913. For two years, prior to it being renamed the American Indian Magazine in 1916, editor-general Arthur C. Parker worked tirelessly to establish the Quarterly Journal as an “organ” that would unite Native Americans across tribal and political boundaries. In pursuit of this objective Parker editorialized in 1914 that to “live, any organization dedicated to the regeneration of mankind, to the promulgation of happiness, and the stimulation of usefulness in men must have a soul.”1 Parker urged American Indians to unite and direct their “soul energy,” or the disparate forces that connected “the body and the mind,” to the task of Indian “regeneration,” “happiness,” and “usefulness” in the early twentieth century.2

Parker’s words were well chosen. Virtually all early twentieth-century Native Americans considered the “soul” a vitally important life-giving source. Some, such as the Havasupai Indians of Arizona, believed that a person had one soul. Others, like the Apache and Navajo, held to the belief that the soul was divided into two parts. And still others, like the Mojave in the Southwest and the Cherokees in the woodland South, insisted that individuals possessed four souls (Brown 95; Johnston 19; Crawford and Kelley 589). By using the language of the “soul” and “soul energy,” Parker highlighted how the Quarterly Journal strove to encourage Indigenous people to unite and direct their “soul energy” to the pan-Indian objectives of the sai.

Reflecting on the sai’s accomplishments in 1915, Parker emphasized how Native American “soul energy” had produced a publication that provided Indigenous people “with the means for expressing their ideas [End Page 263] in a united way.”3 Parker believed the Quarterly Journal was making a unique contribution to Native American culture and politics. Despite Parker’s lofty assertions, there has been little scholarship analyzing the sai and its journal of record. Hazel W. Hertzberg’s The Search for an American Indian Identity (1971) remains the most sustained scholarly analysis of the sai. Hertzberg provides insightful biographies of key players in the sai—such as Charles Eastman (Santee-Sioux), Carlos Montezuma (Mohave-Apache), Sherman Coolidge (Arapaho), and the influential non-Native educator and sociologist Fayette A. McKenzie (ch. 1). Hertzberg does not focus on the historical significance of the Quarterly Journal in twentieth-century American Indian history; instead, she uses the journal as a primary source that situated the sai in the early twentieth-century tradition of American progressivism. Similar to the era’s “progressive” political reformers elected to state and federal offices and African American leaders committed to the liberal ideals of American democracy, Hertzberg portrays the sai as an organization committed to unifying American Indian people behind a program of “race pride,” education, and birthright citizenship.

More recent scholarship, such as that by David E. Wilkins and Heidi K. Stark, reinforces Hertzberg’s conclusions. Wilkins and Stark argue that the sai was “similar to the white reform organizations and the developing black movements of the Progressive Era. Middle class, well-educated, they preached self-help, race pride, and responsibility” (195). While such analysis has its merits, there remains a dearth of attention focused on the Quarterly Journal’s contribution to early twentieth-century American Indian intellectual history and the terms upon which Parker and the journal’s contributors attempted to outline an intellectual platform from which to shape its social and political message. Indeed, in trying to understand the sai and its journal of record on its own terms, we should not forget that while groups such as the Philadelphia-based Indian Rights Association, the Indian Citizenship Association of Boston, or the Indian Board of Cooperation in California staked out the rhetorical parameters of Indian reform by the time the sai was founded in 1911, the sai and its journal of record were alone in being run and operated by Native American people (Hagan, Indian 165; Maddox 16, 123).

Under Arthur C. Parker’s editorship and the input of five contributing editors—Coolidge, Montezuma, Howard E. Gansworth (Tuscarora), Henry...