Abraham Lincoln Toni Kin Qa Aesop Towoyake Kin.

by James W. Garvie

Collectors, by their nature, are a strange breed. I have yet to figure out the Beanie Baby craze. It never fails to amaze me at how much some folks are prepared to pay for those little sacks of dried beans. I have argued that McDonalds would be further ahead in their corporate profits if they would only trash their food line and sell foodless "happy meals" to the unending lines of blue-haired old ladies trying to obtain the rare "Blinky the Rat" Teenie Beanie Baby with a crisp hang tag (mint in the bag, of course).
I, on the other hand, can hide behind my obsession for accumulating Lincoln books and pamphlets by claiming that they can be read and used, unlike the Beanie Babies stuffed into countless dresser drawers across the nation. I read and use my books, and they add to my understanding of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil war, and nineteenth century politics. However, there are times, I must admit, when this thinly veiled rationale for an otherwise irrational mania to "collect" breaks down. The presence of certain titles that can be found in my library raises suspicion (particularly on the part of my wife) as to the utilitarian nature of my collection.

An excellent example of such an item is Abraham Lincoln Toni Kin Qa Aesop Towoyake Kin. It contains a brief sketch of the life of Lincoln and several of Aesop's fables. It does not, however, pass muster as a pamphlet that I can read, as it is written in the Santee Native American dialect.

After the American policy of extermination left the Native American nations decimated, the United States government turned to trying to assimilate those Natives Americans who were left.
1 Accordingly, young Native Americans were regularly shipped off to boarding schools where there were immersed in the Anglo-American way of life. One such school for the Lakota (Sioux) nation was operated by Alfred L. Riggs at the Santee Indian Agency in Nebraska.

From 1884 to 1900, the Santee school employed James W. Garvie as a teacher. Garvie was half Native American, being the son of a Sioux mother and a Scottish father. Garvie's father, a merchant by trade, had moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1852. It was here that he met Garvie's mother, who was a granddaughter of Rising Thunder, a chief from the Sissetonais nation. Their son, James, was born on August 10, 1862. Not long after, the elder Garvie was killed trying to protect his merchandise during the infamous Sioux uprising in late 1862.

At a very young age, James Garvie himself was sent off to a Mission boarding school; the Presbyterian Mission School at Sisseton, South Dakota. He prospered there and did well enough to be able to continue his education by enrolling in Beloit College, in Wisconsin. He studied at Beloit from 1878 until 1881, when his mother died. He thereafter devoted his life to teaching Native Americans.

While in the employ of the Santee School, Garvie was responsible for translating documents, articles and pamphlets into the Santee dialect. He was also a regular contributor to the periodical Iapi Oaye, popular among the plains Indians.

In 1893, Riggs had Garvie prepare a brief outline of the Life of Abraham Lincoln. Riggs felt that the story of Lincoln's efforts to provide an education for himself would be an excellent object lesson for the youngsters attending the Santee School. To fill out the small pamphlet, eight of Aesop's fables were added to the Lincoln sketch. The fables were translated by Miss Jennie W. Cox and Miss Eunice Kitto.

The whole was printed by the students at the Santee School, obviously serving as another vehicle for some students, those learning the printing trade. The end product was 5-1/2" x 4-3/8". The sketch of Lincoln occupies pages 1 through 17. Following a blank page, the Aesop's fable section begins, and the pagination begins anew, running an additional 10 pages. The interior pages are sewn together and the whole then pasted into the stiff outer wrapper.

Apparently the pamphlet was intended for the internal use of the Santee School, for it did not receive a wide circulation. The publication went unnoticed by all the major early Lincoln bibliographers and collectors. In fact, it was lost in obscurity until the early 1940s, when some 25 to 30
2 copies were discovered by Joseph L. McCorison, Jr., a Lincoln enthusiast and then President of Yankton College of Yankton, South Dakota. McCorison announced his discovery in the September 1943 issue of The Abraham Lincoln Quarterly.3 When McCorison wrote his article, James Garvie was still alive and was able to provide McCorison with many facts pertinent to the little pamphlet, as well as a brief outline of the narrative.4

Being unable to read Santee, I will never be able to read is Abraham Lincoln Toni Kin Qa Aesop Towoyake Kin. But I am pleased to own a copy of this rarity nonetheless.

1 The editorial opinions of the treatment of Native Americans by the United States government are entirely my own.
2 Monaghan (3856) notes 24 copies.
3 J.L. McCorison, Jr. "The Lincoln Collector: A Unique Dakota Biography of Lincoln" in The Abraham Lincoln Quarterly (Springfield: The Abraham Lincoln Association, 1943) 334-339. McCorison's narrative contains references to Native Americans that this author found to be of questionable taste, but not unusual for the day and age.
4 McCorison stated in his article that he planned to publish a complete translation of the sketch of Lincoln's life as written by Garvie. I have been unable to find any further reference to this translation. If anyone knows of such a translation, I would be grateful if they would communicate the fact to me.

© Copyright Daniel E. Pearson, 1999


I have recently learned that Lincolniana dealer Chuck Hand is offering for sale a copy of Abraham Lincoln Toni Kin. This offers readers of this website the unusual opportunity to obtain a rare copy of this highly collectable pamphlet. You can email Mr. Hand by clicking on this link: Chuck Hand.