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Timeline / Defining Rights and Responsibilities / 1889: Yavapai doctor advocates for Indian self-determination

1889: Yavapai doctor advocates for Indian self-determination

The Yavapai doctor Carlos Montezuma (who was named Wassaja, “gathering” or “beckoning,” at birth) graduates from Chicago Medical College. After practicing medicine on several reservations, he becomes a fierce critic of the poor health conditions among Indians. He urges the abolition of the Bureau of Indian Affairs so that Indians can manage their own affairs, lands, and resources.

The early life of Carlos Montezuma (b. ca. 1867–d. 1923) was turbulent. He was kidnapped at age five by Akimel O’odhams (Pimas) and bought for $30 by Carlos Gentile, a photographer. Taken East, he was baptized and renamed. In 1906, Montezuma turned down an offer from President Theodore Roosevelt to become Commissioner of Indian Affairs. President Woodrow Wilson also asked him to serve as the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs—Montezuma refused.

Medicine Ways, Native Rights
California, Great Basin, Great Plains, Northeast, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Southeast, Southwest

Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Yavapai, ca. 1880–1900

Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection