Review

Little White Father

by Ray Raphael

    Little White Father is an account of Redick McKee, one of three commissioners appointed to the Office of Indian Affairs by President Millard Fillmore in 1850, to negotiate treaties with the indigenous people of the California frontier. Ray Raphael, southern Humboldt resident and writer, is the author of this study of a man, unique in his day, well-meaning in his mission, but ignorant and naive about the people he proposed to "save," as well as about his fellow countrymen and the government he represented.

    In his introduction, Raphael describes his work as creating a "documentary mosaic" from 1) letters of Redick McKee to his superiors based in Washington, D.C.; 2) the daily journal, maps and illustrations of his Harvard-educated interpreter, George Gibbs; 3) the official "minutes" of the expedition recorded by McKee's son, John, which chronicled negotiations with the Indians they met; 4) "terse and unsympathetic reports" of Major H.W. Wessels, commander of the military escort; and 5) other relevant letters, news articles, documents and records of the speeches and debates. Raphael has skillfully woven these into a clear and comprehensive account of Redick McKee, the man, his adventures in northern California and his unsuccessful efforts to secure justice and peace for all concerned parties as the land was settled by the Euro-American Westward Movement.

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