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INFORMATION FOR USERS

Preferred Citation:

Cite As:Warner D. Miller Collection, #9180. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

The Warner D. Miller papers offer a great opportunity to learn about the Native Americans living on the Standing Rock and Rosebud Reservations in the Great Plains during the first half of the twentieth century. Miller was a teacher on the Standing Rock, Cheyenne, and Rosebud Reservations in the first part of the twentieth century. Almost immediately, he began to record the stories he heard and events he witnessed. He was also an amateur artist, and often illustrated the legends he recounted.

Information gleaned from the collection indicates that Warner D. Miller was born around 1890 in Maywood, Illinois. When he enlisted in the Army in 1918, he was living in Ida Grove, Iowa. He identifies himself as a telephone linesman and farmer at that time. Sometime after a 1919 honorable discharge from military service, he moved to South Dakota. He was teaching on the Standing Rock Reservation in 1927.

Miller was an amateur ethnographer, and artist. Some of the journals and papers in this collection recount the stories told to him by his students and other Native residents of the area. Sketches or drawings accompany many of the stories, some by his students, others by him. In an era when most ethnographers failed to identify their informants, Miller gave credit to his. Not only did he record their names, but also the town and/or reservation where they lived.

Miller's interest in Native Americans was not limited to South Dakota. His papers include several maps, many copied from published works, from all over the Midwest. In one case, he maps the location of an Indian village in Ida Grove, Iowa. According to Miller, it was abandoned in the 1850s.

"Knots of the Range," written by Miller, calling himself "Plainsman", was published as a series for juveniles in 1945 in The Christian Science Monitor. As the name implies, the articles offered instructions on how to make Western knots of every conceivable kind and use, knowledge he had obtained from the cowboys and Indians of the Great Plains. This file is quite extensive and contains sketches, drawings and copies of the final articles published. While much of the material in Miller's collection looks as if it were prepared for publication, "Knots" is the only actual publication the library has located.

Another interesting aspect of this collection is Miller's obvious fascination with the geography of the area. He has countless sketches of land formations. Of Medicine Butte, South Dakota, he writes: "Standing on the high flat at Oacoma scanning, Meriwether Lewis saw far to the northwest what appeared to be a long range of hills extending for some distance across the plains. What he really beheld were the lofty points of Medicine Butte."

Miller's fondness for the flora and fauna of the area is also evident in his papers. There are many sketches of native plants, some of them appear to have been copied from botanical books, but others appear to be original drawings. Because of the eclectic nature of these papers, to find every individual mentioned or legend recounted, his notes must be examined in depth.