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Lawrence Twoaxe in the Slocan Valley

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

Curious thing: this ad appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on March 26, 1911 and subsequent issues.

Koch Siding is a nearly-obsolete name for the area of Slocan Park that’s on the flats across from the cemetery. It was the site of a sawmill built by William Koch that operated from 1906 into the 1920s.

Lawrence Twoaxe was a Mohawk from the Kahnawake reserve in Quebec, born in 1885 in Cornwall, Ont. to Thomas Twoaxe and Margaret Hill.

In 1935, while living in Oakland, he established several chapters of the League of Nations of North American Indians. According to a 2006 article by Steven Crum entitled Almost Invisible in the Wicazo Sa Review, the purpose of the league was “to protect the Indian land base, protect Indian people from exploitation, to ‘perpetuate and preserve’ Indian ‘posterity as a sovereign people’ and to unite ‘all Indians’ and empower them politically, since they had been divided into small tribal groups.”

By 1937, the league had five regional chiefs — three from the US and two from Canada with Twoaxe as the principal chief. This increased to nine the following year. But the organization, Crum writes, “barely functioned.” The conventions it held drew small numbers, because its members were “largely working-class, blue collar Indians who had limited financial resources.”

Twoaxe (pictured here in an undated photo) himself worked as a janitor at Horace Mann Public School in Oakland and was the first president of the California School Employees Association (then known as the California Public School Custodians Association), established in 1928. He advocated for a retirement system for school district employees, who at the time, had no pensions plan.

What was Twoaxe doing at Koch Siding? He first shows up in the Nelson Daily News of Nov. 20, 1908, listed as staying at the Tremont Hotel in Nelson and giving his address as Waubaushene, Ont.

He was not listed in the 1910 civic directory for Koch Siding, but he was on the 1911 census, listed as a labourer, boarding and working at Koch’s sawmill. However, he gave his ethnicity as German and his religious affiliation as Church of England.

He wasn’t there long. The 1920 US census indicated he went to America in 1912 and the Los Angeles Times of Jan. 1, 1914 carried this classified ad, showing he was already in California, although still had holdings in BC.

When he filled out his World War I draft registration card, he was working as a hooktender in Seattle.

He died suddenly in Mariposa, Calif. in 1949, age 64, survived by wife Anna and children Margaret Louise and Earl. That same year, the League of North American Indian Nations was renamed the League of Nations, Pan American Indians. The league ceased to exist in 1970 upon the death of president Alfred Gagne.

This obituary appeared in the October 1949 edition of The Native Voice.

A scholarship established in Twoaxe’s name by the California School Employees’ Association was awarded through at least 1975. In a 2015 Facebook post, the association wrote: “Mr. Twoaxe left a legacy of organizing, for school employees and for native peoples of North America.”

— With thanks to Jon Kalmakoff for providing info about Twoaxe on the 1911 census. Updated on Nov. 27, 2019 to add the 1908 Nelson hotel arrival.

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Amazing story about an incredible man. Thank you for your impeccable research and for bringing these remarkable characters back to life.

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