The program, while deemed successful, also encountered roadblocks. Clinton had to borrow equipment – tools, cars, trucks, tractors and more – from New York State and the county road engineers when available. Additionally, Hauptman points out the double standards that applied on the reservations. He quotes Clinton as saying, “The local relief agencies pay a larger wage scale and they pay at the end of each week. Under our regulations, it requires two times as much work to earn the same pay and necessitates waiting several weeks for their pay.”
Beryl (née Pierce) Smith (Turtle Clan), Clinton’s niece, said Clinton remained out West for the rest of his life, working for the forestry service. But she remembers him from her childhood when he would come home from college and bring friends from all over the world with him.
“One time he would bring home an African and next time a German,” said Beryl. “I became accustomed to all races of people.”
Great-niece Wava Carpenter (Turtle Clan), who passed in 2011, remembered Clinton “as a very handsome man. He loved all the kids and my mother (Sadie Pierce Thomas) had 13 of us. He married and had one daughter. Clinton would come back every five years or so from his home in Montana to visit his father and mother (Lavina George Pierce).”
While at SU, Clinton played lacrosse, making the All Team Participation List for 1930, 1931 and 1932. In 1932, the year he graduated, he was named as an honorable mention as a wing attack on the All American Syracuse Lacrosse team.
Clinton Pierce (who died at 68) broke barriers, becoming the first Indian to graduate from the forestry school at SU and being hired as one of the few American Indians foresters in the country, excelling in each endeavor. His name continues to resonate within his huge extended family, where he is remembered with pride.
This story originally published in The Oneida, Issue 7, Vol. 11, October/November 2009