Born in 1828 into the Seneca Indian nation on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation in western New York (his grandmother was white)
Like most of his tribe, he had two names; he became Do-ne-ho-ga-wa, or “Open Door”, as an adult, but his white name was Ely (rhymes with freely) Parker, a name he readily adopted
As a teenager, was one of three chosen to meet President James Polk to discuss grievances over the sale of reservation lands to a land developer.
Trained to become a lawyer, but New York State law prohibited aliens from being admitted to the bar (Indians were not considered citizens)
Ely next turned his attention to engineering, dealing mainly with the construction and maintenance of canals
In 1857 received an appointment from the Treasury Department to superintend the construction of a custom house and marine hospital in Galena; it was during his time in Galena that he became acquainted with U.S. Grant.
By 1863, two years into the Civil War, Parker found himself on Grant’s personal staff. A year later he became Grant’s military secretary and served at the General’s side until Appomattox, where he penned the terms of surrender given to Robert E. Lee
Grant appointed Parker Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first Indian ever to hold the office. It was a short-lived career; after two years he was charged with the misuse of federal funds. Although largely vindicated, he resigned and turned his attention away from government
He married a white woman young enough to be his daughter, Minnie Sackett; they would eventually have one daughter
He made a small fortune on Wall Street, only to lose it a few years later; slid into an engineering post with the New York City Police Dept., a position he held until his death in 1895; buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY