( – promoted by navajo)
When I wrote this last March,
Custer was pursuing the snow tracks of Dog Soldiers that would eventually lead to Black Kettle’s village on Thanksgiving Day in a cruel irony. The cruelest irony however, was that Black Kettle and his wife would be slain nearly four years to the day that they both escaped Chivington at the Sand Creek Massacre. Black Kettle’s honesty concerning young men in his village he could not control was of no avail. He and his village were going to be “punished” and broken beyond any immediate or distant recovery.
a Cheyenne Man had me when I was at Washita of the bench where he told me was the location of Moxtaveto’s extermination by Custer.
I sat under the tree facing the Washita River and thought hard about it.
Moxtaveto’s village was right here in this field; also, the larger camp, consisting of the Kiowa, Arapaho, and Cheyenne Dog Soldiers was in this general direction.
The trees surrounding it along with it being at a lower level provided good protection from the elements; in addition, the Washita River was their water source, which was very close by as you can see. Although the Washita River has changed in some parts regarding its flowing in river basins, it has remained consistent here. The trees, snow, and fog just couldn’t protect the Cheyenne from Custer on the day of November 27, 1868.
After the woman warned Black Kettle that morning of the approaching 7th and Moxtaveto shot his rifle to warn everyone, the freezing snow and cold winter weather would have made it much more difficult to escape.
The song, “Garry Owen,” would have added to the fear and confusion that they must have felt.
Warriors, eleven who died, rushed out of their lodges with inferior firepower to defend the village. Simultaneously, the overall noncombatants ran for their lives into the freezing Washita River.
I realized that the water would have been freezing cold.
(Taken with permission)
The sensory components of the genocide at Washita in now Cheyenne, Oklahoma must be held in mind in order to capture the entire breadth of it. These are sound, smell, and sight. For example, the shrill crying of the noncombatant Cheyenne women and children, and the yelling of the charging 7th Calvary with their knives and guns would have been beyond deafening. And the fog with gunpowder smoke must have been worse than any nightmare, while the red blood – stained snow and the smell of death permeated the ground and air.
Finally, spraying bullets that first struck Moxtaveto’s horse in the leg, then struck him and Woman Here After – fatally.
“Both the chief and his wife fell at the river bank riddled with bullets,” one witness reported, “the soldiers rode right over Black Kettle and his wife and their horse as they lay dead on the ground, and their bodies were all splashed with mud by the charging soldiers.” Custer later reported that an Osage guide took Black Kettle’s scalp.
Specifically, this is the precise location where the Cheyenne man told me that Moxtaveto and his wife, Woman Here After, were exterminated.
Moving Behind, a Cheyenne Woman, later stated: “There was a sharp curve in the river where an old road – crossing used to be. Indian men used to go there to water their ponies. Here we saw the bodies of Black Kettle and his wife, lying under the water. The horse they had ridden lay dead beside them. We observed that they had tried to escape across the river when they were shot.”
Moxtaveto had the right to have all of his peaceful attempts honored. Morally speaking, there is no way, no how, that it should have been otherwise. Yet, did his peaceful attempts in fact fail?
If it had not been for Moxtaveto’s peaceful efforts before the Sand Creek Massacre along with their innocence and defenseless, Lt. Captain Silas S. Soule may not have felt motivated to speak out in the face of the dominating anti – Indian sentiment, thus playing a key role in correctly changing the definition of Sand Creek from a battle to a massacre.
Soule wrote what he witnessed at Sand Creek: ”… hundreds of women and children were coming
towards us and getting on their knees for mercy.”
Captain Silas Soule of the first Colorado Calvary is remembered as the hero who stood up to Chivington before, during, and after the massacre. It cost him his life. His letters to friends and his testimony was crucial in correcting the definition of Sand Creek from a “battle” to a massacre.
Not so, if a small insubstantial number of warriors had been there.
Eleven warriors were at Washita; consequently, it was they who unintentionally led Custer to Moxtaveto’s camp, not by Moxtaveto’s invitation nor blessing. No matter, for that is all it took for Washita to be classified as a battle. Never mind the fact that the 7th shot all of the wounded Cheyenne, instead of taking them into captivity by following orders.
To answer my question, “Did his peaceful attempts in fact fail?” raises two more questions before my request.
Was Dr. Martin Luther King a failure because he was shot? Was Mahatma Gandhi a failure because he was assassinated? Of course not, and that leads me to my final request.
If it had not been for Moxtaveto’s peaceful efforts before the Sand Creek Massacre and Washita, if this was not the Centennial of Oklahoma’s Statehood, and this if this were not National American Indian Heritage Month; the reader of this (who might have to power to make what I’m going to request a reality) might not understand all the reasons why I firmly believe that a day in the month of November should be dedicated to his honor: Moxtaveto, or Black Kettle Day on November 27.
He and everything he stood for need and deserve to be remembered with “faith, truth, humility and respect.”
As a Peace Chief following pipe tradition, he would have been taught the four central tenets of faith, truth, humility and respect. Black Kettle is remembered as much for how he lived as how he died.
Black Kettle had the right to have all of his peaceful attempts honored, and recognizing that basic human right would surely make this entire world a better place. There is no way, no how, that it should be otherwise in my view.