Some Indian Conflicts in 1866

The American Indian histories of 1866 carry numerous accounts of wars, battles, massacres, and other conflicts. Some of these are briefly described below.

Conflicts with Non-Indians

Following the Civil War, non-Indian settlement in the West increased and with this came more conflicts with the Indians who lived in the area. It was not uncommon for the American intruders to advocate genocide as the “solution” to what they saw as the “Indian problem.” For example, in California, the Chico Courant reported:

“It is a mercy to the red devils to exterminate them, and a saving of many white lives. Treaties are played out—there is only one kind of treaty that is effective—cold lead.”

In California, when the Luiseño left their village of Pejamo for their summer rounds, local Anglos entered the village, set fire to the houses, and then simply took possession of the fields and water supply. While both the Indians and their federal Indian agent complained, the Anglos retained control of the land.

In Nevada, Mormon settlers in Muddy Valley discovered a group of Indians drying the meat from a stolen cow. They took the Indians prisoner and then severely whipped them. The Mormons then met with the Indians and told them that the stealing of cattle must end.

In Nevada, the 2nd California Cavalry, a group of volunteers, attacked a Paiute band near Rock Creek. They killed 115 Indians and captured 19.

In Kansas, American settlers formed militia groups to defend their illegal claims to Osage land. James Thomas, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“Village stores were looted, and Indian houses were dismantled for building materials. Nothing the Indians owned was sacred; settlers even plundered Indian graves in the hope of finding the treasure that the Osages often buried with their dead.”   

In Arizona, American prospectors murdered Walapai leader Wauba Yuma. The Pai bands responded in a traditional way to exact vengeance on the Americans. The result came to be called the Walapai War. Stephen Hirst, in his book I Am The Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People, reports:

“The war went on for three years, mostly in the form of skirmishes but with a few actions that we would now call massacres.”

In northern Arizona, two Mormon settlers were tracking stolen sheep in fresh snow when they encountered Navajo raiders. Both Mormons were killed. In response to the killings, the Mormons formed a militia which discovered stolen goods in a Paiute camp. The militia attacked the camp, killing two Paiute. Five other Paiute were captured, interrogated, and then executed.

The Paiute responded to the attack by later killing two Mormon men and a woman as a form of retaliation. As the Mormons in the area began planning their retaliation, Brigham Young invoked the church’s traditional policy of peace with the Indians and ordered Mormon withdrawal from the Paiute lands at Long Valley and Kanab.

In Arizona, a small party of Tolkepaya Yavapai encountered an American wagon train near Skull Valley. The Yavapai informed the teamsters that this was their land and that the water, grass, and corn belonged to them. The Yavapai would allow the Americans to leave unharmed if they surrendered their mules and the contents of their wagons.

A group of 13 soldiers—members of the Arizona Volunteers—arrived with orders from Fort Whipple to “punish” the Yavapai. Then more Yavapai and Tonto Apache arrived, including some who had papers showing that they have permission to be in the area.

On the third day of the standoff, about 80 Yavapai and Tonto Apache laid down their bows, and displaying their papers from the government, approached the wagon train peacefully. The soldiers opened fire, killing more than 40.

The Arizona Volunteers waged a war against the Yavapai and killed at least 83. The Volunteers were waging a war to exterminate Yavapai families.

In Montana, a Blackfoot war party attacked a government farm on the Sun River and burned the buildings. They also raided against a nearby cattle ranch. The raids were motivated by Blackfoot anger against Americans trespassing and settling on their lands.

Intertribal Conflicts

Following the Civil War, as American settlers began to flood into the West, more Indian tribes were pushed into smaller hunting grounds and intertribal warfare increased. Briefly described below are some of the intertribal conflicts of 1866.

In Montana, a Pend d’Oreille buffalo hunting party was attacked by the Blackfoot. Twenty men and one woman were killed.

In Montana, the alliance between the Gros Ventre and the Blackfoot broke down. This solidified the Gros Ventre relationships with the Assiniboine and with the River Crow.

In Montana, a war party of Crow and Gros Ventre attacked the Piegan Blackfoot camp of Chief Many Horses. Many Horses was killed, and the Blackfoot, angered over the death of a popular chief, attacked the Crow and Gros Ventre with ferocity. The Blackfoot warriors chased their retreating attackers for many miles. Anthropologist John Ewers, in his book The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains, reports:

“In this most disastrous defeat with the memory of both the Gros Ventre and Crow tribesmen, more than three hundred of them were killed.”

The Blackfoot lost only 20 warriors.

In Montana, a party of Spokan were hunting buffalo. During the hunt, they captured several horses from the Blackfoot. In retaliation, the Blackfoot killed a Spokan chief and captured 160 Spokan horses. The horse-poor Spokan captured some non-Indian horses on their way home. In Missoula, Spokan Garry was arrested, but the Indian agent arranged for his release.

In Wyoming, the Shoshone and Bannock fought a battle against the Crow at Crowheart Butte. After five days, it was apparent that neither side would be able to win. Thus it was agreed that Shoshone chief Washakie and Crow chief Big Robber should fight a duel to settle the matter. Washakie won the duel, but he was so impressed by Big Robber’s bravery that he did not scalp him, but instead cut out his heart. One of the Crow women who was captured at the battle later became one of Washakie’s wives.

In Wyoming, a party of Shoshone returning from a successful buffalo hunt were attacked by the Sioux. Under the leadership of Washakie, the Shoshone counterattacked and drove the Sioux back. Angry because his son Nan-nag-gai did not take part in the battle, Washakie rebuked the young man. Nan-nag-gai then attacked the Sioux alone and was killed. Historian Grace Raymond Hebard , in her biography Washakie: Chief of the Shoshones, writes:

“Washakie realized that he was himself responsible for his bereavement. The story runs that overnight his hair turned white.”

In New Mexico, a Comanche war party captured a number of horses from the Navajo at the Bosque Redondo, and from the army and some Americans at Fort Sumner. The army sent out a force in pursuit. The Comanche halted and raised a white flag, but they were fired upon by the army.

Massachusetts Prior to 1620

It is not uncommon to encounter the assumption that the history of Massachusetts began with arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. However, Indians had lived in the area for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. Furthermore, the Indians of Massachusetts had had contact with Europeans prior to 1620.

Possible Contacts

While the seventeenth century marks the beginning of the European invasion in Massachusetts, there are some possible interactions between Europeans and Indians prior to this. Many historians consider these earlier contacts to be unverified and dismiss these accounts. However, it should be noted that there was a time when some historians were skeptical about Viking settlements in North America, but current archaeological findings show that Viking contact was fairly frequent. There are archaeologically verified settlements in Newfoundland and archaeologist Birgitta Wallace, in her report in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga writes:

“From L’Anse aux Meadows, expeditions were launched to explore areas farther away. We have proof that they went south to warmer, more hospitable areas where butternuts grew on large trees and grapes grew wild, for the archaeological evidence is unequivocal.”

In 1002, a Viking group under the leadership of Thorvald, the brother of Leif Eriksson, named present-day Cape Cod Kiarlanes (Keel-Cape) because it looks like the keel of a ship. The group then arrived at a heavily wooded promontory. Here they found three Indian canoes camouflaged with brush. There was a conflict in which eight Indians were killed and Thorvald was wounded. His wound proved to be fatal and he was buried at a place which the Vikings call Krossanes (Cape of the Cross). Writer Leo Bonfanti, in his book Biographies and Legends of the New England Indians, reports:

“Since there are so many promontories, both large and small, along the New England coast, ‘Krossanes’ could be any one of them, for its exact location has never been determined.”

Early Contacts

In 1602, the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold landed at Cape Cod and traded with the Wampanoag. He reported that the Indians were in good health: they were free of epidemic diseases and they had good nutrition. When he returned to England he promoted the establishment of British colonies in the area.

The following year the English under the leadership of Martin Pring, built a palisaded trading camp at Cape Cod in Wampanoag territory. While the English entertained the Wampanoag with small gifts and guitar music, they also stole a large birchbark canoe. As a result, the relations between the English and the Indians deteriorated. The English fired their muskets and loosed mastiffs at Wampanoag warriors before abandoning the trading camp.

Pring reported that the Indians had gardens which were larger than an acre in size. He also described the large strawberries. His crew loaded sassafras to be sold in Europe as a high-priced medical panacea.

The theft of the canoe suggested to the Indians that the English were perhaps not honorable people and that their greed for material possessions was perhaps greater than the hospitality which they offered.

In 1605, French explorers led by Samuel de Champlain explored the Massachusetts coast. the explorers meet Indians in large dugout canoes, some of which carry 40 men.

Just north of the present-day city of Plymouth, the explorers were met by the Massachusett under the leadership of Honabetha. On the shore, Champlain admired the abundant crops of corn, beans, squash, tobacco, and Jerusalem artichokes which were being raised by the Indians. The Massachusett, on the other hand, were eager to obtain the French metal cooking pots and one sailor was killed for his pot.

In 1606, French explorers attempted to impress the Wampanoag in the village of Monomoy with their guns and swords. The French also erected a large cross as a symbol of their religious superiority. The Wampanoag response was to kill four of the landing party, tear down the cross, and jeer at the retreating French.

In 1611, English sea captains captured six Indians, including the Capawake sachem Epinow, at Martha’s Vineyard. Epinow was taken to England where he learned English language and culture. The English described him as “cunning” and “artful.”

In 1614, the English returned with Capawake sachem Epinow who was supposed to act as their guide and interpreter. Epinow, however, escaped from the ship by jumping into the water and swimming toward some Indian canoes. The Indians in the canoes fired a volley of arrows at the ship to aid his escape.

English Captain Thomas Hunt captured 26 Wampanoag, including a young man known as Squanto. The Indians were taken to Spain and sold as slaves. However, Squanto escaped and found his way to England where he learned to speak English.

Five years later, Squanto returned from England with Captain Thomas Dermer. He searched for his Wampanoag relatives and found that they had died in an epidemic.

Disease

Perhaps the greatest impact of the arrival of Europeans in Massachusetts came from the diseases which they brought with them. The diseases brought to this continent by the Europeans included bubonic plague, chicken pox, pneumonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. The native population lacked immunity to viruses and germs that had evolved in Europe. Consequently, Indians succumbed in large numbers.

In 1614, a series of three epidemics began to sweep through the Indian villages in Massachusetts. At least ten of the 40 Wampanoag villages had to be abandoned because there were no survivors. Wampanoag population decreased from 12,000 to 5,000. The Massachusett were nearly exterminated. Between 1616 and 1619, it is estimated that at least three fourths of the Indian population in Massachusetts died from European epidemic diseases. Some authorities estimate the death toll at 90%.

It is not known what the actual disease was that caused this epidemic. Various writers have suggested bubonic plague, smallpox, and hepatitis A. There is strong evidence supporting all of these theories.

The Pilgrims would later look upon these epidemics as evidence of God’s grace and His intention for them to occupy this country.

The Pilgrims

When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they encountered few living people but saw evidence of many Indian graves. In some instances, the Pilgrims opened the graves and stole the grave goods which they contained. In one instance, the Pilgrims steal two bearskins from the fresh grave of the mother of Massachusett leader Chickataubut.

In finding a place that looked like a grave covered with wooden boards, the Pilgrims dug and found several layers of household goods and personal possessions. They also found two bundles. In the smaller bundle they found the bones of a young child wrapped in beads and accompanied by a small bow. In the larger bundle they found the bones of a man. The man’s skull still had fine yellow hair and with the bone were a knife, a needle, and some metal items. Historian William Cronon, in his book Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, reports:

“A blond European sailor, shipwrecked or abandoned on the Massachusetts coast, had lived as an Indian, had perhaps fathered an Indian child, and had been buried in an Indian grave.”

In another instance, the Pilgrims stumbled into a Nauset graveyard where they found baskets of corn which had been left as gifts for the deceased. As the Pilgrims were gathering this bounty for themselves, they were interrupted by a group of angry Nauset warriors. The Pilgrims retreated back to the Mayflower empty-handed.

Religion on the Fort Hall Reservation, 1900 to 1934

During the nineteenth century, most government officials, missionaries, and social scientists had assumed that American Indians were a vanishing and vanquished people who would be gone by the twentieth century. It was assumed that reservations were to be temporary concentration camps to hold Indians as they either died off or fully assimilated into American culture. As a part of the assimilation efforts, the American government not only supported the activities of some Christian—primarily Protestant—missionary groups and actively worked to suppress Indian religions. At the beginning of the twentieth century, American Indian religions were illegal and those participating in Indian ceremonies could be jailed without the benefit of a trial.

The Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho, created in 1869 for various Shoshone and Bannock tribes, continued to attract Christian missionary groups in the early twentieth century. With regard to Native religions, the reservation’s Indian agents were concerned with suppressing the Sun Dance and other ceremonials, and the pan-Indian religious movement known as the Native American Church. Suppression of the Native American Church was, and still is, based on the assumption that peyote, a cactus used as a sacrament in Native American Church ceremonies, is somehow harmful to Indians.

The active suppression of American Indian religions by the federal government (i.e. the Indian Office or the Bureau of Indian Affairs) changed in 1934 when the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John Collier, declared that suppression of Native religions was wrong and ordered the suppression to stop.

Christian Missionaries:

In 1900, the Episcopal Church took over the property of the Connecticut Indian Association on the Shoshone and Bannock Fort Hall Reservation. The church requested and received 160 acres of land.

In 1901, the Presbyterian Church was granted 160 acres on the Fort Hall Reservation. A new church building and living quarters were constructed on the property.

In 1908, the Episcopal Church requested a patent in fee for 160 acres of land on the Fort Hall Reservation which had been granted to them provisionally by the Shoshone and Bannock. Brigham Madsen reports:

“The order was approved without getting the consent of the Indians who very much opposed the change.”

Healing Ceremonies:

In 1902, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation ordered the arrest of all Shoshone and Bannock medicine men who held healing ceremonies.

Sun Dance:

       For many of the Indian nations of the Great Plains, Plateau, and Great Basin culture areas, the Sun Dance had been the central ceremony and often served as a unifying force to bring together the various hunting bands. While the actual ceremony and the frequency with which it was traditionally conducted varied among the tribes, there are several basic themes that are associated with the Sun Dance: (1) seasonal renewal, growth, and replenishment, and (2) the acquisition of spiritual power. Much of the government effort in suppressing Native religions in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was focused on this ancient ceremony.

The medicine man Bear sponsored a Sun Dance among the Shoshone-Bannock on the Fort Hall Reservation in 1901. Bear had failed to cure a woman because his powers had not been adequate and subsequently dreamed that he was to sponsor this dance. Bear had attended Sun Dances on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

In 1908, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation ordered the Shoshone and Bannock to stop their Sun Dance. He was concerned that it promoted immoral activities. Community leaders responded to the ban by sending a delegation to Washington, D.C. with a protest letter.

In 1913, the Shoshone and Bannock held a Sun Dance off the Fort Hall Reservation to avoid the Bureau of Indian Affair’s ban on the ceremony. However, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation sent in the Indian police to break up the dance. The Indians were angered over the incident as were the local Mormons who supported religious freedom.

In 1914, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation prohibited the Shoshone and Bannock from putting on their traditional Sun Dance as he felt that this was a backward influence on the community. Community leaders organized the Sun Dance in defiance of the ban and 1,500 Shoshone and Bannock attended.

In 1916, the Shoshone and Bannock once again attempted to hold a Sun Dance off the reservation. Indian police from the Fort Hall Reservation tore down the Sun Dance structure, cut up the poles, and confined seven of the ceremonial leaders to jail for ten days. There was, of course, no trial.

In 1926, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation received permission to revive the Sun Dance. According to Brigham Madsen:

“It was true that some of the self-torture aspects had been eliminated, with the result being a kind of medicine dance, but it was held for the traditional three days.”

Native American Church

The Native American Church arose in the late nineteenth century as a pan-Indian religious movement. It incorporates many Christian elements as well as Indian elements. The difficulty that the church encounters is that it uses peyote as a sacrament. Since peyote is considered to be a hallucinogenic drug it is illegal under America’s war against drugs. Thus, those who attend the church services are sometimes subject to harassment by law enforcement as well as the possibility of arrest. The Native American Church is the only church in the United States whose membership is restricted by law to racial criteria.

In 1915, the Shoshone on the Fort Hall Reservation began to become involved with the Native American Church and the use of peyote as a sacrament. Sam Lone Bear (Sioux) was one of the proselytizers for the peyote religion.

In 1920, the peyote religion was brought to the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation by Shoshone spiritual leader Jack Edmo and by Sioux spiritual leader Cactus Pete. The new religion rapidly spread across the reservation and alarmed agency officials. Jack Edmo had first encountered peyote at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota during his summer travels. He soon began leading regular Saturday night peyote meetings. The Indian agent arrested Jack Edmo and others as he viewed peyote meetings as a form of immorality. He then contacted the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to see if he was authorized to try them for violating Indian Office Regulations against the practices of medicine men.

In 1921, the Indian agent for the Fort Hall Reservation, having been informed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that the use of peyote and peyote meetings were in violation of Indian Office Regulations, posted a notice informing the Shoshone and Bannock that the introduction, use, or possession of peyote was illegal.

In 1925, the Fort Hall Native American Church incorporated under state law. The language used in its statement of purpose was identical with that used by the Oklahoma Native American Church. The statement of purpose emphasizes that peyote was a sacrament and that the church stresses morality, sobriety, industry, charity, and right living.

The Northern Cheyenne Escape

At the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty council, United States officials failed to understand that there were two distinct Cheyenne tribes: the Northern Cheyenne whose territory included the Black Hills, and the Southern Cheyenne who had migrated to the southern plains. The United States assigned all of the Cheyennes, both Northern and Southern, to a reservation in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Northern Cheyenne, however, had no desire to relocate to the south and remained on the Northern Plains where they were allied with the Sioux.

In 1876, the 7th Cavalry under the leadership of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer attacked a peaceful Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne village on the Little Bighorn River in Montana. Following the Indian victory, the Cheyenne moved back into the Bighorn Mountains. In Wyoming, an army of 1,000 cavalry attacked the Northern Cheyenne winter camp of Dull Knife, Wild Hog, and Little Wolf, destroying tipis, clothing, and food supplies.

In 1877, the main body of the Northern Cheyenne, which included Dull Knife, Little Wolf, Black Wolf, Standing Elk, Spotted Elk, and Magpie Eagle, surrendered to the Americans at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska. The four Old Man Chiefs—Little Wolf, Morning Star, Dirty Moccasins, and Old Bear—were with this group. The Cheyenne were then force-marched for 70 days to the reservation in Indian Territory. When they surrendered they had expected reservation life, but they had not anticipated a 70-day forced march to a reservation far from their homeland.

In 1878, the Northern Cheyenne, under the leadership of Dull Knife, Wild Hog, and Little Wolf, left the reservation where they had been starving and began a trek north to their homelands. In his book Perilous Pursuit: The U.S. Cavalry and the Northern Cheyennes, Stanley Hoig reports:

“Although Dull Knife still held great influence and was a principal spokesman for the Cheyennes, Little Wolf was the main leader of the exodus and directed its course. Wild Hog was next in rank.”

They left the reservation with their lodges standing and their fires burning in order to deceive agency authorities. Of the 353 Northern Cheyenne who slipped away from the agency, only 60-70 were seasoned warriors.

The news media reported that the Cheyenne had “broken out” of the reservation and both soldiers and civilians pursued them. According to Smithsonian curator Herman Viola, in his book After Columbus: The Smithsonian Chronology of the North American Indians, the Cheyenne lacked tents and sufficient food in their “desperate dash for Montana.” In his book Tell Them We Are Going Home: The Odyssey of the Northern Cheyennes, historian John Monnett reports:

“Immediately the army marshaled the technological resources of a modern nation against them.”

The first military engagement between the fleeing Northern Cheyenne and the U.S. Calvary was at Turkey Springs in Oklahoma. Without authorization, a junior officer opened fire on the Cheyenne. Stanley Hoig reports:

“No sooner had the troops opened the hostilities than Cheyenne warriors emerged from ravines on both sides and in the rear to join those at the front in raking the troops with rifle fire.”

The cavalry retreated and the Cheyenne withdrew. Stanley Hoig sums up the encounter this way:

“The encounter with the Northern Cheyennes had been a near disaster for the Fort Reno troops.”

In Kansas, the Cheyenne ambushed the pursuing cavalry at Punished Woman’s Fork. Stanley Hoig (2002: 114) writes:

“Little Wolf’s strategy was to position his main fighting force among the rocks and cutbacks of the canyon, draw the troops into it, and then close the trap with riflemen posted along the canyon walls.”

The American troops were caught in an indefensible position and the soldiers, with their recent encounters with the Cheyenne fresh in their minds, attempted to flee as quickly as possible. In their haste, no one fought back and many of the horses bolted leaving the troops on foot.

In Nebraska, the troops who were pursuing the Cheyenne found an old man who was weak and who had fallen behind the main band. The soldiers did not harm the man, but turned him over to a group of Nebraska citizens. As the soldiers rode away, the Nebraskans shot the old man.

In western Nebraska, the Cheyenne came upon Milton Connors’ ranch. According to Walter Echo-Hawk, in his book In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided:

“Often traveling at night, they were guided by an elderly woman blessed with a mysterious power to see in the dark.”

The starving refugees captured 40 horses, 40 steers, and one mule from the ranch.

At the North Platte River, the Cheyenne broke into two groups: one group under the leadership of Little Wolf and the other under the leadership of Dull Knife.

Little Wolf led a group of 126 (40 men, 47 women, 39 children) with the intention of traveling to the Powder River country in Montana. Traveling with Little Wolf were the warriors Starving Elk, Black Coyote, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, and Black Crane. Little Wolf’s band avoided the military and travelled into the Dakotas and then into Montana. His band was met by scouts from Fort Keogh who assured Little Wolf that his people would not be harmed if they surrendered. They were given rations and followed the scouts back to the Fort. Many of the warriors enlisted in the army as scouts.

Many of Dull Knife’s people had relatives among the Oglala Sioux and so they set out for the Red Cloud Agency near Fort Robinson, Nebraska. According to historian John Monnett:

“Dull Knife had friends and relatives among the Lakotas who had been relocated to Pine Ridge, and he felt his people would be safe there even if they had to surrender to the soldiers.”

In Nebraska, Dull Knife’s Cheyenne band surrendered to the Americans at Fort Robinson. The Cheyenne leaders expressed their passionate determination not to return to Indian Territory before they surrendered to the Americans. They hoped to get permission to join the Oglala Sioux at the Red Cloud Agency. The Cheyenne were unaware that the Red Cloud Agency had been closed and the agency for the Sioux was now at Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

The Americans consider the Cheyenne as prisoners of war. The post surgeon reported that there were 149 Cheyenne: 46 men, 61 children, and 42 women. Most were near starvation and all were suffering from chills and fever. The leaders were Dull Knife, Bull Hump (Dull Knife’s son), Wild Hog, Tangle Hair, and Strong Left Hand. The Cheyenne were placed in a barracks.

At Fort Robinson, a number of Sioux chiefs—Red Cloud, Red Dog, Little Wound, and others—arranged to meet with the Cheyenne under strict military supervision. There was a joyous reunion between the two groups. Among the Cheyenne prisoners were the daughter of Sioux scout Two Lance and the sister of Chief Red Cloud.

The American commander told the Cheyenne:

“You must stay here for three months before the government will decide whether to send you south or to send you to the Sioux. While you are here, nothing bad will happen to you, but you must stay for three months. You will have the freedom of the post and may even go off into the mountains, but each night at suppertime you must be here.”

During the warmer days in December, the Army forced the women to work unloading grain wagons. Alan Boye, in his book Holding Stone Hands: On the Trail of the Cheyenne Exodus, reports:

“The women worked through bitterly cold days without gloves and considered it more slave labor than anything else.”

The Army viewed this as a way of giving the women exercise.

At Fort Robinson the Cheyenne asked for permission to join the Oglala at the Pine Ridge Reservation, but the Indian Office directed the army to return them to Oklahoma. They refused to return to Oklahoma. They were then denied food and water in an attempt to break their spirit and get them to agree to a peaceful return to Oklahoma. Dull Knife replies:

 “You may kill me here; but you cannot make me go back.”

The Americans arrested Wild Hog, Old Crow, and Strong Left Hand and held them as hostages as a way to force the Cheyenne to agree to return to the south.

In 1879, the army withdrew all food, water, and fuel from the Northern Cheyenne who were being held in a sealed room at Fort Robinson. The army hoped to starve them into submission so that they would return to Oklahoma. Dull Knife told the people:

“Let us never give up to these people, to be taken back south to the country we have run away from. We have given them everything we have and now they are starving us to death. We may as well die here as to be taken south and die there.”

Under the leadership of Little Shield, the Cheyenne broke out of the garrison in an act of desperation. During the first few minutes of the breakout, 21 Cheyenne were killed and nine more were killed later that morning. Of those killed, 22 were women and children.

During the next week, the Army tracked the Cheyenne in the winter snow, killing them when they found them. The War Department ordered the troops to attack without mercy. Finally, a group of 32 Cheyenne made their final stand in a pit above a creek and 25 were killed. By the end of the week a total of 72 Cheyenne had been killed.

After they were recaptured, 20 Cheyenne who were suspected of involvement in the killing of American settlers were sent to Oklahoma for trial. Among those taken to stand trial were Wild Hog, Tangle Hair, Strong Left Hand, Old Crow, Porcupine, Noisy Walker, and Blacksmith. The remaining survivors were escorted to the Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota.

       Cheyenne leader Dull Knife, his wife Pawnee Woman, his son Bull Hump, and Bull Hump’s wife remained concealed in the bluffs for ten days after the Army defeated them. The small party of starving Cheyenne, who were so hungry that they were eating their moccasins, eventually made its way to the home of Gus Graven who was married to a Lakota woman and who was trusted by Dull Knife. Graven then hid the group in the home of William Rowland, an interpreter. Rowland then slipped the group in among Red Cloud’s Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

In an out of the way bluff on Wounded Knee Creek, a lodge was set up for Dull Knife and his family. It was here that he learned of the fate of the others in his band.

Religion on the Fort Hall Reservation, 1867 to 1899

Following the American Civil War, the federal policy toward Indians was to confine them to reservations and to reduce the size of reservation to accommodate non-Indian agricultural, grazing, mining, and railroad interests. On the reservation, Indians were to become farmers, even if the reservation land was not suitable to farming; they were to become English-speaking and use of Native languages was often punished; and they were to become Christian and to accomplish this Native religious practices were suppressed, sometimes with force of arms.

From the viewpoint of many federal officials, Indians were Indians were Indians: in other words, they often failed to recognize that there were differences between tribes. In creating reservations, the United States often put tribes which had different cultures, languages, and religions on the same reservation assuming that all Indians were the same.

The Fort Hall Reservation

       When the first non-Indians from the Mormon settlements in Utah began to discover what is now southern Idaho, they found that it was occupied by two somewhat related tribes: the Shoshone (also spelled Shoshoni) and the Bannock. Culturally, the two tribes shared a common heritage and a similar worldview. They spoke closely related languages. Historian John Heaton, in his book The Shoshone-Bannocks: Culture and Commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940 writes:

“Shoshones spoke Central Numic, whereas Bannocks, who began to intermarry with Shoshones in Idaho in the early eighteenth century, spoke Western Numic.”

The Shoshone tribes were found throughout the Great Basin area. Those who lived in southern Idaho are generally grouped together as Northern Shoshone and included the Fort Hall Shoshone, the Lemhi Shoshone, the Mountain Shoshone, the Bruneau Shoshone, and the Boise Shoshone.

The Bannock, who call themselves Bana’kwut (“Water People”), were called Buffalo Eaters and Honey Eaters by other tribes. The Bannock had migrated into the southern Idaho area from the desert areas of southeastern Oregon.

In 1867, President Andrew Johnson issued an executive order creating the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho for the Boise-Bruneau Shoshone. The executive order also set aside 1.8 million acres as a separate reservation for the Bannock. Two years later, the Fort Hall Reservation was formally opened for the Shoshone and Bannock. In their book An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language: Dammen Daigwape, Drusilla Gould and Christopheer Loether report:

“The opening of the reservation began a period of ethnic cleansing and hardship for the Shoshone-Bannock unlike anything they had ever experienced before. They were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to the reservation. On the reservation they found little food, no opportunities, and very little hope for the future.”

The Government and Christian Missionaries

In 1869, the Board of Indian Commissioners recommended that, with regard to Indians, it was the duty of government to:

“protect them, to educate them in industry, the arts of civilization, and the princi­ples of Christianity.”

The Board of Indian Commissioners also recommended that schools be established to introduce English to every tribe. According to the Board:

“The teachers employed should be nominated by some religious body having a mission nearest to the location of the school. The establishment of Christian missions should be encouraged, and their schools fostered.”

In 1870, President Ulysses Grant established his Peace Policy in which the administration of reservations was turned over to Christian missionary groups. According to James White in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma:

“Under the terms of the Peace Policy, a single religious group had a franchise over the evangelizing efforts on each reservation.”

Under the Peace Policy, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation were assigned to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1871. The church, however, failed to send a missionary to the reservation. The Indian agent requested funds to build a mission and mission residence, but the federal government did not earmark any monies for this purpose. According to Brigham Madsen, in his book The Northern Shoshoni:

“When no funds were earmarked for these purposes, apparently the church again responded with dedicated apathy.”

In 1871, a Catholic priest visited the Shoshone and Bannock on the Fort Hall Reservation and requested that the reservation be re-assigned to the Catholic Church. The Department of the Interior responded by transferring it from the Methodists to the Catholics. The Catholic missionary, however, was on the reservation for only a few months and then left because there were no facilities for him.

In 1873, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation were assigned to the Methodist Church. The new Indian agent preached sermons to the Indians, but one army officer charged that the agent was not promoting material progress on the reservation.

In 1875, an Indian teacher from the Methodist Episcopal Church was appointed to the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation. He organized a church society of six members, held church services every Sunday, and established a Sunday school.

In 1887, the Connecticut Indian Association, an auxiliary of the Women’s National Indian Association, contacted the Fort Hall Reservation. The Association was willing to send two missionaries to convert the Shoshone and Bannock if the government would build a cottage for them, provide them with 3-4 acres of land, and allow them to get supplies from the government store. As a result, two women missionaries arrived at the reservation.

Mormons

       Like American Indian religions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called the Mormons, was discouraged by the American government and many reservations were closed to Mormon missionaries. The Mormon missionaries often worked among off-reservation Indians.

Mormon missionaries under the leadership of George Washington Hill traveled to southern Idaho in 1873 where they baptized about 100 Shoshone and Bannock. Lawrence Coates, in an article in Idaho Yesterdays, writes:

“Relying upon his previous experiences with the Shoshoni, Hill used his ability to speak their language to tell them of the Book of Mormon, depicting its story by placing pictures on a scroll.”

The Indians were then settled on farmland near Brigham City, Utah. The Indians named the community Washakie, after a Shoshone Chief.

In 1877, in response to the establishment of a Mormon farm for the Shoshone, non-Indians again demanded that the Indians be forcibly returned to the Fort Hall Reservation. Rumors circulated that the Indians were well-armed and that their horses were in good condition. The district attorney reported that the Indians had become members of the Mormon church, that they were under Mormon control, and thus they were “disloyal.” He recommended that the Indians be returned to the reservation and that the missionary should be charged with “illegally tampering with the Indians.” While the district attorney argued that military force be used to move the Indians, the Indian agent noted that the Indians in question had never resided at Fort Hall but had always made the Bear River area their home.

The agent of the Fort Hall Reservation in 1883 estimated that 300 Bannock and Shoshone were now members of the Mormon Church and he asked the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for help in stopping the Mormons from instructing the Indians in polygamy and other vile doctrines.

The Ghost Dances

       During the last part of the nineteenth century there were several indigenous religious movements which arose in response to the religious oppression forced upon Indian people by the United States. Two of these movements, both commonly called the Ghost Dance, came from Paiute prophets in Nevada and impacted the Fort Hall reservation.

In 1870, a new indigenous religious movement, known as the Ghost Dance, was started by the Paiute prophet Wodziwob in Nevada. The Shoshone and Bannock from the Fort Hall Reservation became active proselytizers for the new religion and sponsored a number of Ghost Dances.

In 1889, a Paiute named Wovoka died during an eclipse. He then returned to life with a message and a dance for his people. The message called for peace and promised an exclusively Indian world. Thus, the Ghost Dance (not to be confused with the earlier Ghost Dance movement of Wodziwob) was born. Wovoka’s message was distinctly Indian, but influenced by Christianity. According to Meldan Tanrisal, in an article in the Journal of the West:

“Wovoka had been influenced by Presbyterians on whose ranch he worked, by Mormons, and by the Indian Shaker Church.”

The Shoshone and Bannock quickly took up the new Ghost Dance. The Bannock, whose language is Northern Paiute, easily understood Wovoka’s doctrine and passed it on to their Shoshone neighbors who in turn passed it on to the Shoshone at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Brigham Madsen reports:

“Fort Hall, therefore, became one of the distribution centers of the new religion to the Indians of the northern plains.”

Indians as People Under the Law

Very soon after the Spanish began their invasion of this continent, both the European courts and clergy declared Indians to be “people” in a biological and spiritual sense. However, the concept of Indians as “people” in a legal sense was tested in the United States in 1879.

In 1877, the United States had forcibly removed the Ponca from their homeland in northern Nebraska and resettled far to the south in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). One-third of the tribe died from starvation and disease shortly after their arrival on the new reservation.

In 1879, Standing Bear and about 30 Ponca left their Oklahoma reservation and traveled to Decatur, Nebraska where they were welcomed by the Omaha (the tribe, not the city) and given food and shelter. Standing Bear explained why he left Oklahoma:

“My boy who died down there, as he was dying looked up to me and said, I would like you take my bones back and bury them where I was born. I promised him I would. I could not refuse the dying request of my boy. I have attempted to keep my word. His bones are in that trunk.”

At this time, Indians were not allowed free movement outside of their reservations. In order to leave the reservation they were required to have the written permission of their Indian agent. The Department of the Interior (the federal agency in charge of Indian affairs) notified the War Department that the Ponca had left without permission and the army was ordered to return them to the reservation. The Ponca were then detained by the army under the command of General George Crook at Fort Omaha. Illness among the Indians and the poor condition of their horses made it impossible to return them to Oklahoma immediately. During the delay, a local newspaper story about the plight of the Ponca stirred up interest and support which resulted in an historic court case. Carl Waldman, in his book Who Was Who in Native American History, writes:

“When the true purpose of Standing Bear’s journey was published, some whites, including Crook himself, showed sympathy.”

In an interview with newspaper editor Thomas Henry Tibbles, Ta-zha-but (Buffalo Chip) asked:

“I have done no wrong, and yet I am here a prisoner. Have you a law for white men, and a different law for those who are not white?”

In defending the arrest of Standing Bear’s people, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs wrote:

“If the reservation system is to be maintained, discontented and restless or mischievous Indians cannot be permitted to leave their reservation at will and go where they please. If this were permitted the most necessary discipline of the reservations would soon be entirely broken up, all authority over the Indians would cease, and in a short time the Western country would swarm with roving and lawless bands of Indians, spreading a spirit of uneasiness and restlessness even among those Indians who are now at work and doing well.”

Under American law, everyone, including non-citizens, who is held by U.S. authorities has the right to challenge the legality of the custody through a writ of habeas corpus. Two attorneys, John Webster and Andrew Poppleton, volunteered their services to the captive Poncas and filed a writ of habeas corpus to free them from Army custody. The U.S. Attorney argued that Indians were not persons under the law and therefore were not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus. According to the government an Indian was neither a person nor a citizen within the meaning of the law, and therefore could bring no suit of any kind against the government.

After hearing the case of Standing Bear v Crook, the United States District Court found that if Indians must obey the laws of the land, then they must be afforded the protection of these laws. In other words, Indians are “people” under United States law and therefore have the right to sue for a writ of habeas corpus. The judge observed:

“On the one side, we have a few of the remnants of a once numerous and powerful, but now weak, insignificant, unlettered and generally despised race. On the other, we have the representatives of one of the most powerful, most enlightened, and most Christianized nations of modern times.”

The Court’s ruling ordered Crook to release Standing Bear and his people.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs responded to the judge’s ruling by noting that it–

“is regarded by the Government as a heavy blow to the present Indian system, that, if sustained, will prove extremely dangerous alike to whites and Indians.”

Not all Americans agreed with the Court’s decision. One writer in New York City, asked of the Ponca: “What right have they to be in the country, anyhow?” The writer goes on to say:

“They are nothing but barbarians; they have no vote; while we are Christians and voters. Therefore, the land they occupy is unprofitable, and I for one cannot see why any white man who is a voter, and desires the land, should not make a claim to it, and if necessary, get help from the Government to obtain it.”

In theory, this ruling should have changed the legal relationships for Indian people on reservations throughout the United States. However, it was almost universally ignored by the Indian Service (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs), Indian agents (the people in charge of the reservations), the army, and the local courts. The ruling was not appealed as it was felt that it would probably be upheld by the Supreme Court and this would only give it more weight in American law.

With regard to the Standing Bear case, in his book In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided, attorney Walter Echo-Hawk writes:

“This decision opened Indian eyes to the possibility of protecting their rights through litigation.”

Following the Standing Bear versus Crook decision, newspaper editor Henry Tibbles arranged a six-month lecture tour of eastern cities for Standing Bear. When Standing Bear traveled, he would wear European-style clothing. On stage, however, he would wear buckskins, feathers, beaded belt, claw necklace, and red blanket. In Boston, Standing Bear’s lecture was attended by Helen Hunt Jackson, Senator Henry Dawes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and other notables who were so moved that they formed the Boston Indian Citizenship Committee to fight for the rights of the Ponca and other Indians.

In 1880, Congress appointed a committee to study the Ponca situation. As a result, Standing Bear and his small band were given a permanent home in Nebraska.

The Sheepeater Indian War

It is not uncommon for Indian tribes to be named for the food they consume. One group of Bannocks and Shoshones living in the mountains between Idaho and Montana were called Sheepeaters because mountain sheep were the mainstay of their food supply. In 1879, the deaths of five Chinese miners were attributed to the Sheepeaters, even though the murders appeared to have been committed by a party of Americans disguised as Indians. This marked the beginning of a series of skirmishes known as Sheepeater War and has been called the last of Idaho’s Indian wars by some historians.

General O. O. Howard, popularly known as America’s Christian General for his efforts to suppress American Indian religions, was prompted to investigate these deaths. He had already been wanting to subdue what was said to be the last holdout of hostiles from the earlier Bannock War along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. This gave him the excuse he needed.

In the first battle of the war, the army destroyed an Indian camp which had been abandoned about two hours earlier. Then, ignoring the findings of its scouts, the army followed a trail down the creek into a steep canyon. About two dozen Sheepeater warriors under the leadership of War Jack were waiting and the army unit was ambushed. Two soldiers were wounded. In a disorganized and hasty way, the soldiers retreated. The victorious Indians made no immediate effort to press their advantage by pursuing the fleeing troops.

The following morning, the Indians set fire to the base of the mountain and the winds carried the flames uphill toward the army camp. With shifting winds and carefully set backfires, the army escaped the flames and when darkness set in they were able to sneak past the Indians. The army lost 21 pack animals and all of their supplies to the Sheepeaters.

In the second battle of the war, Umatilla scouts led the army to a Sheepeater camp which had been hastily abandoned. There was an exchange of gunfire, but no casualties. The Sheepeaters lost a large cache of supplies, including goods which they had captured in their earlier battle with the army.

Jerry Keenan, in his book Encyclopedia of American Indian Wars, reports:

“As the campaign dragged on, area newspapers expressed outrage that the Indians had not been caught.”

Several army companies spent four months battling a band of 51 people, which included only 15 warriors who had only 8 firearms: 4 carbines, 2 muzzle-loading rifles, 1 breech-loading rifle, and 1 double-barreled shotgun. In the end, the band surrendered after being pursued by the Army’s Umatilla and Cayuse scouts.

The Army made little distinction between different Indian groups and the band which surrendered were Weiser Shoshones who claimed that they hadn’t been involved in killing either Chinese miners or American prospectors. As far as General Howard was concerned, however, he had the guilty party and the war was officially declared over. The Weisers were sent as prisoners to Fort Vancouver, Washington and then relocated to the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho.

The Sioux in 1866

The designation “Sioux” is used to describe many different tribes who are divided into three linguistic divisions: Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota. While relative late-comers to the Northern Plains—they did not become horse-mounted Plains Indians until about 1775—by 1866 they had a reputation among non-Indians as one the of the fiercest and most war-like Plains Indians. Briefly described below are some of the Sioux events for 1866.

Sioux leader Red Cloud and others met with U.S. officials at Fort Laramie to discuss the Bozeman Trail. General Sherman provided the Indians with goodwill gifts of powder, lead, and food. According to historian Richard Dillon, in his book North American Indian Wars:

“The Government asked permission for emigrants to cross lands recently granted to the Sioux and Cheyenne, but the General also sought permission for three forts to be built on the Bozeman Trail connecting the Platte River with Montana’s mines.”

Red Cloud broke off the negotiations because the United States had brought in soldiers to use as a threat of force. In the months that followed, the Oglala and other Sioux tribes engaged in guerrilla war along the Bozeman Trail, making it dangerous to travel.

The army, under orders to protect the gold seekers, established Fort Reno, Fort Phil Kearny, and Fort C.F. Smith along the Bozeman Trail. The army was determined to make the Bozeman Trail a major thoroughfare to the Montana gold fields. The United States government was reeling under the immense financial strain of the Civil War and saw the Montana gold fields as one answer to the financial problems.

In one battle near Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming, Captain William J. Fetterman and 80 soldiers were killed by Oglala and Cheyenne warriors. The Cheyenne were under the leadership of Little Horse, a contrary. Accompanying the Cheyenne were four Crow warriors, including one woman warrior. The soldiers in the fort prepared to blow it up if the Indians broke through their defenses and the message from the fort was “We are fighting a foe that is the devil.”

General William Tecumseh Sherman wroteto President Ulysses S. Grant:

“We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children. Nothing else will reach the root of this case.”

General Sherman used the term “Sioux” as a way of referring to all “hostile” Indians.

Montana Territorial Governor Thomas Meagher wrote:

“As for the Sioux, and their allies and accomplices, it is my clear and positive conviction that they will never be reduced to friendly and reliable relations with the whites but by the strong and crushing hand of the military power of the nation.”

In Montana, Green Clay Smith was appointed as Territorial Governor. In his first address to the Territorial Legislature he vowed to take a hard line policy against Indians he deemed as hostile. He stresses that “we will be just and fair to them, but they must respect our rights.” He also expresses particular dislike for the Sioux.

In Montana, Oglala Sioux leader Red Cloud visited the Crow, bringing them gifts of tobacco, horses, and ammunition. The Oglala asked the Crow to join them in their fight against the Americans. The Crow, who had long been Oglala enemies, declined to join them.

In Montana, an Indian camp on the Powder River grew to 1,000 lodges of Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux (Oglala, Brule, Miniconjou, Sans Arc). A war party of 3,000 warriors was formed to attack the army station on the Platte River Bridge, near present-day Casper, Wyoming.

The warriors lured a small detachment of soldiers away from the station and then ambushed them. Farther upriver, another group of warriors attacked a small wagon train and killed all of the soldiers. Historian Anthony McGinnis, in his book Counting Coup and Cutting Horses: Intertribal Warfare on the Northern Plains 1738-1889, reports:

“In terms of Indian warfare, both of these brief limited engagements were worthwhile because individuals accomplished heroic deeds and achieved a great victory. The war party had attained sufficient glory for one day.”

The warriors returned home without attacking the army station.

In North Dakota, the army moved Fort Union downstream on the Missouri River and renamed it Fort Buford. Historian Robert Larson, in an article in Montana, the Magazine of Western History, writes:

“Although it could be argued that the fort was strictly a defensive military post guarding a possible route to the Montana gold fields, many northern Lakota felt its construction was not in harmony with the treaties drawn up at Fort Rice.”

The construction of Fort Buford at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers in North Dakota provoked a series of attacks by the Hunkpapa Lakota Strong Heart Warrior Society under the leadership of Sitting Bull.

In North Dakota, a new military fort was established on the Missouri River twelve miles below Fort Berthold. The new fort, Fort Stevenson, was viewed by the Sioux as another provocation.

The Idaho Indian Conflicts of 1866

Idaho became a territory during the Civil War: in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation creating Idaho out of portions of Washington and Dakota Territory. Following the Civil War, in 1866, there were a number of conflicts between the aboriginal inhabitants of the territory and the invading Americans. Some of these conflicts are briefly described below.

The Bruneau band of Shoshone signed a treaty in which they gave up their land south of the Snake River in exchange for a promise that the fourteen-mile-long Bruneau Valley would be reserved for them. Forty-one Shoshone leaders, including Always Ready, signed the agreement. However, the treaty was not ratified by the United States.

Gold was discovered about 17 miles west of present-day Salmon. Soon several hundred miners invaded Shoshone country to establish mining claims.

A bounty was placed on Indians. The scalp from a man was worth $100; from a woman $50; and from a child $25. Historian Hank Corless, in his book The Weiser Indians: Shoshoni Peacemakers, reports:

“The hapless Boise and Burneau Shoshoni, now peaceful, were at the mercy of white volunteers and scalp-hunting expeditions who saw every Indian as a threat.”

American troops under the leadership of Captain J.H. Walker attacked a friendly Shoshone camp, killing 18 Indians including six women and children. In response, a letter to the Idaho Statesman said:

“We long to see this vile race exterminated. Every man who kills an Indian is a public benefactor.”

The conflict between the Indians and non-Indians in Idaho escalated. In one instance, an army detachment killed seven Indians. In another confrontation, the Indians surrounded a group of non-Indians who managed to escape. In the Goose Creek Mountains, four Indians who were accused of stealing grain were killed. The Indians captured 300 head of cattle and killed an American. Brigham Madsen, in his book The Northern Shoshoni, writes:

“It was a bloody year, and it left the peaceful Indians afraid to leave camp for their usual hunts and food-gathering activities.”

The Idaho Territorial Legislature chartered the Oneida Wagon Road Company to establish a toll road over the Montana Trail. All travelers over this road paid a toll. With regard to the Shoshone and Bannock, Brigham Madsen reports:

“The Indians received no compensation for the portion of the route which went through their lands.”

The Utah Indian Wars of 1866

While Mormon settlement of Utah began in 1847, American Indians had inhabited the region for thousands of years. The Mormon settlements displaced and disrupted the way of life for the Paiutes, Gosiutes, Shoshones, Utes, and Navajos. One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1866, there were a number of Indian wars or conflicts. Some of these are briefly described below.

Mormon leader Brigham Young spoke out against the killing of Indians. With regard to the settlers who killed Indians, he said:

“Take the man and try him by law and let him receive the penalty. The law will slay him.”

An American militia group discovered the bodies of two men presumed to have been killed by Indians. Near Pipe Spring, Arizona, the militia group went to a Paiute camp where they killed two men who were “trying to escape.” They brought the rest back to Utah, but lost their patience and killed five of the prisoners. In an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly, Albert Winkler writes:

“This was the first of a series of killings in an apparent attempt to eliminate thieves or to intimidate the Indians into leaving.”

Ute chief Sanpitch and several of his men were arrested near Nephi because of rumors that he had been involved in violence against the American settlers. Sanpitch was told to bring in Black Hawk and his band or be shot. Albert Winkler reports:

“The chief had insufficient power to bring in the warring Utes, so he and his fellow prisoners broke jail rather than await execution.”

The escapees were hunted down and killed.

Sixteen unarmed Paiutes, including women and children, were killed near Circleville. The Paiute had been captured by the Mormons and were killed one at a time. Most had their throats slit. Three or four small children were spared and were adopted by Mormon families. According to Albert Winkler:

“Despite pleas for an investigation, federal and territorial officials took no action.”

Winkler also writes:

“The reluctance or inability of territorial and federal officials to assure that the proper legal procedures were followed in white relations with the Indians helped to create a climate that allowed for continued misconduct.”

Ute warriors killed two settlers in Round Valley and captured some stock. They were pursued by the militia, but managed to escape. In retaliation for the raid, one of the settlers killed Pannikay, an elder who was a part of the Pahvant, a group considered to be peaceful. Pannnikay was unarmed when he was killed and although he was murdered in front of witnesses there was no legal action taken against his killer.

A war party of 50-65 Utes under the presumed leadership of Black Hawk attacked Salina. Albert Winkler reports:

“Without effective opposition, the renegades rounded up the livestock and hit any convenient target outside the community.”

A militia garrison was established at Thistle Valley. Albert Winkler reports:

“The garrison presents a threat to Indian movements in the area and was a promising target for attack.”

It was attacked by a small Ute war party of 25-30 warriors. The warriors captured the militia’s horse herd, which immobilized them. The battle lasted for about nine hours before aid from Mount Pleasant arrived. According to Winkler:

“The fight at Thistle Valley was another close call for the whites in which a desperate situation nearly turned into a disaster.”

A party of 21 Americans pursued a Ute party at night. When they found some stolen cattle near Marysvale, they decided to enter the town before continuing their pursuit. However, Ute warriors, foreseeing this action, had hidden in the bush along the road and ambushed them. Two of the Americans were killed.

The Utes rebelled against increasing Mormon control of their lands. In the area of Panguitch Lake, the Mormon settlers declared that the Paiute were involved with the rebellion. The Pauite bands near Panguitch Lake would not let the Mormon settlers fish in the lake, but they would sell fish to them. The Mormons attacked a Paiute camp and killed a leading medicine man. The Mormons then declared a Paiute Mormon convert as “chief” and peace was declared. Following the “war” the lake became a fishing resort for non-Indians.

Mormon leader Brigham Young’s Manuscript History reported about the Shoshones:

“President Young said the Lamanites are hostile, let us exercise faith about them and learn what the will of the Lord is. Let us send our Interpreters to them and make presents and tell [them] they must stop fighting. It is better to give them $5000 than have to fight and kill them for they are of the House of Israel.”

Oklahoma Indians in 1866

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, the United States withdrew its troops from Forts Cobb, Arbuckle, and Washita and, afraid that annuity payments might fall into the wrong hands, withheld the annuities which were owed to the tribes. The Confederacy moved into the vacuum left by the federal government and held treaty councils with the tribes. The Confederacy, of course, lost the war, and in 1866 the United States government set about to impose new treaties on the Indian nations of Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

In Washington, D.C., the United States met with the Indian nations who had signed treaties with the confederacy: Seminole, Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw. In the new treaties, the Indians nations gave up more of their land, agreed to accept their slaves as tribal members, and agreed to provide land for other Indian nations. The treaties also stipulated that a general council of all of the tribes in the Indian Territory be established and that rights of way for railroads be granted.

Under the treaties, the United States agreed to reimburse Christian mission societies which had lost property during the war. In an article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Sue Hammond reports:

“In addition, mission organizations were granted the right to occupy and use as much as 160 acres of land for missionary and educational purposes.”

Cherokee

In Washington, D.C., there were two Cherokee delegations negotiating with the federal government: one was loyal to John Ross and the other to Stand Watie. The 1861 treaty with the Confederacy had divided the Cherokee into two groups: the Ridge or Treaty Party led by Stand Watie and Elias C. Boudinot, and the Ross or Non-Treaty Party led by John Ross.

In Washington, the Watie delegation was initially headed by Elias C. Boudinot. John Rollin Ridge, who had been living in California, suddenly appeared and attached himself to the Boudinot delegation. The United States government soon recognized John Rollin Ridge as the head of the Southern Cherokee group. In an article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Clyde Ellis reports:

“In concert with Boudinot he provided a formidable challenge to the Ross delegation and by mid-June the Southern delegation won a favorable treaty that was sent to Johnson and the senate for ratification.”

With regard to Ridge’s role in the delegation, Ellis writes:

“Just how Ridge emerged as the acknowledged leader of a group in which he had played no previous role is difficult to ascertain.”

President Johnson, however, decided that it would not look good to be dealing with former rebels and ordered a new treaty to be drawn up with John Ross.

Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross died in Washington, D.C. His body was temporarily interred next to his wife Mary at Wilmington, Delaware. Under the instructions of the Cherokee National Council, his remains were brought to Tahlequah, Oklahoma and laid to rest in the Ross cemetery.

Will Ross was named principal chief of the Cherokee to fill the unexpired term of his uncle, John Ross. John Ross had groomed him for this position and had paid for his education at Princeton. Journalist Stanley Hoig, in his book The Cherokees and Their Chiefs: In the Wake of Empire, describes Will Ross:

“A thin-faced man with flowing mustache and beard, the well-educated Ross dressed and spoke in the vogue of white political leaders of the day.”

With regard to the new treaty with the United States, Will Ross said:

“Whatever may be our opinion as to the justice and wisdom of some of the stipulations it imposes, we have full assurance that the delegation obtained the most favorable terms they could, and it is our duty to comply in good faith with all its provisions.”

However, Chief Ross indicates that there are three troublesome articles in the treaty:

  • Article 11 grants a right of way through Cherokee land for a railroad
  • Article 12 provides for an intertribal council to be organized by the United States
  • Article 13 which establishes U.S. courts in Indian Territory

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee adopted a series of bilingual textbooks in arithmetic, geography, and history. These books contained the text in English on one page and the text in Cherokee on the opposite page. According to historian William McLoughlin, in his chapter in Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker:

“It was strongly opposed by the wealthier English-speaking parents who wanted nothing to do with the old language.”

Creek

The United States charged the Creek Nation with treason, ignoring the fact that the Upper Creek supported the Union during the Civil War. The federal government forced a Reconstruction Treaty upon the Creek in which they gave up the western half of their lands at 30 cents an acre. The Creek also were forced to free their slaves and to accept them as Creek citizens. The treaty also called for the Creek to give up rights of way for two railroads: one north-south and one east-west.

Much of the money paid to the Creek was to be allocated to the Loyal Creek in compensation for losses they had obtained during the Civil War. According to Jeffrey Burton, in his book Indian Territory and the United States, 1866-1906: Courts, Governments, and the Movement for Oklahoma Statehood:

“This was the same as making the Loyal Creeks pay compensation to themselves.”

Freedmen

       Prior to the Civil War, many prosperous Indian planters, like their non-Indian counterparts, owned African-American slaves. Following the Civil War, these slaves had to be set free. In response to the new treaty with the United States, the Choctaw and Chickasaw passed the Freedman Act. Devon Mihesuah, in an article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“In this legislation the tribes allowed their freed slaves all the rights and privileges of citizenship except in the case of annuity monies. Freedmen (men and women) who did not desire to become citizens and those who did not register under the Freedman Registration Act were considered to be intruders and therefore subject to forced removal from tribal lands.”

Seminole

In Oklahoma, the Seminole ceded their entire reservation to the United States for $325,000 and then purchased 200,000 acres from the United States for $100,000. The land they purchased was Creek land which had been ceded to the United States and for which they paid approximately three times the amount which the Creek had been paid.

In Oklahoma, the Seminole tribal council selected John Chupco as principal chief and John Jumper as second chief.

Wichita

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs approved a contract to move the Wichita and affiliated tribes from their temporary camps in Kansas to their homes in Oklahoma. The tribes had been loyal to the Union and had fled Oklahoma during the Civil War. When they heard that an ex-Confederate officer had been awarded the contract, they protested, but to no avail.

Delaware

The Kansas Delaware sold their land and moved to Oklahoma. In his book Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War, historian Laurence Hauptman writes:

“Once again, the cozy relationship between ‘government chiefs,’ Kansas politicians and traders, railroad officials – now the Union Pacific Eastern Division and the Missouri River Railroad – and Washington policymakers and bureaucrats sealed the deal.”

The government, on behalf of the railroad, paid the Delaware $2.50 per acre for their land.

The Delaware who signed the agreement—Principal Chief John Conner, Charles Journeycake, Isaac Journeycake, and Big John Sarcoxie—were Baptists who were associated with the missionary who had been appointed Indian agent. In an article in the Plains Anthropologist, Brice Obermeyer reports:

“Upon hearing of the agreement, the Delaware held a general council while still resident on their reservation in Kansas to discuss the terms for removal.”

Captain Sarcoxie and Captain Falleaf drafted petitions opposing removal. They also petitioned the federal government to preserve Delaware sovereignty.

The Cherokee offered them land at a low price ($1 per acre) and allowed them to become a part of the Cherokee nation with equal rights and protections. For the privilege of becoming Cherokee citizens, the Delaware paid the Cherokees nearly $122,000. The Delaware who became a part of the Cherokee were known as Registered Delaware.

Munsee

In Oklahoma, the Munsee signed a compact with the Cherokee in which they paid $4,000 for the rights of Cherokee citizenship.

Coal Mine

In Oklahoma, coal was being mined under license from the Choctaw and Chickasaw governments. The mine owners were non-Indians who had married into the nations.

Chickasaw

In Oklahoma, Cyrus Harris was elected as Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. Harris believed that the best hope for maintaining tribal independence was in the allotment of tribal lands. In the tribal election he defeated Daugherty Colbert, a Confederate sympathizer who had been governor since 1858.

Choctaw

In Oklahoma, Allen Wright was elected as Choctaw Principal Chief. In his book Indian Territory and the United States, 1866-1906: Courts, Governments, and the Movement for Oklahoma Statehood, Jeffrey Burton notes:

“Wright’s attitudes were typified by an insistent belief in the supremacy of tribal law over the unwritten code of an earlier tradition which many Choctaws had not abandoned.”

 

The Iroquois League

Long before the Europeans arrived on this continent there was born to the Huron people a man who had a vision of bringing peace to his people. In his vision he saw a great pine tree. The roots of this tree were five powerful nations. From these roots, the tree grew so high that its tip pierced through the sky and on top there was an eagle watching to see that none of the nations broke the peace among them. This Peacemaker was a man named Deganawida (also spelled Deganawidah).

According to oral tradition, Deganawida named each of the allied nations, choosing a place as the distinguishing feature of nationality:

  • Seneca: the big hill people, or the people of the big mountain
  • Cayuga: the people at the landing, in reference to portaging a canoe
  • Mohawk: the people of the flint, in reference to the flint quarries in their territory
  • Onondaga: the people of the hill, in reference to the hill where a woman long ago had appeared to give the people corn, beans, squash, and tobacco
  • Oneida: the people of the standing stone, in reference to the supernatural stone which followed them

Deganawida’s vision, articulated through the great Mohawk orator Hiawatha, united five Iroquois-speaking nations – the Seneca, the Cayuga, the Onondaga, the Oneida, and the Mohawk– into the League of Five Nations. Later the Tuscarora would join them to form the League of Six Nations. The League is also called the Iroquois Confederacy. They refer to themselves as Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse).

With regard to the Great Law which established the Confederacy, Kevin White, in an article in Indian Country Today, writes:

“The core concepts of the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee are peace, power, and righteousness.”

Former Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier, in his book Indians of the Americas, writes:

“The plan was to renounce warfare between one another and to present an alliance against a warring world.”

He also calls the League of Five Nations “the most brilliant creation in the record of man.” The Haudenosaunee put it this way:

“The Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, is among the most ancient continuously operating governments in the world. Long before the arrival of the European peoples in North America, our people met in council to enact the principles of peaceful coexistence among nations and in recognition of the right of peoples to continue an uninterrupted existence.”

These principles include kinship, women’s leadership, and the widest possible community consensus.

The story of Deganawida and the founding of the League is a story of epic proportions which continues to be recounted in the oral traditions of the Iroquois today. According to anthropologist William Fenton, in his chapter in North American Indians in Historical Perspective:

“A knowledge of the teaching imputed to Deganawidah goes far to explain Iroquois self-confidence, their superiority to their neighbors, and at times their polite arrogance to the representatives of European governments.”

While the designation “Iroquois” is often used to refer to the Five or Six Nations, it should be remembered that not all Iroquois-speaking nations in the Northeast were members of the League. Deganawida’s own nation – the Huron – did not join.

The League of Five Nations originally had 50 permanent offices filled from the member nations: 14 from the Onondaga, 10 from the Cayuga, 9 from the Oneida, 9 from the Mohawk, and 8 from the Seneca. The men who filled these offices are known as sachems. According to former Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier:

“The Confederacy was one of delegated, limited powers; and with exhaustive care and success, it was so structured that authority flowed upward, from the smallest and most organic units, not downward from the top.”

He goes on to say:

“The Confederacy was a nation which enhanced the liberty and responsibility of its component parts down even to the minutest member.”

It was the women who first accepted the message of Deganawida, the prophet who first envisioned the League. Therefore, the women have a great deal of authority. The sachems are selected by the clan mothers. Women also have the right to initiative, recall, and referendum.

With regard to Iroquois leadership, Onondaga chief Oren Lyons, in Voice of Indigenous Peoples: Native People Address the United Nations, says:

“Our leaders were instructed to be men with vision and to make every decision on behalf of the seventh generation to come, to have compassion and love for those generations yet unborn.”

Deganawida, the Peacemaker and Founder of the League of Five Nations, is said to have advised the sachems that their “skin should be seven thumbs thick so that no outrageous criticism or evil magic could pierce them.”

There are three great double doctrines or principles (six principles in all) upon which the League was founded. The first principle stresses: (a) health of mind and body, and (b) peace among individuals and groups. The second principle stresses: (a) righteousness in conduct, including advocating this righteousness in thought and speech, and (b) equality in the adjustment of rights and obligations. The third principle stresses: (a) physical strength, power, and order, and (b) spiritual power (orenda).

Traditionally at the meetings of the League, each of the delegates from the Five Nations sat at assigned places in accordance with their position in the confederacy. As firekeepers, the Onondaga would give the topic for discussion first to the Mohawk and Seneca. The Mohawk would then discuss the matter among themselves and then refer it to the Seneca. After discussing the issue, the Seneca would return the item to the Mohawk who would hand the item across the fire to the Younger Brothers. It would then be discussed by the Oneida and then by the Cayuga. The Oneida would then hand it back across the fire to the Mohawk who would announce the combined opinion to the Onondaga. In her chapter “The League of the Iroquois: Its History, Politics, and Ritual,” in the Handbook of North American Indians Elizabeth Tooker reports:

“If the Onondaga disagreed, they referred it back for further discussion, but in so doing they had to show that the opinion of the other tribes was in conflict with the established custom or with public policy.”

While speaking, the speaker would hold a wampum belt which would then be handed to the tribe being addressed. In his book The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution, historian Alan Taylor reports:

“As a sacred substance, wampum confirmed the earnest importance of a message. Without accompanying wampum, words were frivolous.”

Traditionally, an issue would be introduced at the council on one day, but not discussed that day. At some later time it would be discussed. It is tradition that the issue be slept with prior to discussing. Anthropologist William Fenton puts it this way:

“No Iroquois to this day will answer to a proposition on the same day, nor will he press another party for a reply until the latter is ready. One listens carefully, repeats the main points of what he hears, and then takes the message home and puts it under his head for the night as a pillow.”

Speeches at the council were made by individuals who were not only well-versed in proper Iroquois protocol, but also articulate orators. Historian José António Brandão, in his book “Your Fyre Shall Burn No More” Iroquois Policy toward New France and Its Native Allies to 1701, writes:

“They could be subtle and evasive enough to give an answer that the other side wished to hear, but without actually committing their tribes to a specific course of action.”

One important Iroquois custom was documenting their words with wampum belts. All agreements, for example, were accompanied by wampum belts which symbolized the important points of the agreement. At later times, the belts would be brought out and “read” if the agreement needed to be discussed again.

In order to record what was said in council, the Sachem presiding over the meeting would have a handful of small sticks. A stick would be given to one of the Sachems present so that the person with the stick would be responsible for remembering what the speaker said.

Historian José António Brandão summarizes the governing power of the Iroquois Confederacy during the 17th century:

“The Iroquois had no permanent governing body constantly in session and directing policy. What they had instead was a framework that allowed for joint action when the member tribes felt the need for it.”

Anthropologist William Fenton describes the League this way:

“What made the League effective was not its ability to centralize power and communicate authority to the margins, in which it failed miserably, but the consensus not to feud among the Five Nations and to compound such infractions by ritual payments of wampum.”

Among the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, there were two hereditary war chiefs and both of these titles belonged to the Seneca. They were Needle Breaker who belonged to the Wolf clan and Great Oyster Shell of the Turtle clan. The Seneca, as Guardians of the Western Door, were the first of the Iroquois to face the danger of an attack on the western frontier. These two chiefs assumed the planning for the military operations of the Five Nations.

The League of Five Nations also had Pine Tree Chiefs who served as advisors to the sachems. The Pine Tree Chiefs were outstanding orators, war leaders, and others who did not hold hereditary offices. Anthropologist William Fenton writes:

“Pine Tree chiefs were orators for the council or they spoke for the women, and they went on embassies.”

Within the League, the tribes are divided into two sides or moieties. In council, the Mohawk, Onondaga, and Seneca are considered “brothers” to each other and as “fathers” to the younger tribes (Oneida, Cayuga, Tuscarora). The Cayuga call the Oneida “elder brothers” and they call the Tuscarora “younger brothers”.

The members of the League of Five Nations made a distinction between civil chiefs and war chiefs. However, more prestige was given to the civil chiefs. The civil chiefs were viewed as fire keepers in the center of a concentric ring of warriors, women, and the general public.

Another important position in the Iroquois political system was the runner. In noting the importance of this position, historian Laurence Hauptman and former Oneida tribal secretary Gordon McLester, in their biography Chief Daniel Bread and the Oneida Nation of Indians of Wisconsin, write:

“Iroquois runners summoned councils, conveyed intelligence from nation to nation, and warned of impending danger. It is also important to note that the Iroquois use the term runner to describe a person who serves the council as a conduit for the conduct of essential business, and who is accorded respect as a community leader worthy of other higher positions of authority and prestige in the nation.”

The League of Five Nations Council traditionally met in the later summer or early fall at the council fires of the Onondaga.

The Bannock War

A casual reading of almost any book on American history—from popular accounts to textbooks to scholarly tomes—reveals that there have been a lot of conflicts or wars with American Indians since the creation of the United States. In 1907, the War Department officially enumerated 1,470 incidents of military action against American Indians between 1776 and 1907. This suggests that there was about one military action per month against Indians during the first 131 years of the nation’s existence. This count does not include a number incidents or wars involving state militias and volunteer groups, such as vigilantes. In some instances, the military action was a single battle, in others there were a series of battles.

According to the War Department, only two of these military actions have the formal status of “war” under U.S. Army terminology: the 1877 Nez Perce War and the 1878 Bannock Indian War. Of the two “official” wars delineated by the War Department in 1907, the 1878 Bannock War is probably the least known. The Bannock are a Great Basin tribe which migrated from the desert areas of southeastern Oregon to the more propitious and well-watered region found at the confluence of the Portneuf and Blackfoot streams with the Snake River in present-day Idaho. When the Bannock moved into the Snake and Lemhi River valleys and the Bridger Basin, they came into close contact with the Shoshone, a group which is linguistically and culturally related. The Bannock language belongs to a branch of the Uto-Aztecan family known as Western Numic while Shoshone is Central Numic. Bannock culture tended to emphasize war more than Shoshone culture.

The Bannock call themselves Bana’kwut (“Water People”), and they often were called Buffalo Eaters and Honey Eaters by other tribes.

The Bannock War was about camas:  Camassia quamash, a plant with a blue or purple flower which has a nutritious bulb about the size and shape of a tulip bulb. For many of the tribes in Idaho, Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, and Western Montana, camas was a major food item. It was gathered in late spring or early fall. It was either eaten raw or steamed in a pit for immediate consumption. If the camas was to be preserved, the camas bulbs were pounded in a mortar to make a kind of dough. The dough was then shaped into loaves, wrapped in grass, and steamed again. After the second cooking, the loaves were made into smaller cakes and dried in the sun. Without stores of camas, people would be ill prepared for the cold months of the year.

In Idaho, one of the most important camas areas was known as Camas Prairie.

In 1867 the Bannock met in treaty council with the American government at Long Creek. The Americans wanted to confine the Bannock as well as the Shoshone to a reservation so that the land could be opened for American settlement. In the discussions about the reservation, Chief Taghee told the Americans:

“I want the right to camp and dig roots on Camas prairie, when coming to Boise to trade.”

At this time, popular opinion among non-Indians in Idaho called for the extermination of all Indians. An editorial in the Idaho Statesman advocated that the military continue to kill Indians. According to the editor:

“The idea that the Indians have any right to the soil is ridiculous…They have no more right to the soil of the Territories of the United States than wolves or coyotes.”

Another newspaper editorial suggested:

“This would be our plan of establishing friendship on an eternal basis with our Indians: Let all the hostile bands of Idaho Territory be called in (they will not be caught in any other manner) to attend a grand treaty; plenty of blankets and nice little trinkets distributed among them; plenty of grub on hand; have a jolly time with them; then just before the big feast put strychnine in their meat and poison to death the last mother’s son of them.”

The following year, the Bannock and the Shoshone met in treaty council with the Americans at Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Once again the Bannock insisted that Camas Prairie be included in their reservation and article 2 of the treaty expressed this desire. However, instead of saying “Camas” Prairie, the wording of the treaty indicated “Kansas” Prairie.

In 1870, the American government, instead of establishing a separate reservation for the Bannock, assigned them to the Fort Hall Reservation which they were to share with the Shoshone. In moving to Fort Hall, the Bannock were to give up all rights to areas outside of the reservation, including Camas Prairie. Under military escort, the Bannock were moved to the reservation. The soldiers expressed little sympathy or concern for the Indians they were herding and some Indians were killed for slowing the procession down.

Life on the Fort Hall Reservation during the 1870s was not good for the Bannock and Shoshone. While the American government had promised to provide the Indians with rations as they made the transition from a hunting and gathering way of life to a more settled agricultural lifestyle, the promised food supplies were meager. Hunger was a regular part of life. By 1877, the Shoshone and Bannock were starving. To alleviate the hunger, the Indians once again travelled to Camas Prairie were they harvested camas to prepare for the coming winter.

In 1877, the Americans were afraid that the Bannock and Shoshone might join with the non-treaty bands of Nez Perce in their war against the United States. After the camas harvest, the chiefs travelled to Boise to meet with the governor and express their peaceful intentions. Once again, the Bannock explained to the Americans the importance of camas. Bannock leader Major Jim asked that Camas Prairie be included in the Fort Hall Reservation. He complained that the Americans were driving their hogs and cattle onto Camas Prairie and destroying the camas. The Americans were grateful to hear that the Shoshone and Bannock did not intend to join the Nez Perce, but they did nothing about the Camas Prairie situation.

The food shortages at the Fort Hall Reservation did not improve, and by 1878 the Indian agent felt that he had no choice but to encourage the Indians to hunt outside the reservation. Bannock chief Buffalo Horn visited the territorial governor and obtained permission to buy $2 worth of ammunition for deer hunting. With Indians hunting off the reservation, fears and rumors about Indian wars spread throughout the non-Indian settlements.

Once again the Bannock went to Camas Prairie to obtain the food they needed. They found that American settlers had turned their cattle loose in the area and so the Bannock insisted that the Americans remove the cattle. The Americans belligerently refused, insisting that the Indians had no rights to the land.

The Shoshone and Bannock then met in council to discuss what to do next. Bannock chief Buffalo Horn and about 200 Bannock and Paiute warriors decided to go to war against the Americans. The Boise Shoshone under the leadership of Captain Jim and the Bannock under the leadership of Tendoy opted for peace and returned to their reservations.

Buffalo Horn and a war party of 60 warriors were attacked by American volunteer troops. While the Indians killed two volunteers and wounded several others, Buffalo Horn was badly wounded. After several days travel, he asked to be left behind to die.

After Buffalo Horn’s death the war party went to Oregon. At the Malheur Reservation, Paiute Chief Winnemucca refused to join the war against the Americans and was taken prisoner. Sarah Winnemucca, his daughter, snuck into the camp and helped the chief and about 75 others to escape.

In Oregon, Oytes and Egan assumed leadership of the rebel group. Egan was initially a reluctant leader, but he was persuaded to become the war chief. Oytes was a Dreamer Prophet and this created problems for the Americans. Part of the reason for the Nez Perce War a year earlier was to eradicate the Dreamers—followers of the Washat Religion of the prophet Smohalla.

At this time, the regular army entered the picture. The army was headed by General O.O. Howard—America’s Christian general. Howard had fought against the Nez Perce and was strongly opposed to Smohalla and his Dreamer movement. He saw himself as a Christian warrior fighting against the forces of evil. Howard and his army were soon in pursuit of the rebel Indians.

At Silver Creek in Oregon, the Americans caught up with the war party and carried out a daring daylight attack with the scouts and some of the troops charging through the camp. Egan led a countercharge, but was wounded first in the wrist and then was shot in the breast and the groin. He was carried off by his warriors and Oytes assumed command. Though badly wounded, Egan directed a retreat and the war party crossed over into the John Day Valley with the army in pursuit.

The war party headed for the Umatilla Reservation hoping to enlist them in the war. Near the reservation, they engaged the army in a day-long battle in which five warriors were killed. The Umatilla under the leadership of Chief Umapine watched the battle from a hilltop. The next day, the Umatilla held council with the Americans. The Umatilla agreed to capture or kill Egan and in exchange tribal members were to be pardoned for their role in the war.

Egan regrouped his warriors in Oregon’s Blue Mountains and waited for the Umatilla to join him. A large party of Umatilla under the leadership of Umapine, Five Crows, and Yettinewitz, came into the camp to talk with Egan. The Umatillas then opened fire, killing Egan and 13 of his warriors. The Umatilla retreated with Egan’s scalp before his followers could react.

Following the death of Egan, the Bannock and Paiute broke into a number of smaller groups which were pursued by the troops. At Birch Creek, the Umatilla under Umapine surprised part of the fleeing war party. They killed 17 warriors and captured 25 women and children. One of the fallen warriors was reported to be Eagle Eye, the leader of the Weiser Shoshone. Eagle Eye was, however, still very much alive and had not been involved in the fight with the Umatilla.

One of the small raiding parties decided to make a run for Canada to join Sitting Bull and the Sioux. They followed the Bannock trail through Yellowstone National Park where they encountered a survey team. The Bannock managed to capture the survey crew’s animals and supplies.

The army, under the command of Col. Nelson Miles, was actually in Yellowstone National Park. They were not on active duty, but were there as tourists. They surprised a Bannock camp near Heart Mountain, killing 11 and capturing 31.

Southwest of Yellowstone Lake, the army met some of the escapees from the Heart Mountain battle. After a brief fight, the Indians surrendered. While the army reported only one Indian killed, the captives reported that 28 were killed. One observer of the battle wrote:

“The Bannock decided to surrender to the troops, and they moved in a peaceful manner to do so. Nevertheless, volleys of gun-fire were poured into them and several of them were killed.”

The writer concluded:

“It seemed to me that killing these Indians when it was plainly evident they were trying to surrender was a violation of the humanities. They did not respond to the fire.”

Oytes and his followers elluded capture for another month.

In looking back at the causes of the Bannock War, the territorial governor explained that Camas Prairie was the Indians’ garden and it provided them with an abundant supply of vegetable foods. The governor further explained that the government had failed to follow through with the treaty stipulation to assign the prairie as part of the reservation for the Bannock. He recommended that immediate action be taken to assign it to the Fort Hall Reservation or to compensate the Indians in some other way.

In an interview with the Omaha Herald, General George Crook explained that the root cause of the Bannock War was hunger. He said:

“It cannot be expected that they will stay on reservations where there is no possible way to get food, and see their wives and children starve and die around them. We have taken their lands, deprived them of every means of living.”

Crook later wrote:

“Our Indian policy has resolved itself into a question of warpath or starvation; and, merely being human, many of them will choose the former alternative where death shall be at least glorious.”

The Idaho Statesman disagreed with General Crook, and the editor wrote:

“It was not the want of food which started them upon the warpath, but their savage thirst for blood, which had not been restrained and prevented by proper discipline and Governmental supervision.”

Some Indian Events of 1766

Two and a half centuries ago, in 1766, American Indian life had already undergone dramatic changes due to the European invasion. Horses, originally brought into New Mexico by Spanish settlers, had diffused into the Great Plains following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. With the horse, Plains Indian cultures had changed into the nomadic, tipi-dwelling, buffalo hunters stereotyped in twentieth century movies. As the eastern colonies expanded and the fur trade grew, many tribes began migrating on to the Great Plains.

In general, American Indian nations had to deal with two European nations: Britain and Spain. Briefly described below are some of the Indian events of 1766.

English:

British explorer Jonathan Carver was sent out to explore the uncharted western territories and to search for the supposed Northwest Passage. He made it only to the Minnesota River, but his book became very popular. His maps show a long River of the West. In some of his maps, this river was named Origan which later became Oregon.

In Wisconsin, Carver found the Fox and Sauk living in four villages. The largest of these villages had about 80 large dwellings and about 300 warriors. The dwellings were organized along straight lines with wide streets. He reported that the Indians had extensive fields of corn, beans, melons, squash, and tobacco.

In Wisconsin, British trader Alexander Henry visits the Ojibwa at Chequamegon. He reported that there were 50 lodges in the village and that because of the interrupted trade the people were living in poor conditions.

In New York, the English residents of Ulster County wrote to Sir William Johnson, the superintendent of Indian affairs, to inform him of their concern for the killing of an Indian by a vagrant. They asked that the vagrant be brought to justice and punished in order to avert possible Indian retaliation.

In Pennsylvania, an Oneida man (no name is known) was murdered and robbed. His murderer, described as a vagabond, was arrested and locked in a crude log jail. His was then freed from jail by a mob of men who threaten destruction to anyone who interferes with them. He was, however, recaptured, tried, convicted, and hung.

In Pennsylvania, the self-promoting Indian fighter Major Robert Rogers produced a play entitled Ponteach, or the Savages of America. In the play, two European hunters complained about Indians and wished it were legal to hunt them. Historian Peter Silver, in his book Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America, reports:

“Though the play included much stunning stage violence, its harsh picture of the killing and robbery of two Indians was of most interest.”

In New Jersey, three European settlers raped and killed two Delaware (tribe) women. Governor William Franklin saw to it that the two who were found guilty and executed.

The Ottawa chief Pontiac signed a peace agreement with the British.

The governor of Newfoundland announced that it was not British policy to exterminate the Beothuk and outlawed the practice of indiscriminate killing of Indians.

Hudson’s Bay Company trader William Pink left the York Factory with Cree leader Mousinnikissack to travel to Saskatchewan. In the Prince Albert area he encountered a small band of Assiniboine and reported that they had many horses. He also noted that they had given up the use of canoes.

Spanish:

In Missouri, Osage warriors captured a number of horses near St. Louis. The Spanish pursued the raiders and captured one warrior. Spanish officials notified the Osage chiefs that the captive would be held until they paid for the damages.

In Texas, a war party of 400 Comanche, Taovaya, Tonkawa, and Hasinai attacked the Franciscan mission at San Lorenzo. The Lipan Apache, for whom the mission had been built, fled and not a single Indian remained at the mission.

In New Mexico, Spanish ranchers applied for grants to the Ojo del Espiritu Santo area. The pueblos of Zia, Jemez, and Santa Ana sent a petition to the Spanish Governor explaining that their people had long used these lands. Awarding the land grant to the Spanish ranchers would result in great injury to them as they had no other place to pasture their herds. The petition asked the Governor to deny the land grant and to award the land to the three pueblos. The Governor agreed and awarded a joint land grant to the three pueblos.

Migrations:

By this time, eight of the eleven Dakota bands had moved west from Minnesota to the Great Plains and were becoming Plains Indians.

In Iowa, the Iowa (tribe) moved from the Missouri River to the Des Moines River where traders from Spanish-controlled St. Louis agreed to open trade with them.

Smallpox

In Texas, smallpox struck the Karankawa.

Mastodon

In Kentucky, a second excavation of Big Bone Lick was conducted on behalf of Benjamin Franklin and Lord Shelborn of London, England. A substantial number of mastodon fossils were collected and subjected to detailed examination. Not understanding the concept of extinction, there were a number of people at this time who expected that explorers would actually find living mastodons in North America.

Fur Trade

In Ontario, Oneida trader Sarah Ainse began trading with the Mississauga on the north shore of Lake Eire.

Some American Indian Events in 1816

By 1816, the United States was developing policies that would remove all Indians from the eastern portion of the country and resettle them in lands located west of the Mississippi River. Under the vision of Manifest Destiny, the United States saw itself expanding its great land empire to the west and aiding the extinction of American Indians.

Listed below are a few of the American Indian events of 1816.

Manifest Destiny

John Melish finished his Map of the United States which was considered to be a cartographic masterpiece. The map showed the full continent. He says of his map:

“The map so constructed shows at a glance the whole extent of the United States territory from sea to sea; and in tracing the probable expansion of the human race from east to west, the mind finds an agreeable resting place, at its western limits.”

In Illinois, a troop of American soldiers constructed Fort Armstrong atop a limestone cliff above the Mississippi River. The new fort was located on Rock Island, about four miles from the Sauk village of Saukenuk. In his book Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America, historian Kerry Trask writes:

“Rock Island was regarded as a very special pace that was under the care of a ‘Good Spirit,’ who lived in a cave directly below the site the soldiers had chosen for their fort.”

Indian Removal

President James Monroe approved a plan to move New York Indians to the west.

In Ohio, the Iroquois Six Nations met with the Shawnee, Ottawa, and Wyandot to discuss the possibility of the removal of the New York tribes to Ohio. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant felt that it would be a good idea for the Seneca to move to Sandusky where they could join with the Wyandot. Arthur Caswell Parker. In his biography Red Jacket: Seneca Chief, describes the council:

“The chiefs of the Six Nations, long accustomed to the clothing of the white man, were once more dressed in their ancient costumes.”

Seneca leader Red Jacket addressed the council and reminded them that those tribes who recently sided with the British had lost a great deal. Red Jacket told them:

“We have always lost by taking up the hatchet. Even the British, upon whom we pinned our hopes, sold our land to the Americans after every war in which we were allied with them.”

Red Jacket spoke against selling land to the Americans:

“To command respect, you must possess extensive territory! Keep your holdings sufficiently large so that you may not be crowded on any side by the whites.”

Conflicts and Wars

About 6,000 Cherokees had moved from their traditional homelands in the southeast into the traditional hunting area of the Osage on the Great Plains. According to historian Willard Rollings, in his book The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains:

“These Cherokee invaders of Osage country were well armed and skilled hunters. When Cherokee and Osage met on hunting expeditions, violence ensues as both groups struggled for control of the territory.”

While the Osage allowed payment to “to cover the dead” in place of blood revenge, Cherokee traditions required blood revenge when a Cherokee was killed by a non-Cherokee.

The Americans arranged for peace negotiations between the two nations and an agreement was signed by which the Osage gave up their claim to much of the Cherokee country in western Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma. The agreement, however, was not ratified by the Senate.

In Illinois, Kickapoo leader Little Otter sent messages to the Potawatomi, Miami, and other tribes asking them to join the Kickapoo in making war against the Americans. The other tribes, fearful of American reprisals, publically refused the Kickapoo war belts and boycotted the council which Little Otter attempted to hold. In The Kickapoos: Lords of the Middle Border, A.M. Gibson reports:

“Unable to win followers in their anti-American crusade, the Kickapoos began their own campaign against the Long Knife intruders. Cattle and horses were stolen, settlers’ homes were looted, and haystacks and barns were burned by fast-riding Kickapoo raiders.”

In Florida, American soldiers together with 200 Creek warriors under Chief William McIntosh invaded Spanish territory in an attempt to capture blacks who were living among the Seminole. The 300 Seminoles – including 30 Seminole men and 70 black men – took refuge in Fort Apalachicola. The fort was then blown up by the Americans, killing 270 people. The survivors were taken to Georgia where they were enslaved. In revenge, other Seminoles began a campaign of attacking American settlements along the Georgia-Florida border.

In Oklahoma, the Indian agent for the Caddo, with the help of a military detachment, removed about a dozen American families from an unauthorized settlement on Pecan Point. Several unlicensed traders were arrested and their merchandise was seized.

In Wyoming, a war party of Assiniboines attempted to capture Crow horses. Thirty Assiniboine were killed.

In Texas, the Comanches made a truce with the Lipan Apache under El Cojo. This ended 60 years of warfare between the two groups. In his book The Comanche Empire, historian Pekka Hamalainen reports:

“With the truce, El Cojo’s Lipans won hunting privileges in southern Comanchería and in return opened their territories to Comanches, who swiftly extended their stock and slave raids to the lower Río Grande valley and its many villages and haciendas.”

The Comanche raiding parties were often aided by Lipan Apache guides.

In South Dakota, Sioux leader Red Thunder had a violent confrontation with an unidentified Yanktonai man and was wounded in the head. Following this he formed his own band which was then called the Cutheads.

Smallpox

In Texas, smallpox struck the Caddo, Wichita, Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache. Among the Comanche, 4,000 died.

In New Mexico, the Pueblo of San Juan was afflicted by a smallpox epidemic.

Museum

In St. Louis, Missouri, William Clark established the first museum west of the Mississippi when he added a room to his house. The room served as a museum for his collection of Indian artifacts as well as a council chamber for meeting with delegations of visiting Indians.

Refugees

Following the 1812 war with the British, many of the Indian allies of the British were refugees in Canada. By 1816, some of these Indians began to return to the United States.

Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa, who was living in exile in Canada, contacted the Americans and asked to be allowed to establish a temporary village south of Detroit along the River Raisin. The Americans, however, had no intention of allowing Tenskwatawa to establish a separate village and his request was denied.

In Michigan, many Indians who were loyal to the Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa returned from Canada to the United States. They encountered a British soldier whom they believed to be a deserter. Tenskwatawa had the man seized and taken back to Canada. The soldier, however, was not a deserter, but had been sent to the United States on legitimate business. As a result, the Americans charged Tenskwatawa with kidnapping and issued a warrant for his arrest. If he returned, he was to be arrested.

In preparation for Tenskwatawa’s return, his followers established a small village near the mouth of the Tippecanoe River in Indiana. When it was apparent that he was not returning, most of his followers left. Soon the village was reduced to 27 people, most of whom were his relatives, including Tecumseh’s son.

Court Ruling

In Massachusetts, the state supreme court in Andover vs Canton declared Indians “the unfortunate children of the public, entitled to protection and support.”

Prominent Deaths

In Maine, Molly Ockett fell ill and died at about 80 years of age. She was considered to be the “Last Pigwacket.”

In Wisconsin, Winnebago chief Spoon Decora died at the age of 86. His son Waukon Decora became chief.

The Fur Trade in 1816

During the first part of the nineteenth century, the fur trade continued to be one of the important economic engines in North America. Driven in large part by European fashion, beaver pelts had great value. Traders obtained the pelts from Indians using goods such as blankets, guns, beads, knives, whiskey, tobacco and other items as trade goods.

Gift-giving and ceremonial exchange were important elements in trading with Indians: traders soon found that if they didn’t participate in the ceremonies and provide the Indians with gifts that the Indians wouldn’t trade with them. In general, the “Opening Trade Ceremonies” began with the traders dispensing “high wine” or “Indian rum” (a diluted alcohol). Next would come the passing of the pipe which would be accompanied by speeches.

By 1816, the fur and hide trade in North America was dominated by three groups: (1) the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) which had been founded in 1670 and was controlled by investors in London; (2) the North West Company (Nor’westers) which had been founded in 1776 by a group of traders in Montreal; and (3) a number of smaller American fur companies, often short-lived, which generally traded out of St. Louis.

The Columbia River Basin—an area which includes much of the present-day states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho—was claimed by both the Britain and the United States. In 1811, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company had established Fort Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia River with the intention of controlling the region’s fur trade. In 1813, however, with war waging between the United States and Britain, the Nor’westers acquired the holdings of the Pacific Fur Company. In 1816, what had been Fort Astoria was now Fort George.

Originally, the fur trade centered on Indians trapping and preparing the furs. The Indians would then trade them for European goods. By 1816, however, the fur trade companies were more frequently using their own trappers and trading with the Indians primarily for horses and food supplies.

Donald McKenzie was appointed the leader of the North West Company’s new Columbia Department. While the company had traditionally gone into Indian country and opened posts for Indian trade, McKenzie decided to change this approach. Geographer John Allen, in one of his chapters in North American Exploration. Volume 3: A Continent Comprehended, reports:

“McKenzie, however, concluded that the fur trade could be made more profitable by eliminating the middlemen, that is, the Indians. Instead of building posts for trading purposes, the North West Company decided to trap rather than trade.”

As a result, large numbers of non-Indian trappers—French-Canadian, American, English, Hawaiian—began to invade Indian country. Also included in the trapping brigades were a number of Iroquois.

In Montana, Iroquois leader Big Ignace and a number of his people settled among the Flathead who welcomed these well-armed reinforcements in their clashes with the Blackfoot. Historian Larry Cebula, in his book Plateau Indians and the Quest for Spiritual Power, 1700-1850, writes:

“The Iroquois taught the Flatheads at least some of the outward forms of Catholicism, including the sign of the cross, morning and evening prayers, baptism, marking graves with a cross, and Sabbath day—which the Iroquois marked by raising a flag, as they had seen white traders do.”

Some of these new religious elements diffused to other neighboring tribes.

In Washington, the North West Company established Fort Nez Perce at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers to establish trade with the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Palouse.

In New Mexico, fur traders operating out of Taos adopted a strategy of trapping rather than trading. Geographer John Allen reports:

“Rather than seeking Indian tribes with whom they could trade for furs, they themselves trapped the beaver—in the rich valleys of the Sangre de Cristo, San Juan, and other ranges of the southern Rockies—and then returned to Santa Fe, where they sold the furs to merchants who had crossed the Santa Fe Trail from St. Louis.”

American Indian Treaties in 1816

A treaty is simply an agreement between two or more sovereign nations. Following the Constitution, the United States recognized Indian nations as sovereign entities and thus negotiated treaties with them. From the viewpoint of American law, there are three basic steps involved in the treaty process: (1) the treaty is negotiated, (2) it is then ratified by the Senate, and (3) it is proclaimed (signed) by the President. At this time, the treaty is considered to be in force and is a law which is superior to that of local or state laws.

In 1816, the primary focus of the treaties between Indian nations and the United States was for the United States to obtain title to Indian land. Briefly described below are some of the 1816 treaties.

Cherokee:

In Washington, D.C., a Cherokee delegation including Major Ridge, Richard Brown, Cheucunsenee, John Walker, John Lowry, Richard Taylor, and John Ross, met with U.S. government officials to request compensations for damages done by American soldiers going through the Cherokee Nation at the end of the Creek war. However, the delegation was persuaded to sell their South Carolina land for $5,000. The United States, however, agreed to recognize the Cherokee claim to four million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama that had been taken from the Creek. Under the agreement, government troops would help evict illegal settlers.

The Cherokee delegation met with President James Madison in the Octagon House which was serving as the President’s residence while the fire-gutted White House underwent renovations. In his book Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears, Brian Hicks reports:

“For the entirety of the short meeting, the president did all the talking. He promised the Indians that any of their tribesmen permanently disabled in the war would receive the same pension benefits as white soldiers, and he assured them the government would pay for the damage done by troops to the Cherokee Nation—‘as much as what is right.’”

General Andrew Jackson was furious with the new treaty and met with a group of Cherokee chiefs under the leadership of Toochalar in Alabama. Journalist Stanley Hoig, in his book The Cherokees and Their Chiefs: In the Wake of Empire, reports:

“Unable to persuade the Cherokees to give up valuable portions of their land south of the Tennessee River, Jackson turned to the tried-and-true method of bribery of the chiefs and interpreters.”

Those accepting bribes included Glass, Boat, Sour Mush, Chulioa, Dick Justice, Richard Brown, and Chickasautchee. As a result, the Cherokee gave up most of the land gained in the previous treaty for an annual payment of $5,000 for ten years. Among those signing the treaty was Sequoia. Path Killer, the Cherokee principal chief, was not present.

In her book The Cherokees, Grace Steele Woodward reports:

“To protect themselves from the wrath of the council, the delegation of twelve who signed the treaty with Jackson did so with the understanding that the Cherokee National Council must ratify it before it became final.”

Winnebago:

In Wisconsin, a delegation of 11 Winnebago chiefs, including Naw-Kaw and Spoon Decora traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to sign a treaty of peace and friendship with the United States. Anthropologist Nancy Lurie, in an entry in Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“Although these Winnebagos made clear that they represented only their own Wisconsin River village, the fact that Naw-Kaw made the overture indicated the official direction of tribal policy.”

Sauk:

In Illinois, the Americans met with the Sauk in treaty council. The Americans accused the Sauk of many crimes committed during the War of 1812, but the Sauk chiefs told the Americans that they had been deceived by the Americans and thus had been forced to join forces with the British. They smoked the peace pipe with the Americans and signed the treaty. In the words of Black Hawk:

“Here, for the first time, I touched the goose quill to the treaty — not knowing, however, that, by that act, I consented to give away my village. Had that been explained to me, I should have opposed it, and never would have signed their treaty.”

Choctaw:

In Mississippi, the United States negotiated a new treaty with the Choctaw to settle some boundary difficulties arising from the end of the Creek war. The treaty negotiations were friendly. In his book The Removal of the Choctaw Indians, Arthur DeRosier reports:

“The Choctaws also were promised that they would always be the friend of America and that never again would the United States allow them to be mistreated.”

Chickasaw:

In the southeast, the Chickasaw ceded all of their territory south of the Tennessee River and west of the Tombigbee River to the United States.

The Removal of the Ponca Indians

In 1877 the United States government informed the Ponca that they were going to be removed from their traditional homelands in Nebraska and reassigned to a reservation in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Ponca, a nation which had been at peace with the United States and was considered friendly, were to be moved from their reservation on the Nebraska-Dakota border to Oklahoma because their reservation had been given to their traditional enemies, the Sioux, in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

The Ponca first heard about their proposed removal a year earlier. At this time, the chiefs called a great council to discuss the matter. Speaking to the representatives from the American government who attended the council, Standing Bear said:

“This land is ours, we have never sold it. We have our houses and our homes here. Our fathers and some of our children are buried here. Here we wish to live and die.”

The representatives from the American government simply told the Ponca that Indian Territory was a better country.

In 1877, the Ponca were informed of their impending relocation during a Christian church service. During the service, the Indian agent addressed the Ponca and painted a glowing picture of their new lands in Oklahoma. Standing Bear responded to the announcement by pointing out to the agent that they had never sold their land nor had they ever asked to go to Indian Territory. He also reminded the agent that the Ponca had kept their treaty with the United States and that they had harmed no one.

Standing Bear, White Eagle, Standing Buffalo, Big Elk, Little Picker, Sitting Bear, Little Chief, Smoke Maker, Lone Chief, and White Swan were then taken to Oklahoma to see their new lands. For the journey south, the government purchased “civilized clothing” (primarily shirts and vests) for the chiefs. Once in Oklahoma, the Ponca chiefs found that the land did not suit them. They felt that this was not a land where corn and potatoes would easily grow. The land did not compare favorably with their lush green homeland in Nebraska. At this point, the Ponca chiefs realized that once again the Indian agent had lied to them.

The Ponca leaders informed the government that the heat, humidity, and poor soil conditions did not suit them. The Indian agent told them that they were to select land in Indian Territory or starve. The government then refused to take them back north. In his book Standing Bear is a Person: The True Story of a Native American’s Quest for Justice Stephen Dando-Collins reports:

“The chiefs, stunned by this exchange, suddenly had visions of being stranded in this strange land and dying here without ever seeing their families again.”

They had only $8 between them and only the clothes on their backs, They had almost no understanding of English. In spite of this, the chiefs made the 500 mile walk back to Nebraska where the Indian agent had them arrested.

The Ponca chiefs met with Omaha chief Iron Eyes (Joseph La Flesche) and his daughter Bright Eyes wrote out a statement from the chiefs which tells of their ordeal. She then wrote a telegram to the President.

In response to their complaints, an inspector from the Indian Office and the Indian agent called for a council with the Ponca. Before the inspector could address the council, Standing Bear came to his feet. Pulling his red council blanket around his shoulders, he asked why the Indian Affairs men had come to the Ponca reservation when they had not been invited. He concluded by telling the Indian Office men to leave at once.

Standing Bear and his brother Big Snake were then arrested, placed in chains, and jailed for resisting the removal order. The other Ponca chiefs, however, defiantly told the Americans that they would not be removed. The Indian Office inspector simply informed the council that they could move of their own volition or the Americans would use force against them.

At sunrise, army troops—four detachments of cavalry and one of infantry—surrounded the Ponca village. The troops dragged men, women, and children from their cabins. There was no discussion, no negotiation, and no toleration of resistance. The American government had made the decision that the Ponca were to be removed and there was no recourse. The Ponca left behind their homes, their farms, and their farm equipment.

The Ponca were marched south under escort. They were deluged with rain and two Ponca children soon died from exposure. The army showed them no mercy, forcing the wet, cold people to travel along mud-clogged byways and across swollen rivers. When a tornado struck the camp, destroying tents, damaging wagons, and injuring several people, the army simply ordered the march to continue with no delay, except for burying the dead.

It took the Ponca 50 days to reach their destination. They were informed that they were now prisoners and they would be punished if they attempted to leave the reservation. In an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Quentin Taylor reports:

“Most of the survivors disliked their new home, and the chiefs petitioned the authorities in Washington to return to their ancestral lands.”

Nearly one-fourth of the Ponca died during their first year in Indian Territory.

A delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. where four Ponca chiefs met President Rutherford Hayes. Each of the chiefs expressed dissatisfaction with their land in Oklahoma and their desire to return to their homeland. Stephen Dando-Collins describes the meeting this way:

“Standing Bear reverently, respectfully told the Great Father that his people had been wronged, that they were now in an awfully bad place, and that he hoped he would do something for them.”

President Hayes was astonished at the story of their forced march and told the chiefs that this is the first he has heard of it.

At a meeting in the Department of the Interior, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs informed the Ponca chiefs that there was no way that their request to be returned to the north could be honored without Congressional action. At a second meeting with President Hayes, who had now been briefed by the Department of the Interior, the President told them that the Ponca must stay in Indian Territory. He assured them that they would be treated well.

Outlawing American Indian Religions

For the past five centuries, American Indians have had their religions suppressed (sometimes brutally and violently) and denied. With the formation of the United States and the adoption of the Bill of Rights which speaks of freedom of religion, this freedom has been denied to American Indians based on the notion that they were not citizens and therefore this freedom did not apply to them. The period of time from 1870 to 1934 can be considered the Dark Ages for American Indian Religious Freedom. During this time, the active suppression of American Indian religions reached its peak.

Under the Peace Policy of President Grant, Indian reservations were to be administered by Christian denominations which were allowed to forcibly convert the Indians to Christianity. By 1872, 63 of the nation’s 75 Indian reservations were being administered by Christian religious denominations.

In 1877, the United States sent America’s Christian General, O.O. Howard to the Pacific Northwest to put down the Dreamer Religion. With regard to the Nez Perce, Howard feels that it is his duty as an American officer and a Christian to force the Dreamer bands, such as Chief Joseph’s, into becoming Christian. The result of this was the Nez Perce War.

In 1883, the Secretary of the Interior reported that the heathen practices of American Indians had to be eliminated. According to Secretary of the Interior Henry M. Teller, the heathen practices of the American Indians must be eliminated:

“they must be compelled to desist from the savage and barbarous practices that are calculated to continue them in savagery.”

He instructed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to compel the discontinuance of dances and feasts. He asked Congress for greater power to deal with the Indian spiritual leaders (often called “medicine men”). He asked that steps be taken to compel “these impostors to abandon this deception and discontinue their practices.”

Following the recommendations of the Secretary of the Interior, missionaries, and other influential “friends of the Indian,” the United States formally outlawed “pagan” ceremonies in 1884. Indians who were found guilty of participating in traditional religious ceremonies were to be imprisoned for 30 days. This was seen as an important step in the destruction of the Indian way of life.

In 1890, the United States government used military force to suppress the so-called “Ghost Dance” religion among the Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The War Department issued a list of Indians who were to be arrested on sight. Their “crime” was simple: they had embraced a new religion, one which had not been approved by the United States government. Using Hotchkiss machine guns, American soldiers managed to kill 40 Sioux men and 200 women and children at Wounded Knee.

In 1892, Congress strengthened the law against Indian religions. Under the new regulations, Indians who openly advocated Indian beliefs, those who performed religious dances, and those involved in religious ceremonies were to be imprisoned.

On a regular basis, the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs reminded the Indian agents of the need to suppress Indian religions. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in 1902 told reservation agents: “You are therefore directed to induce your male Indians to cut their hair.” According to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“The wearing of short hair by the males will be a great step in advance, and will certainly hasten their progress toward civilization.”

Under the new guidelines, Indian men with long hair were to be denied rations. If they still refused to cut their hair, “short confinement in the guardhouse at hard labor with shorn locks, should furnish a cure.”

On the Hopi Reservation, the Indian agent forced a number of men to cut their hair. The agent disregarded the ceremonial purpose of long hair. Hopi men traditionally grew their hair long in the back as a symbol of the falling rain for which they prayed. For the Hopi, for a man to have his hair cut during the growing season was tantamount to asking that the corn stop growing.

Indian agents were also instructed to stop Indians from using face paint. According to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“The use of this paint leads to many disease of the eyes among those Indians who paint. Persons who have given considerable thought and investigation to the subject are satisfied that this custom causes the majority of cases of blindness among the Indians of the United States.”

In addition, Indian dances and feasts were to be prohibited. According to the BIA:

“Feasts are simply subterfuges to cover degrading acts and to disguise immoral purposes.”

In 1934, policy regarding freedom of religion for American Indians began to change when John Collier, the Commissioner for Indian Affairs, issued Circular No. 2970 (“Indian Religious Freedom and Indian Culture”) to superintendents of Indian agencies. According to Collier:

“no interference with Indian religious life or ceremonial expression will hereafter be tolerated.”

Not all of the employees, however, followed the new rule. According to JoAllyn Archambault, in her chapter on the Sun Dance in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“However, many federal employees and Christian missionaries on reservations resisted the policy and discouraged sweatbaths, the Sun Dance, and other religious practices.”

Historian Angie Debo, in her book A History of the Indians of the United States, reports:

“Superpatriots even detected the hidden hand of Red Russia behind the policy, and Collier had to defend himself before the House Indian Affairs Committee against charges of atheism, Communism, and sedition.”

Religion and American Indians in 1816

During the nineteenth century, the United States sought to bring Christianity to the American Indians and to suppress the expression of Native religions. Briefly described below are a few of the events of 1816 relating to religion and American Indians.

In Kentucky, the Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathens wrote a circular letter to Indian agents suggesting that the English language and the habits of civilization should be taught to the Indians before spreading the gospel to them. They asked that the agents have Indian children sent among non-Indians to be schooled.

In Ohio, John Stewart, a free Negro, began preaching to the Wyandot and many Indians converted to Protestantism.

In New York, Eleazar Williams, an Episcopal lay reader and catechist, moved to the Oneida reservation. He spoke the Oneida language and had a good oratory style. He quickly won the support of the Oneida Christians (also known as the First Christian Party or the Shenandoah Party).

In California, the Spanish Catholic missionaries at the San Francisco mission had the Indians stage a traditional dance for a visiting Russian expedition.

The Cherokee Nation allowed several Christian missionary groups – Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, and Presbyterian – to establish schools. According to Marion Starkey in The Cherokee Nation:

“So the missionaries came and remained to play a vital part in the further development of the Cherokees.”

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions declared that it proposed for the Cherokee—

“To make the whole tribe English in their language, civilized in their habits, and Christian in their religion.”

On the southern plains, Pawnee leader Petalesharo rescued a Comanche girl from the Morning Star Ceremony, stating that the ritual should be abolished. He offered himself in her place and when the other Pawnee hesitated in killing him, he untied the girl, placed her on a horse, and led her to safety.

In the Morning Star Ceremony, a girl captured from another tribe would be sacrificed at the Summer Solstice. The captured girl would spend many months with the Pawnee and would be treated well. For the ceremony, her body was painted half red and half white and she was tied to a rectangular frame near the village. As the morning star rose, all of the men and boys of the village shot arrows into her body. The ceremony was not a part of the regular Pawnee ceremonial cycle, but was done only when a man was commanded by a vision to conduct the ceremony. The ritual gave the people success in war and in fertility.