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NE History & Record of Pioneer Days
Vol IV, no 4 (part 2)



leader of the Pawnee, had answered. "the White men wish the Pawnee to leave the buffalo for them to kill. The Great Father gave us leave to hunt for three moons. We will make one more drive of buffalo and then return with plenty of meat to our village on the Loup."
   A mile long that early August morning the Pawnee nation trailed across the divide, going northeast. Soon buffalo were seen coming from the northwest over the crest of the hill toward the Pawnee. Eagerly the Pawnee hunters rode out to the chase. As they approached the buffalo a transformation took place. Part of the buffalo became, by throwing off the buffalo robes which concealed them, a band of Sioux riding in wide war circles and shooting at the Pawnee.
   "There's only a few Sioux. We can whip them" shouted the Pawnee chiefs as they summoned their fighting men. Near at hand was a deep ravine. Into it were hurried the Pawnee women, children, dogs and pack ponies. As they sought refuge there the skyline to the north and west swarmed with hostile Sioux. Round they rode in circles firing as they rode.
   There were two white men with the Pawnee camp, one a young man from the east who had begged to go on the hunt. When he saw the Sioux, he fled. Williamson, the other white man bore the written authority of the United States to conduct the Pawnee on their hunt, and to preserve peace. The Sioux chiefs had signed a treaty of peace at Fort Laramie five years before. In their own camp at this very time was Nick Janis, of French descent, married to a Sioux squaw and comissioned in the same manner as Williamson to conduct Sioux buffalo hunt and keep the peace.
   Williamson tied a handkerchief at the end of a pole, raised it and rode out to stop the Sioux, hoping that the U. S. commission which he held could effect this. A shower of arrows and bullets from the circling warriors showed how vain the hope. Sky Chief, leader of the Pawnee, had before the onset of the Sioux dashed off in pursuit of a buffalo to a ravine far to the northeast and there was killed and scalped without knowledge of the desperate situation of his people. As Williamson rode back a bullet struck his pony. The poor beast stumbled on a few more yards and fell at the edge of the ra-



vine which sheltered the Pawnee women and children. As he stripped the saddle from the dying pony he swept the battlefield with one searching glance which forever fixed it in his memory:
   On either flank the Sioux warriors were rapidly advancing to envelope the Pawnee.
   Below in the fork of the canyon, the Pawnee women were standing in a circle with arms uplifted chanting the ancient tribal song--a prayer for victory.
   Wave upon wave of Sioux warriors circled nearer and nearer. Arrows and bullets flew thick and fast. The plains filled with hundreds of Sioux. The Pawnee warriors were everywhere driven back. A desperate situation surely for Williamson and his Pawnee.
   No chanted prayer to Tirawa availed in that desperate hour. "Fly from the Sioux" rose the cry in the ravine, for their enemy was upon them. Cutting packs and tepee poles loose from their ponies the disastrous flight down the ravine began. Some, warriors and women, refused to fly. They sought refuge in deep holes dug by the flood torrents in the bottom of the ravine. Everyone of these was cut off and scalped. The larger part of the Pawnee who perished were found on this part of the battlefield.
   Three miles Massacre Canyon winds to the point where it opens into the Republican valley. Headlong toward this opening the Pawnee camp fled. All was confusion. Warriors, squaws, children, dogs, ponies in a mingled mass. Along the bluff rode the Sioux firing into the fugitives below. The bottom of the ravine where the fight began is 150 yards wide. Half a mile below it narrows to a gorge barely wide enough for a trail. Here the flood of humanity and beasts choked the gorge and many perished. Farther down a similar gorge was the cause of another slaughter.
   An incident of this flight is burned into Mr. Williamson's memory. A little Indian baby, two or three years old, had fallen from her mother's back and stretched but her hands in vain to the panic-stricken rout begging to be taken with them. After the fight a number of partly burned bodies of Pawnee



 children were found near this place. The Sioux had evidently stacked them up and tried to obliterate them.
   Probably every Pawnee would have perished had it not been for the appearance of a column of United States Cavalry coming up the Republican Valley, bearing at its head the old flag. From the hilltop the Sioux warriors spied this sooner than the Pawnee fleeing down the ravine, and checked the pursuit.
   As the mob of Pawnee warriors, squaws, children, dogs and ponies poured out of the mouth of Massacre Canyon into the broad valley of the Republican the pursuing Sioux rounded up several hundred loose Pawnee ponies and vanished with them over the hills to the north.
   The army officers urged that the remaining Pawnee return to the battlefield under cavalry escort and retake abandoned food and equipage. To this they would not listen.
   They said the food would be poisoned and the equipment destroyed. The Pawnee nation suffered in this battle the most terrible defeat by the Sioux in its tribal history. One hundred and fifty-six had perished. Most of their ponies and camp outfit was lost. Nothing for them to do but to go back to the old home on the Loup overwhelmed with the most terrible disaster they had known. The grief of the survivors was heart rending. The squaws wailed the lamentation for the dead. The stolid warriors tore their hair while tears ran do their faces. In distress, hunger and humiliation those who escaped turned their faces homeward, never again to return on their tribal hunt in the Republican Valley.
   Forty-eight years is a long time in the life of the frontier. On the morning of October 15, 1921 we were on the battle field. From every quarter across the divide came automobiles concentrating on the canyon where the battle began. Hundreds of men, women and children thronged the hillsides looking down the dark ravine where the pride of the Pawnee were crushed by the Sioux. A platoon of boy scouts from Trenton eagerly scanned the sod finding a few fragments from the far off fight. Editors of newspapers from Trenton and Culbertson were there. A thin thread of smoke along the Republican Val-



Picture or sketch

Pawnee-Sioux Battlefield in Massacre Canyon, Hitchcock County.
J. W. Williamson (right), and Captain Lute H. North (left) in foreground.
Photo by A. E. Sheldon, October 15, 1921.

ley was evidence of the Burlington fast mail bound for Denver. At the canyon's edge stood Scout Williamson and Captain North, near the spot where Williamson's pony was shot from under him in the battle. Below were the forks of the canyon where the Pawnee women stood with bare heads under that August sun of 1873 and chanted their prayer--the old time Pawnee prayer for victory. Alas, not the only women who have prayed for victory in war, for the life of their soldiers, In vain!
   We gathered in eager group at the canyon's edge and listened to Williamson tell the story of the last battle between the Sioux and Pawnee nations. He had told it many times since he saw it, but never before as he told it that October morning for his feet were on the battlefield, his eyes ranging the hills where the hostile Sioux charged and circled. Below in the forks of the canyon stood a fleet of automobiles. The



sympathetic ear listened as though to catch the chant of the Pawnee women. The Past and the Present were blended while we listened to the story and renewed the recollections of the old Nebraska days.
   Never again on Nebraska prairies the useless feud of red men fighting each other for buffalo hunting ground. To the historian, the novelist, the poet, the dramatist belong those years of romance and mystery. All too soon the last eye that saw them will be closed, the last witness which told their tale will be silent.
   Here some day shall arise a monument fit to halt the traveler's journey and claim his attention and sympathy. Upon its granite shoulder shall be deeply cut an inscription reminding the generations yet to be of these tribes which once found home upon these plains, of their customs, their religion, the arts, their struggles, and of this last great conflict between the two greatest of these Nebraska tribes--the Pawnee and the Sioux.

   Walking along the banks of the Seine at Paris in the closing period of the World War I browsed in the bookstalls which line the quays. Suddenly my attention was attracted to a large book with illustrated paper cover giving an account of Buffalo Bill, the Pawnee Indians and the wonderful region in America called Nebraska. It was in French, written (as advertised) by Col. Cody with the slight assistance of French journalist. A few minutes' reading in the book told me more things I had never heard of concerning Nebraska than I had supposed possible. In free and lurid French the book informed me of wild thrilling adventures in the Nebraska region not set down in any historical record. Its descriptions gave me glimpses of geography which startled my fifty years' residence. In eager haste I bought the book and looked for more of the same kind. They were there--a whole brood of them. America, the land of promise, its Indians, its frontier, its history and romance, as pictured by Col. Cody and his French co-orator. I bought them all and have them yet. In a future issue of magazine its readers will be given translations showing how their loved state is presented to the reading public of France.

   Senator J. W. Robbins of Omaha was a visitor at the State Historical Society rooms during the special session of the legislature. Robbins has the scholar's interest in the work being done by the Historical Society. Everything published is of keen interest to him. The intelligent and cordial support of men like Mr. Robbins is one of the greatest rewards for the work done by the Historical Society.



Picture or sketch

War Outfit of Cheyenne Chief as he came into Historical Society Rooms
October 28, 1921.


   In the afternoon of October 28, 1921, a Cheyenne chief came into my office in the State Historical Society rooms, Lincoln, Nebraska. I was startled. It was many moons since I had seen a Cheyenne, many more since I had seen one in the full panoply of war. Recollections of scenes at Pine Ridge during the stormy winter of 1890-91 came back in a flash.
   This Cheyenne was unmistakably fully equipped for the war path. It was the old time war costume--rarely seen today--that he wore. His equipment included one of the most.



complete outfits for a long and hard campaign I had seen in many years contact with Indians. Every article was of the finest workmanship, hand-sewed with sinew, in perfect condition. His outfit included a war tepee, (three poles and buffalo skin covering); a woven willow mattress to protect the warrior's body from the wet ground when he slept; exquisite buckskin beaded leggings; two pairs of moccasins, one fur-lined for winter; a parfleche bag for provisions; a medicine bag with the old time punk, flint and steel for starting fire; a pipe case for the pipe that befits a chieftain; a mink skin charm bag with trinkets to protect from adverse spirits; a raw hide quirt worn on the wrist; a buffalo hoof rattle for the war dance; a braided raw hide lariat for his pony with headstall and knot to guide.
   He was tall--this Cheyenne--over six feet--as tall as his great compatriot Roman Nose killed in Forsyth's fight at Beecher Island in September, 1868. He was thin. His skin was shrunken on his athletic frame. On his fingers and wrists were rings and bracelets of former days. His black hair was closely braided in a long queau down his back. He had both the new and the old Cheyenne weapons--a sixteen shooter Henry rifle ready for use, a five foot bow with the Cheyenne magical number (four) of steel tipped arrows. He was ready for a winter campaign, for his outfit included six of the finest buffalo robes and a cavalry officer's heavy storm coat with high collar protecting the neck and ears.

   In the red summer of 1864 the Nebraska border ran blood from Fort Laramie to the eastern rapids of the Little Blue, The Oregon Trail was a line of smoking ranches, charred freight wagons, scalped settlers and freighters. Along what had been a great world highway traffic ceased while Cheyenne and Sioux warriors rioted, pillaged and murdered.
   Then followed the war for the possession of the plains, Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Kiowa tribes in a league of wild nations to drive back the white man from the buffalo hunting grounds before it was too late. For four years war raged,--from the banks of the Arkansas to the mountains of the Yellowstone. Then it died slowly down--only to flame up again, at Custer's battle field and else 1875 to 1879--then again died--giving one last expiring sputter in 1890 at Wounded Knee and the Pine Ridge campaign which followed.
   What is known as the Powder River Expedition was the second act in this western plains war drama. In May, 1866, General P. E. Connor marched from Fort Laramie northwest into the heart of the Sioux and Cheyenne country between the Big Horn mountains and the Black Hills. Three other strong



columns marching by different routes were to meet him there and crush the hostiles.
   It was a campaign of miscalculation and failure for the United States army. A cavalry column of two thousand under General Cole wandered in the Bad Lands, lost nearly all its horses, burned its equipment and was rescued from a starving condition by Major Frank North and his Nebraska Pawnee Scouts. The other columns failed to reach the rendezvous on Powder river. In the fall the troops marched back to their bases, leaving the Sioux and Cheyenne in possession of the northern plains.
   In midsummer of this campaign (July 25, 1866) an attack was made on the stockade at Platte River Bridge, on the Overland Trail, about thirty miles above where now stands the city of Casper, Wyoming. It was made with the usual plains Indian strategem. A small body of warriors rode near the fort to entice the soldiers out. The main fighting force of warriors--near 3,000 strong--was concealed in the hills. The soldiers came out of the fort gate, but refused to follow the retreating Indians into the ambuscade. Instead they shelled the hills with a howitzer.
   Late in the afternoon the head chiefs sent High Backed Wolf, one of the Leading Cheyenne--to order return of the advance party since they could not draw the soldiers into the trap. One of the advance warriors spoke angrily when thus ordered to retreat. High Backed Wolf was stung by the remark and dared the other to swim the river with their ponies and attack the soldiers near the fort. Both did so. In the fight High Backed Wolf was shot through and fell from his horse at a little distance from the fort. His body was rescued by the Cheyenne and carried away to the hostile camp. The wails of mourners and barbaric splendor of the funeral in the Cheyenne camp may be left to the imagination.

   On July 1, 1921, Mr. Adam N. Keith, a Wyoming cattle rancher, was riding along the base of a high, rocky mountain near Powder river, about twenty miles west of the inland town of Kaycee, Johnson county, and about ninety miles north of the old Platte River Bridge fort. Mr. Keith had come to the region as a cowboy thirty-two years before and had ridden past that point of rocks scores of times, a narrow flat between the stream and mountain making a convenient passage for range riders. On this day his eye caught what it had never seen there before--the tip of an Indian tepee pole peeping from a ledge of rocks. He surmised at once an old time Indian burial and, getting help, rolled the rocks away and brought to the light of the twentieth century the most perfect specimen of



nineteenth century Indian warrior and equipment discovered in the plains region. Every detail was complete for the long journey into the Spirit land hunting grounds. For the buffalo hunt or the cavalry charge, for the winter's cold or the summer heat, this Cheyenne warrior was equipped. The Wyoming winds had embalmed his body and shrunk his skin upon his frame, leaving its original form and features undestroyed. After fifty years he was still recognizable by his old time fellows. An aged Sioux warrior from Pine Ridge started with surprise when brought to see him and eagerly brought his squaw and children to behold the fierce Cheyenne with whom he hunted on the Wyoming plains nearly sixty years ago.

   For the French word "revenant" there is no adequate English translation. Even as I write this revenant of the old war days on the plains looks across the room with a message for the present time which I try vainly to translate.

Picture or sketch


Made a State Institution February 27, 1883.

    An act of the Nebraska legislature, recommended by Govenor James W. Dawes in his inaugural and signed by him, made the State Historical Society a State institution in the following:

   Be it Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Nebraska:

   Section 1. That the "Nebraska State Historical Society," an organization now in existence--Robt. W. Furnas, President; James M. Woolworth and Elmer S. Dundy, Vice-Presidents; Samuel Aughey, Secretary, and W. W. Wilson, Treasurer, their associates and successors-be, and the same is hereby recognized as a state institution.
   Section 2. That it shall be the duty of the President and Secretary of said institution to make annually reports to the governor, as required by other state institutions. Said report to embrace the transactions and expenditures of the organization, together with all historical addresses, which have beer, or may hereafter be read before the Society or furnished it as historical matter, data of the state or adjacent western regions of country.
   Section 3. That said reports, addresses, and papers shall be published at the expense of the state, and distributed as other similar official reports, a reasonable number, to be decided by the state and Society, to be furnished said Society for its use and distribution.

Property and Equipment

   The present State Historial Society owns in fee simple title as trustee of the State the half block of land opposite and east of the State House with the basement thereon. It occupies for offices and working quarters basement rooms in the University Library building at 11th and R streets. The basement building at 16th and H is crowded with the collections of the Historical Society which it can not exhibit, including some 15,000 volumes of Nebraska newspapers and a large part of its museum. Its rooms in the University Library building are likewise crowded with library and museum material. The annual inventory of its property returned to the State Auditor for the year 1920 is as follows:

Value of Land, 1/2 block 16th and H


Value of Buildings and permanent improvements


Value of Furniture and Furnishings


Value of Special Equipment, including Apparatus,

     Machinery and Tools


Educational Specimens (Art, Museum, or other)


Library (Books and Publications)


Newspaper Collection


Total Resources


Much of this property is priceless, being the only articles of their kind and impossible to duplicate.

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