Letter/IconOLITICAL and other social relations in the United States have been constantly disturbed, and during a considerable period were disrupted by the presence of two unassimilable races. Each of our two race questions led to war. The Nebraska country was the subject of the controversy which precipitated the war over the black race question and the principal field of the long series of wars with the

Franklin Sweet


Daughter of Manual Lisa

red race. The Indian question grew out of the forcible ejectment of the original Indian occupants of the country by the white invaders. The negro question arose from the abduction of the alien blacks from their own country and their introduction here as slaves by the same white intruders. These contests resulted in the subjugation and strictest surveillance of that one of these races which could not be enslaved and would fight, and in the sympathetic emancipation and premature enfranchisement of the other because it was fit for slavery and had submitted to it.
   For many years following the treaty of 1783, which acknowledged the independence of the American colonies, Great Britain had no mind to respect its provision fixing the Mississippi river as the western boundary of the new nation. On the contrary, there was constant scheming on the part of each of the three great European powers -- England, France, and Spain -- to detach and appropriate the country west of the Alleghenies. England held Detroit and other posts within the territory of the United States long after the treaty of peace, and Spain held Natchez and other places on our side of the Mississippi river as late as 1798. These conspiracies were finally headed off by Jefferson's brilliant diplomacy in getting from the great Napoleon a quit-claim of the title of France to the Louisiana country, and so virtually to all her claims on North America.
   At first the Indian question in the Missouri valley was complicated with that of the aggressive attempts of the English to retain control of trade with the Indians, and the first military force that ever entered the upper Missouri country was sent there for the purpose of dealing with that phase of the question. This expedition, under command of Colonel Henry Atkinson, went as far up the Missouri as "Camp Missouri," just below Council Bluff, and there established the first military post in the upper Missouri country, in September, 1819. By the end of the year a strong fort and barracks for 1,000 men had been erected by the troops.
   The post, afterwards known as Fort Atkinson, was garrisoned by the Sixth regiment infantry and a regiment of riflemen, 1,126 men



in all. On the 23d of September, 1820, Atkinson, now brigadier-general, and Benjamin O'Fallon, Indian agent, made a treaty with the Omaha tribe of Indians by which they gave to the United States "a tract of fifteen miles square of the country around Council Bluff, to be bounded by due east, west, north, and south lines, and so located that the flagstaff in the area of the new cantonment in Council Bluff shall be the center of the aforesaid tract of fifteen miles square." General Atkinson was commandant at this post until 1823, when he was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Leavenworth, who remained in charge until 1825. His successor, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Woolley, was commandant until the post was abandoned in 1827, its equipment being removed to the new post called Cantonment Leavenworth, afterward Fort Leavenworth.
   On the 22d of June, 1823, Colonel Henry Atkinson, commandant at Fort Atkinson, left that post with six companies of the Sixth infantry, 220 men, two six-pound cannon, and several swivels, to avenge the defeat of General W. H. Ashley, of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, whose command of volunteers had been defeated by the Arikaras at their village on the 2d of the same month, with a loss of fourteen killed and nine wounded, besides considerable property. The remainder of the force escaped by descending the river on their two keel-boats. Colonel Leavenworth's force traveled partly on foot and partly in three keel-boats, and was forty-eight days in ascending the river to the Arikara village, computed at 640 miles. Major Joshua Pilcher, then president of the American Fur Company, who was at Fort Lisa at the time, overtook and passed Colonel Leavenworth, and awaited him at Fort Recovery with a force of 40 men and 400 to 500 Sioux. General Ashley's command also joined Colonel Leavenworth at this place. The whole force of about 800 men attacked the Indians on the 9th and 10th of August, and soon after the latter date they abandoned their villages and in some way they took fire and were burned. The fighting was indecisive and the casualties were small. Two Sioux were killed and two whites and two Sioux were wounded. About thirty Arikaras were killed. Colonel Leavenworth's command reached Fort Atkinson on the return trip near the end of August without having duly accomplished its object of subduing the troublesome Arikaras.
   On the 16th of May, 1825, General Atkinson and Benjamin O'Fallon, Indian agent, commissioners to treat with the Indians of the upper Missouri, left Fort Atkinson with an escort of 476 soldiers and proceeded up the river to a point 120 miles above the mouth of

Franklin Sweet


the Yellowstone. The expedition arrived at Council Bluffs, on its return, September 19th. The commissioners made treaties with the numerous tribes who lived along the river, and the determination of the English to encroach upon the Indian trade of this region, even at that late date, is shown by the fact that all the treaties contained an agreement on the part of the Indians to arrest all foreign intruders and turn them over to an agent of the federal government. While from the time of our first accounts of the life of the Indians of the trans-Missouri plains there was incessant warfare between the various tribes, yet, until white settlers crowded into



the Nebraska country after its political organization, and the construction of the Pacific railway showed the Indians in a plain object lesson that the game upon which they depended for sustenance would soon be entirely driven from the plains, their relations with the whites were generally peaceable and their depredations seldom exceeded thieving, to which their constant needs stimulated their native inclination. And so, previous to the year 1864, serious disturbances on our frontier were infrequent, and warfare only of a desultory nature occurred, military expedi-

Franklin Sweet


Son of Major Joshua Pilcher, captain of police and government interpreter, Omaha Indian reservation.

tions were meant mainly as demonstrations of power, and the military posts, few and far between and even then but meagerly garrisoned, served as a precautionary, rather than an actual defense.
   In the meantime, however, the Indians entertained themselves with the most active and relentless inter-tribal warfare. The Sioux and Cheyennes, who in the later years of provocation were cruel enemies of the whites, in 1847 were classed with the Grosventres, the Mandans, and the Poncas as "excellent Indians, devoutly attached to the white man, and live in peace and friendship with our government." But the same competent witness testifies that war is the natural element of the untaught Indian, and though those of his agency have been "remarkably pacific for some time, God only knows how long they will remain so."
   The characteristic thieving propensities of the Pawnee Indians led them to prepare to attack Frémont's party on the Solomon river as it was returning from the Columbia river in June, 1844, notwithstanding that they were receiving an annuity through the federal government. Major Wharton learned of this intended assault, soon after, at Bellevue, where he made an appropriate talk on the subject to the principal chiefs and braves and gave presents to six principal men of the Pawnee Loups who interposed, resolved to protect the explorer or die with him. The Pawnees south of the Platte and those on the north side were hostile to one another, and Pawnee parties committed outrages on Cabanné's peltry boats in the spring of that year. The year 1847 was one of general tranquility among the treaty Indians and others near them; but there were some depredations by Sioux living on the Mississippi and who received annuities, especially upon the Winnebagoes, their hereditary enemies.
   The lowas attacked a lodge of the Omahas, but under threat of the Indian department to withhold their annuity, they made reparation. Under pressure, the annuity Sioux agreed to pay an indemnity of $4,000 to the Winnebagos. In the St. Louis superintendency war parties greatly increased during the year. Sioux bands, amounting to 700 or 800 warriors in some instances, killed over 150 members of the tribes which the federal government was attempting to civilize. They made two attacks on the Pawnees during the summer, in one of them killing 23; and since the prowess of the Pawnees lay more in filching than in fighting there was danger of their extermination, as well as that of the small band of Otoes and the unwarlike and almost defenseless Omahas by the relentless Sioux invaders. Eighty of the Omahas were killed in these raids during the year. The Otoes struck back and were attacked the second time. The Pawnee and Omaha villages at the time of the



attacks on these tribes in the latter part of the year 1847 were near Bellevue, "where a number of white families reside." The white residents were doubtless all attached either to the Indian agency or the missionary establishment. The hostile parties were from the Peter Sioux. Other attacks were made by wild, that is, non-annuity Indians. The secretary of war recommended the establishment of a small military post at the mouth of the Platte for the protection of the Omahas, Otoes, Poncas, and other weak tribes in the vicinity of the Sioux on the Platte and Missouri rivers, in connection with the post to be established near Grand Island -- afterward called Fort Kearney.
   The fact that there was less annoyance of emigrants on the Missouri frontier by the Indians and less trouble than usual among the Indians themselves in 1848, was ascribed to the judicious control of annuities. In the spring of 1848 the Iowas, under White Cloud, killed many Pawnees, principally women and children, on their way home from the Council Bluffs agency with corn to keep them from starving. In July of this year, while a party of Pottawattomies, Kansas, Kickapoos, and Sacs were hunting buffaloes on the plains, a party of Pawnees sent a peace messenger to them who was well received, but he was shot by a young Kansan while Keokuk, a Sac, was in the act of handing him the pipe of peace. In undertaking to avenge this perfidy the Pawnees lost five men, and their scalps were brought in by the Pottawattomies and Kickapoos. Having assumed a protectorate over these Indians and with the full purpose of appropriating and occupying their country, no mere exigency, such as the Mexican war, excused the failure of the federal government to afford these agency Indians reasonable protection of life and property from the savage enemies of both guardian and wards. Besides, the dereliction was the same before and after the Mexican war. A like excuse was offered during the Civil war, but for several years after its close there was the same failtire to meet the demands of palpable conditions. It is true that these conditions were vexatious and difficult in the extreme to deal with, but while the aggression of the dominant race was the irritant cause of these troubles, it seems that there should have been more readiness in meeting them.
   In 1848, the Sioux killed twenty-eight Pawnees and twenty-six Otoes, and the agent urged the establishment of a post at the mouth of the Vermillion river -- now in South Dakota -- as a barrier to their bloodthirsty incursions, and for the arrest of dishonest white intruders into the Indian country. "Not a few" white men were settling on the Iowa state line twenty miles below, "with no ostensible object in view but to sell whiskey to the Sioux Indians and white men in the Indian country."
   On the Platte river and in its vicinity were stationed 600 men intended for the protection of the immigrants to Oregon and California. The Pawnees on account of their destitute and starving conditions were the worst of all the Indians in these depredations against the emigrants. There were offenders, also, among the emigrants, but the wild tribes of the plains had kept far in advance of the white man in the perpetration of rascality. Two outrages of the Indians in their relations with the United States were reported. The Sioux attacked the steamboat Martha on the upper Missouri and killed one man, and the Iowas attacked a party of Pawnees, killing and scalping twelve of them. The Sioux were moving toward the west and at this time there were 2,000 of them living in the region of the headwaters of the Platte. In the summer of 1848 there was a fight between the troops and the Comanche, and a band of Pawnee Indians in the Southwest, on the Cimarron river. The commissioner of Indian affairs was not, at this time, encouraged by the condition and prospects of his wards, and he pointed out that the contact and competition of this inferior race with the superior whites must prove disastrous to it, and he advocated the plan of segregating the Indians on small reservations, which was carried out thirty years later.
   The Indians along the Oregon and Santa Fé routes were less troublesome than usual in 1849 -- the year of the beginning of the heavy overland travel to the California gold fields.



   On the 10th of September the Omahas, while on the way home from their summer hunt, were attacked by a band of Sioux and Poncas, but they showed unwonted spirit and, making a stand behind breastworks, in civilized fashion, drove back their assailants with a loss of eight or nine men, though they themselves lost four or five men and about forty horses. On the 14th of September the Otoes, also returning from their hunt, attacked a party of Pawnees, killing eleven of them. They were persuaded to do this by traders whom the Pawnees had robbed. The year 1850 was generally one of peace among the Indians themselves, and also between whites and Indians. In the spring of 1851, 18,000 barrels of military supplies were landed at Fort Leavenworth by steamboats to be gradually distributed by wagon trains during the summer to the chain of posts on the Oregon route and in New Mexico.
   The Chippewas and Sioux were hostile to each other this year. Though the military posts in the Indian country were maintained at enormous expense, on account of the high cost of transportation of supplies, yet it was officially alleged that these posts, and in particular Fort Laramie, and Fort Sumner, just established on the Arkansas, were nearly at the mercy of the Indians and would hardly be able to defend themselves within their own walls.
   The tribes of the Council Bluffs agency also -- Otoes and Missouris, Omahas and Pawnees -- "lived on terms of peace and good will" during. the year 1851. There were no reports of disturbances in the Nebraska country during the following year, though a band of Santees of about sixty lodges and some Yanktons, "who infest the waters of the Big and Little Sioux," committed depredations on the white settlers of the northwestern Iowa frontier. At Fort Dodge, on the Iowa frontier, as well as at Fort Ripley, in Minnesota, there was "nothing to defend," and withdrawal of troops from Fort Kearney and construction of a military post at the junction of the Republican and Kansas rivers was advised by military authorities. It was urged that there was a common road to this point from Fort Leavenworth leading to Oregon and to Santa Fé. With the exception of the Blackfeet, the Indians of the upper Missouri agency were peaceable and among themselves were faithful to the Fort Laramie treaty during 1853. This treaty was the result of a council which began September 1, 1851, and lasted eighteen days. It was conducted by D. D. Mitchell, superintendent of the central superintendency. B. Gratz Brown, who was a candidate for vice president of the United States in 1872 on the Greeley ticket, was assistant secretary of this council, and Father De Smet, "the celebrated missionary," as he is called in the superintendent's report, put his intimate knowledge of the Indian country to use by assisting in making a map of the territory occupied by the tribes which were parties to the treaty. There were 8,000 to 12,000 Indians at the council, and eight tribes entered into a treaty of friendship which had an appreciable and lasting influence in maintaining peaceable relations between the Indians of the Plains. The sanguine superintendent indulged in the visionary hope that this compact would lead the Indians who were subject to its influence to abandon their wild life and become an agricultural people.
   Near the end of 1853 a party of Yanktons exterminated four lodges of Crows, numbering thirty-five men, women, and children, and it was reported from the Upper Platte and Arkansas agency that Sioux from the north had driven off the Arapahos, Cheyennes, and Pawnees, who in turn encroached on the southern tribes.
   In 1854, one of the most shocking tragedies in the history of our intercourse with the Indians occurred in the Platte valley near Fort Laramie. A young Indian belonging to a large body of Brule, Ogallala, and "Miniconjon" Sioux, numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 warriors, killed and appropriated a lame cow belonging to a Mormon emigrant. According to the story of the Indians, the animal had strayed into their camp, which was situated on the Oregon trail, between the trading house of the American Fur Company, under James Bordeaux, and that of P. Chouteau, Jr., & Company, five and eight miles respectively below Fort Laramie. The Mormon appealed



to the commandant at the fort for indemnity for his loss, and in the evening of the following day Brevet Second Lieutenant John L. Grattan, with twenty-nine men, of Company G, Sixth regiment of infantry, and two howitzers, marched to the Indian camps under orders to bring in the offender. Refusal to comply with the demand for his surrender quickly resulted in a discharge of small arms and the howitzers by the soldiers; but they had time for only a single volley when they were immediately overwhelmed by the savages, only one man escaping, and he died of his wounds, soon afterward at the fort. The Bear, head chief of the band, was killed and one Indian was wounded in the discharge of Grattan's musketry, but the artillery was aimed too high for effect. Their butchery of Grattan's little band appears to have awakened in the Indians their inherent savagery, and they proceeded to the trading houses of Bordeaux and Chouteau with the intent both to kill and rob. But these Frenchmen were able to exercise their proverbial pacifying influence over the Indians, and they were content with pillaging the stores of the traders. Bordeaux pleaded with them throughout a night of awful suspense to refrain from further destruction of life if not of property.
   After the tragedy these bands tried to enlist Indians of the upper Missouri agency in a general war on the whites. For some time they kept war parties continually on the road between Fort Pierre and the Platte river.
   Accepting the statement of the traders and the civil agent of the government, that the Indians were provoked by Lieutenant Grattan in their attack on his command which, once begun, inevitably resulted in its destruction, yet the subsequent conduct of these Indians explains if it does not justify the vengeance visited upon them by General Harney near Ash Hollow a year later.
   During the summer of 1854, near the Kansas river, north of Pawnee Fork, 1,500 Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Osage Indians, armed with bows and arrows, attacked 100 Sacs and Foxes who used their good rifles so effectively that, after charging on the little band several times, the assailants retired with a loss of sixteen killed.
   Brevet Brigadier-General William S. Harney was already noted as a campaigner throughout the Indian country of the West and Southwest when he was sent in the fall of 1855 to punish the Sioux for the Grattan massacre. These Indians had broken faith with the whites by persistently infesting the Oregon trail, and they were a constant terror to the emigrants who at this time passed along the continental highway in great numbers, but

Franklin Sweet

Only picture ever taken of Ni-co-mi; its first production.

NI-CO-MI (Voice of the Waters)

Indian wife of Peter A. Sarpy

their unwelcome intrusion gave their pursuer a welcome and easy opportunity to execute his terrible task. On the evening of September 2d, General Harney's command camped at the mouth of Ash Hollow which, on account of the water, wood, and shelter it afforded, had long been a favorite and noted halting place for the California and Oregon emigrant trains. This rendezvous of the whites was naturally tinder the watchful surveillance of hostile Indians, and it was in its near neighborhood that General Harney found and

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