Lot, the Spokane Chief
The Spokanes, when they were not off on a
buffalo-hunt or camping here and there to store up the carcass roots for winter as the
squirrels store up beechnuts, used to live along the banks of the Spokane River in
Washington State. This river, with many falls and rapids, flows through great forests west
to the Columbia. It is a beautiful land of wooded hills and fertile valleys, and the
Indians clung to it with great fondness. here are found every sort of game. The deer run
wild in the natural parks, and the speckled trout dart up-stream, shining in the creeks
There was an old bridge across the Spokane, and as I rode to Fort
Colville, escorted by some cavalry, we saw an open field covered kith Indian lodges just
to our right as we came to the bridge. There were ten or twelve lodges and one hundred and
twenty Indians. Many Indians came out to meet us on the road, and I called to one of them
in English "What Indians are these?" He replied : "A band of Spokanes."
The leader of this band was Lot, and I must tell you about him.
Long ago when Lot was a small boy, Mr. Eeles, a good teacher,
came to live among the Spokanes, just as in 1840 the famous Dr. Marcus Whitman went to
teach the savage Cayuses. The Indians called this teacher Father Eeles, and, although he
died long ago, they still speak of him with affection, and white people name roads and
hamlets for him. Father Eeles loved the little Indian boy who would be a chief some day,
and he baptized him and called him Lot.
Now Lot had grown to be a fine, tall Indian chief, over six feet
in his heelless moccasins, and but for his braided hair and the blanket over his shoulders
you would have taken him for an old hunter. He spoke very little English, and was very
modest, but Mr. Campbell, the Indian agent, brought Lot to me at once, saying as he did
so: "Lot is a splendid Indian. He became a Christian and has always tried to live as
Father Eeles taught him." I took a fancy to Lot immediately and asked him why his
band were here, and what they were doing, and he told me that one of his Indian girls was
to become the wife of a squawman who lived in a house just beyond the bridge, and that the
band had come to see Mr. Campbell marry them.
Now a white man who marries an Indian woman is called by every
one a squaw-man, and always belongs half to the Indians and half to the white people. Lot
asked if I would stay for the wedding, and I was only too glad to accept his invitation.
The bride was a pretty Indian girl, just fourteen years old, and she came out of one of
the lodges with some Indian women and her parents, grandparents, and brothers and sisters.
The squaw-man, Mr. Walker, was about forty years old, and a
rather rough-looking man in shabby clothes. He came across the bridge with some
fine-looking Indian braves, and I could not help wondering why the little Indian girl had
not chosen one of them for her husband. But perhaps she thought it was grander to live in
a house and be Mrs. Walker. At any rate, Mr. Campbell, after a short prayer, had them hold
hands while he married them, and then all the Indians sang
one of our hymns, but in the Spokane language. After the wedding we went on to Fort
Colville, and the next time I saw Lot he asked me to come with him to a religious service.
Spokane Williams, one of his band, had taken land like a white man and built a house. To
be sure, it was a small house with one door and no windows, but he was proud of it, and
here the Christian Indians met. There was
a platform at one end where we were to sit, and Mr. Campbell was there too. All the people
sat on the hard earth floor, men, women, children, and papooses packed in like sardines.
This service was a preparation for the commemoration of our Lord's Supper, and all the
Indians stood up and told what they were sorry they had done. One big fellow said that he
had stolen four horses; but afterward he was very sad and took them back to the white man
they belonged to, and asked his forgiveness; so the white man said "All right,.
John," and then he was happy again. A woman said she had told an untruth, but
afterward she was so miserable she had to go and ask to be forgiven. After a while an old
Indian woman got up and talked for a while, but Lot stopped her and told her to sit down.
I asked Mr. Campbell what they were saying, and he told me she had been find
ing fault with her neighbors, but the chief said: "You may tell us the wrong things
you have done yourself, but you mustn't tell us the bad things your neighbors have been
doing." Lot was very careful to make the people of his band do what was right.
Now Spokane Carry was the head chief of all Spokane Indians, and
he asked me to meet him at an Indian Council. Carry was a small, pompous, querulous old
man, not at all like Lot. He spoke English very loud and very fast, and was hard to
understand. What he wanted me to know was that the Spokanes had helped the white settlers
much more than the Nez Perces, and he thought the great Father at Washington ought to
treat them as well and give them a reservation, as good a one as the Nez Perces had.
I told him I wished his Indians would all build houses and take
up land like white men. Spokane Williams of Lot's band had done so, and was doing well.
But Garry stopped me and said that white men's ways were not Indians' ways. Indians liked
to go from place to place and take their lodges with them. If they lived in houses they
must stop in one place. I sent his request to Washington, but he died before there was any
reply, and Lot became. a leader and guide to all these people. I often saw Lot, and we had
long talks about the Indians. He moved his people to a prairie land where there was good
water and plenty of trees, and here I visited him and felt as safe among these wild people
as I do in my own home. But Lot always said, as Garry did, that Indians could not live
like white men. He told me that if he could keep them together the old men and women would
work while the young men could hunt partridges, wild turkey, and deer, but if they tried
to live as white men no one would work. Every time I saw Lot he talked in this way till I
came to believe it was so, and when President Hayes and General Sherman came to Oregon I
told them what Lot had said to me, and asked the President to give these Indians some land
for their own. General Sherman agreed with me that this would be the best thing for
everybody, and the President signed a paper ordering enough land to be set aside for all
the Spokane people. So Lot had his wish.
Some months afterward, when the President sent me orders to leave
Washington Territory and go to West Point, New York, Lot in his far off reservation heard
that I was going. He mounted his pony and with some of his braves rode three hundred miles
to beg me to stay. He arrived in Portland, Oregon, just as I was going on board the ocean
steamer, anchored in the Willamette River, which was to take me to San Francisco. Lot was
too excited to speak much English, but he
found his way to my state-room and, big giant that he was, took me in his arms as if I
were a small boy, saying, "No, no! you not go! You stay here and we have peace!"
Of course I could not stay, and after a while Lot understood that
where the President sent me I must go, but we parted as if we were indeed brothers, and
this noble Indian went back to his tribe to teach them what was best in life and to
continue his good work for his people.
Famous Indian Chiefs
Source: Famous Indian Chiefs I have Known,
by Major-General O.O. Howard, US Army, 1908
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