- Access Genealogy - http://www.accessgenealogy.com -
Nez Percé and Shoshone Indian Lands in Idaho
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Idaho,Native American | No Comments
The Native Races of Idaho were divided by the Salmon River Range of mountains, the Nez Percé being the representative nation of the northern division, and the Shoshones of the southern. The condition and character of the former were relatively higher than those of the latter.
During the five years’ war from 1863 to 1868, the history of which I have given, the Nez Percé remained quiescent, taking no part in the hostilities, although they were not without their grievances, which might have tempted other savages to revolt. The troubles to which I here refer began in 1855, with the treaties made with them and the other tribes of eastern Oregon and Washington by Palmer and Stevens, superintendents respectively of the Indians of those territories. At this council there were two parties among the Nez Percé, one for and one against a treaty – a peace and a war party – but in the end all signed the treaty, and observed it, notwithstanding the strong influences brought to bear upon them by the surrounding tribes, who went to war after agreeing to its terms. They were conquered, and the country opened for settlement.
It was at this period, when the discovery of gold on the reservation of the Nez Percé caused white men to overrun it without regard to the rights of the Indians, that their loyalty was most severely tried, and that a division occurred in the nation. A war at this time was narrowly averted by the combined efforts of Superintendent Hale of Washington, and Lawyer, the head chief of the Nez Percé, together with the establishment of a military post at Lapwai.
At a council held in August 1861, at Lapwai, Eagle-from-the-light gave his voice for war, and for a coalition with the Shoshones. Looking-glass, the former war chief, was now too old to lead in battle, but Eagle-from-the-light was eager to succeed to his honors. A number of sub-chiefs were ready to support this measure; but on the other hand, the powerful interest represented by Lawyer was against it, and a company of dragoons under Captain Smith, stationed at Lapwai ostensibly to protect the Indians from the impositions of the miners, was a standing menace to the Nez Percé, should they break the peace. The council finally adjourned without agreeing upon anything in particular.
This condition of the Indian mind was strongly represented in congress, to procure an appropriation of $50,000 for the purpose of holding a treaty with the Nez Percé for the purchase of an important part of their reservation, $40,000 of which was appropriated, and expected to be in the hands of the agents by November 1862. Meanwhile the reservation was freely occupied by white men, who dug gold, built towns, laid out roads, and sold whiskey upon it, contrary to law. Even the military guard was withdrawn, because the commander of the military district dared not subject a company to temptation by placing it on the border of a rich mining region, lest it should desert. The irritability of the Indians becoming more manifest, General Alvord determined upon the establishment of a permanent post at Lapwai, on the return of Maury’s command from an expedition to Fort Hall, in the autumn of 1862.
November came, and the Indians were gathering to the promised council when the commissioners appointed were forced to announce that no funds had come to hand, and to defer the conference until the following May. Even the well-disposed Nez Percé found the unaccountable delay anything but reassuring, and were only kept on friendly terms by the efforts of William Craig and Robert Newell, in whose probity they had the greatest confidence. At length the 15th of May 1863, was fixed upon for the council. As a means to the peaceable ending of the conference, four companies of the 1st Oregon cavalry were stationed at Lapwai, and much display was made of the power and material of the military branch of the government, as well as its munificence in entertaining the whole Nez Percé nation, for which a village of tents with regularly laid out streets was spread upon a beautiful plat of ground about a mile from the fort.
Looking-glass had died in January, but Eagle-from-the-light, Big Thunder, and Joseph, all chiefs opposed to another treaty, were present with their 1,200 followers, and Lawyer and his sub-chiefs with his people, numbering about 2,000. On the part of the United States, there were Superintendent Hale, agents Hutchins and Howe, and Robert Newell. When all else was ready, a delay of two weeks occurred, because the Indians would have no interpreter but Perrin B. Whitman, who was in the Willamette Valley and had to be sent for. So much time thus allowed for discussion gave opportunity for recalling all the grievances of the past, and prognosticating for the future. The Palouses, taking advantage of this period of idleness, invaded the Nez Percé camp, bent upon mischief, one of them going so far as to strike Commissioner Howe with a riding-whip, when they were ordered off the reservation by Colonel Steinberger, and Drake’s company of cavalry assigned to the duty of keeping them away.
About the last of the month the council was allowed to begin. The lands to be treated for embraced an area of 10,000 square miles, containing, besides the mines, much good agricultural land. It was at this conference that the disaffected chiefs put in their claims to certain parts of the former reservation as their peculiar domain. That spot where the agency was located, and which was claimed also in part by the representatives of the American Board of Foreign Missions, was alleged by Big Thunder to belong to him. Eagle-from-the-light laid claim to the country on White Bird Creek, a small branch of Salmon River, and adjacent to the Florence mines. Joseph declared his title to the valley of Wallowa Creek, a tributary of the Grand Ronde River; and each holding for himself and band declined to sell.
The lands reserved by the treaty of 1855 embraced all the country enclosed by a line beginning at the source of the south fork of the Palouse, extending south-westerly to the mouth of the Tucannon, up the Tucannon to its source in the Blue Mountains, along this range in a general southerly direction to a point on Grand Rond River, midway between the Grand Rond and Wallowa Creek, along the divide between the Wallowa Creek and Powder River, crossing Snake River at the mouth of Powder River, thence in an easterly direction to Salmon River fifty miles above the mouth of the Little Salmon, thence north to the Bitter Root Mountains, and thence west to the place of beginning, comprising an area which later constituted five counties.
The first proposition of the commissioners was that the Nez Percé should sell all their lands except five or six hundred square miles situated on the south side of the south fork of the Clearwater, and embracing the Kamiah prairie, to be surveyed into allotments, with the understanding that a patent was to issue to each individual holding land in severalty, with payment for improvements abandoned. But to this the nation would not agree. The next proposition was to enlarge this boundary so as to double the amount of land, embracing, as before, the Kamiah prairie, the agricultural lands to be surveyed, and the provisions of the treaty of 1855 to be continued to them. There was to be expended, besides, $50,000 in wagons, farm stock, and agricultural implements, $10,000 in mills, $10,000 in schoolhouses, $6,000 for teachers for the first year, and half that amount annually for fourteen years for the same object. Buildings for teaching black-smithing and carpentering were to be furnished. Between $4,000 and $5,000 was to be paid for the horses furnished Governor Stevens and the volunteers during the war of 1855-6. The Indians might sell their improvements to private individuals or the government; and the whole of the stipulations should be carried out within one year after the ratification of the treaty by the senate of the United States. This proposition was to be final.
Lawyer then made a speech containing a remarkable mixture of diplomacy and sarcasm – the sarcasm being a part of the diplomacy – giving evidence of those peculiar talents which enabled this chief always to out general his rivals. He assured the commissioners that he and his chiefs and people fully understood the present position of the government toward the Nez Percé, who were a law-abiding people, while the government itself had broken its own law, the treaty of 1855. He had understood that there were two opinions in congress concerning the making of a new treaty. As to the old one, he was willing to adhere to that, as he had done heretofore, having always regarded himself sacredly bound by it, and the chiefs who refused to be governed by it as beyond the pale of the law, and not acknowledged by him to be chiefs. Although satisfied that the first treaty was preferable, he would like to hear what the United States proposed to give for the reservation lands, and that the government was disposed to be just.
The object of this speech was fourfold: to show that he was in a position to object to the proffered treaty, to arraign the government of the United States, to make this the ground for securing additional benefits should he consent to the propositions of the government agents, and to proclaim as outlaws all the other chiefs who did not follow his direction, by which proclamation his alliance with the government would be strengthened, this being the foundation of his power with his own people. After this speech of Lawyers, the rival chiefs, Big Thunder, Three Feathers, Eagle-from-the-light, and Joseph, who had held aloof from the conference, came into the council, when Lawyer with great adroitness appeared to side with them, and declared the Nez Percé would never sell their country, though they might be brought to consent to gold-mining upon it for a sufficient consideration. Some of the chiefs questioned the authority of the commissioners to make a treaty, and the Indians appeared to be drifting farther away from a friendly feeling as the negotiations continued. Superintendent Hale, affecting to resent the imputation upon his authority, replied that the doubt would terminate the council, and he had nothing further to submit.
The withdrawal of the commissioners changed the attitude of Lawyer, who intimated that in a few days he would offer a proposition of his own. On the 3d of June a grand council was again called, at which all the chiefs of both divisions of the Nez Percé were present except Eagle-from-the-light. The objections of Lawyer were answered, the grievances of the Indians explained away by the commissioners, and the thanks of the government tendered for the loyal services of the tribe in the past. They were assured that the government desired their welfare, and believed it would be promoted by locating on a reservation where they could be protected, and their land secured to them forever in severalty by a patent from the government; but if they were unable to come to any conclusion, the council would be immediately terminated.
On the evening of that day Lawyer offered to give up the land on which Lewiston was situated, with twelve miles around it, including the Lapwai agency and post, which was promptly rejected. There was now a lengthened consultation among the Indians; and again several meetings of the council were hold, the non-treaty chiefs being present. They were told by Commissioner Hutchins that their sullen and unfriendly manner was the occasion of the disagreements among the Nez Percé, and that although they might persist in refusing to accept their annuities, as they had done heretofore, such action would not release them from the obligations of the treaty they had signed in 1855. To this they severally replied with out altering their attitude of passive hostility, and withdrew from the council, Eagle-from-the-light being already absent, but represented by a deputation of his warriors.
Affairs now assumed a threatening aspect, the commissioners fearing the defection of the whole tribe, and having apprehensions for their safety. A message was dispatched to the fort, and a small detachment of cavalry, under Captain Curry, ordered to the council-ground. It arrived about one o’clock at night, finding everything quiet except at one of the principal lodges, where fifty-three chiefs and headmen were assembled in earnest debate, the arguments being continued until almost daybreak, when, being still unable to agree, the principal chiefs on each side dissolved, in a solemn but not unfriendly manner, their confederacy, and having shaken hands, separated, to go each his own way with his followers. The seceders were Eagle-from-the-light, Big Thunder, Joseph, and Coolcoolselina, with their headmen.
At the next meeting of the council, Lawyer, for himself and the nation, accepted the proposition of the commissioners, somewhat altered and amended, and the 9th of June was set for the signing of the new treaty, and the distribution of presents. Hope was entertained that the disaffected chiefs would finally yield, but in this the commissioners were disappointed. From the subsequent action of one of these chiefs, it is presumable that they believed that by refusing to sign the treaty made with the majority of the nation, they would be able to hold their several favorite haunts.
The terms of the new treaty reserved an extent of country bounded by a line beginning at a point on the north bank of the Clearwater, three miles below the mouth of Lapwai Creek, crossing to the north bank at Hatwai Creek and taking in a strip of country seven miles wide along the river, reaching to the North Fork, thence in a general southerly course to the 46th parallel, and thence west and north to the place of beginning, containing 1,500,000 acres, or about 500 acres to every individual in the nation, and embracing Kamiah prairie and many small valleys, as well as some mountain land, the whole being less than one sixth of the former reservation. By this division, Lawyer retained his home at Kamiah, and Big Thunder his location at Lapwai, these two being the principal men in the nation.
The consideration agreed to be paid for the relinquished lands, in addition to the annuities due under the former treaty, and the goods and provisions distributed at the signing of the treaty, was $200,000, of which $150,000 was to be expended in removing and settling on the reservation such families as were outside the new limits, and ploughing and fencing their lots, which were also to be surveyed for them, four years being allowed for the completion of this part of the contract. The sums already mentioned as offered for farm-wagons and implements, mills, school-houses, and schools, were to be paid, with an additional $50,000 for boarding and clothing the children, and two years additional of the school appropriation at $2,000 a year. To build two churches within a year after the ratification of the treaty – one at Lapwai and one at Kamiah – $2,500 was provided. Provision was made for two subordinate chiefs, with a salary of $500 each, and houses furnished. Inasmuch as several provisions of the former treaty had not been carried out, $16,000 was agreed upon to supply the deficiency. To the chief Timothy, who led Colonel Steptoe into the midst of his enemies in 1858, was allowed $600 to build him a house. The Nez Percé claim for horses was to be paid in gold coin, and all the conditions of the first treaty not abrogated or changed were to remain in force, the United States reserving the right to lay out roads across the reservation, build hotels or stage-stations, and establish the crossings of streams; but the profits of ferriage, licenses, and rents accruing from these improvements were reserved to the Indians, as well as the timber, springs, and fountains on the reservation.
I have dwelt thus particularly upon the conditions of the Nez Percé treaty because of the prominence of this aboriginal nation among the tribes of the northwest, and in order to explain what is to follow. Congress being fully occupied with the complex questions arising during the civil war, and in consequence of it, gave little attention to Indian affairs, and had little money to expend upon treaties. The Nez Percé meanwhile had much to complain of. The treaty of 1855 was not ratified until 1859. No appropriation was made until 1861, and then only a partial one. Another partial payment was made in 1862. Meanwhile evil-disposed persons poisoned the minds of that portion of the tribe which had always been disaffected, saying that the government was broken up by the rebellion and could not redeem its promises, and that the Indians were fools to observe their part of the compact. There was much justification for apprehension of fraud or failure in the overrunning of the reservation by miners, and the location of the capital of the territory upon it. It was to do away with these fears and establish the status of both white and red men that the new treaty was proposed.
But here again the government was remiss. It neither honored the old treaty nor confirmed the new. In 1865 I find the agents writing that no money has been received since June 1863; that the white settlers insisted upon the terms of the new treaty not yet confirmed, while the Indians clung to the old, and there was danger that a hostile confederacy would be formed between the people of Eagle-from-the-light and the Blackfoot and Crow nations for the extermination of the white settlers of Idaho and Montana. At length, upon the representations of Governor Lyon, a sum little short of $70,000 was placed in his hands for the benefit of the Indians, but for $50,000 of which he failed to account. Thus time and money slipped away.
In 1867, the senate having amended the treaty of 1863, a special agent was appointed in conjunction with Governor Ballard and others, to induce the Nez Percé to accept the amendments; but this being refused, the treaty was finally ratified in its first form by six hundred of the nation, and in the following year Lawyer, Utsemilicum, Timothy, and Jason, chiefs, attended by P. B. Whitman, interpreter, and Robert Newell, made a journey to Washington City, by permission of the president, to talk with him and the head of the Indian department about the still existing differences of construction put upon those articles. Utsemilicum died in Washington soon after arriving, but Lawyer, who could better bear the strong rays of civilization’s midday sun, lived to profit by his visit, and returned with Jason to instruct his people.
In 1869 the government made a change in the administration of affairs at the various Indian agencies, by assigning to each a military officer as agent, and Lieutenant J. W. Wham was appointed to the Lapwai agency. The superintendent of Indian affairs was also a military officer, whom we have met in southern Oregon, Colonel De L. Floyd Jones. But by an act of congress, passed in July 1870, it was made necessary to relieve officers of the army from this service, and the next change made was that of placing the appointment of Indian agents in the choice of religious societies, to each of whom certain agencies were assigned by the department. The Nez Percé were placed in charge of the Presbyterians, who nominated a man of their church, J. B. Monteith.
None of these, however, were as satisfactory to the Indians as their former agents had been. D. M. Sells, who relieved Wham in February 1870, was much complained of for a ‘scandalous fraud’ in fencing the Indian farms, and Monteith was obnoxious on account of his sectarianism, a part of the Indians being Catholic, and desiring Catholic teachers. Then the government appointed another commission to inquire into this and other grievances, which reported that Catholic interference would destroy the effect of the instruction given by the government under the Presbyterians. The other causes of dissatisfaction related to the presence of certain white persons upon the reservation whom the agent wished removed, but whom Jacob, who had been elected head chief, desired to remain.
These were important issues on a reservation, and employed the politicians of the Nez Percé nation, who had little else to do, in a continual attempt to show cause why they should not be satisfied, although the treaty of 1863, when finally ratified, had been pretty faithfully observed. The greatest obstacle in the way of the welfare of the Indians was the same now that it had been when Spalding first taught amongst them – an abhorrence of labor. The reservation system, although made unavoidable by the danger to the Indians of contact with white men’s vices, encouraged idleness by providing for the wants of the Indians until such time as the benefits of their treaties should expire, and they be compelled to work.
But it was not only that the Nez Percé on the reservation required much soothing; ever since the council of 1863 there was a threatening faction among the non-treaty Nez Percé who had never removed to the reserve. Eagle-from-the-light spent most of his time east of the Rocky Mountains among the war-like tribes of Montana and the plains. Several petty chiefs resided on tributaries of the Salmon and Snake rivers in Idaho, and Joseph, son of that chief Joseph who had been a member of Spalding’s church at Lapwai away back in 1844, made the valley of Wallowa Creek in Oregon his summer resort for fishing and grazing his stock, but for the rest of the time roamed where he pleased.
Joseph‘s people came in contact with the Shoshones, and with a bad class of white men, neither of which were profitable as associates. The longer he remained off the reservation and under these influences the worse it was for everybody – at least, so thought the inhabitants of Idaho, who had an experimental knowledge of Indian disturbances, and who, alarmed by the Modoc war, arising from almost exactly similar circumstances, urged the Indian department to take measures to remove all the Indians to their reservations.
Accordingly, in March 1873, Superintendent Odeneal of Oregon, and Agent Monteith, under instructions from the secretary of the interior, held a conference with Joseph and his followers at Lapwai, to listen to their grievances and report to the secretary. At this conference Joseph entirely repudiated the treaty of 1863, and declared his refusal to go upon either the Umatilla or Nez Percé reservations, as proposed. Upon this report, the secretary issued an order that Joseph‘s band should be permitted to remain in the Wallowa Valley during the summer and autumn, promising that they should not be disturbed so long as they remained quiet. The secretary also directed that a description of the country should be sent to him, that he might make an order setting apart this valley for the exclusive use of the Indians, prohibiting its further settlement by white people, and enabling him to purchase the improvements already made. On the 16th of June the president set apart a reservation for the non-treaty Nez Percé under Joseph, including the Wallowa and Immaha valleys, the latter being the usual residence of this chief.
This infraction of the treaty of 1863 by the secretary and president occasioned much disapprobation, and gave further cause for alarm, being a repetition of the course pursued toward the Modocs, which resulted so disastrously. The newspapers warned the people to be ready in case of an outbreak, with their arms in order and ammunition on hand. A company of volunteers was raised at Mount Idaho, which being on the border of the reservation was in the most exposed situation. The governor of Idaho made a requisition upon the ordnance department of the United States, which shipped to him 500 Springfield rifled muskets, and ammunition in large quantity, which arms and ammunition were to be issued to organized military companies, under certain restrictions and pledges.
These precautions were not without good reason, there being much uneasiness among all the tribes in Idaho, caused, it was believed, by the Modoc war, and frequent instances were reported of insolent and threatening behavior, with occasional thefts and murders, which were generally attributed to the Shoshones. The Coeur d’Alenes and other northern tribes partook of the excitement, and Odenal and Monteith were directed to negotiate with them, after which a council was held, July 29, 1873, between the Coeur d’Alenes and the commissioners before mentioned as having been appointed in this year. These Indians had never entered into treaty relations with the United States, but had remained friendly after the punishment administered in 1858 by Colonel Wright. A reservation had been assigned to them in 1867 by order of the president, upon which, however, they had never been confined, and which interested persons had caused to be changed, to their injury. Agents who had been appointed to reside among them to protect their rights had not done so. Of some of these they complained that their practices and examples were scandalous. These abuses the commissioners promised should be corrected, and a new reservation was agreed upon, extending from the mouth of the Okanagan River eastward by the course of the Columbia and Spokane Rivers to the boundary line between Washington and Idaho, and east of that five miles, whence it ran north to the 49th parallel and west along that line to the middle of the channel of the Okanagan River, and thence to its mouth. This large area was reserved for the several tribes residing upon it, namely, the Lower Spokane, Lake, San Poel, Colville, Pend d’Oreille, Kootenai, and Methom bands, as well as the Coeur d’Alenes. All the improvements of white persons were to be purchased and presented to the Indians, except those of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which had been paid for in the award to that company. To any head of a family desiring to begin to farm for a livelihood, a certificate was to be issued securing the possession of 160 acres, with assistance in putting in a crop and building houses. Schools were to follow in good time. Every child of a white father and Indian mother should be entitled to inherit from the estate of the father, and cohabitation should be considered to constitute marriage in a suit for the rights of inheritance.
On the part of the Indians, they promised to surrender their title to the country south and east of the tract reserved, and asked no pay, in money or goods; but if the United States wished, they would accept such help as above named. A year afterward congress had taken no action in the matter, and the Indians were still roaming and unsettled.
(↵ returns to text)
Article printed from Access Genealogy: http://www.accessgenealogy.com
URL to article: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/nez-perce-and-shoshone-indian-lands-in-idaho.htm
Copyright © 2013 Access Genealogy (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/). All rights reserved.