Collection: Massacres of the Mountains

Cañon de Chelly and Bosque Redondo

We left the Navahos in their chronic state of war, that is to say, the state of robbing their neighbors and being robbed by them while the troops were absent, and of making peace when the troops marched against them. From the mass of conflicting testimony taken in 1865, in regard to the Indian history of New Mexico, and from other sources, it appears that one side made aggressions about as often as the other, the common opinion being that the Navahos captured the greater number of sheep, and the Mexicans the greater number of slaves. The Navahos were preferred to other Indians for slaves on account of their tractable nature, intelligence, light skins, and the voluptuousness of the females. Dr. Louis Kennon, whose opportunities for observation had been good, testified, ” I think the number of Navajo captives held as slaves to be underestimated. I think there are from five to six thousand. I know of no family which can raise one hundred and fifty dollars but what purchases a Navajo slave, and many families own four or five the trade in them being as regular as the trade in pigs or sheep. Previous to the war their price was from seventy-five to a hundred dollars, but now they are worth about four hundred dollars. But the other day some Mexican Indians from Chihuahua were for sale in...

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Sand Creek Massacre

On the night of November 28, 1864, about seven hundred and fifty men, cavalry and artillery, were marching eastward across the plains below Fort Lyon. There was a bitter, determined look on their hard-set features that betokened ill for some one. For five days they had been marching, from Bijou Basin, about one hundred and fifty miles to the northwest, as the crow flies, but some fifty miles farther by their route. When they started the snow was two to three feet deep on the ground, but, as they progressed, it had become lighter, and now the ground was clear. The night was bitter cold; Jim Beckwith, the old trapper who had been guiding them, had become so stiffened that he was unable longer to distinguish the course, and they were obliged to rely on a half-breed Indian. About one third of the men had the appearance of soldiers who had seen service; the remainder had a diversity of arms and equipments as well as of uniforms, and marched with the air of raw recruits. About half a mile in advance were three men, the half-breed guide and two officers, one of the hitter of such gigantic proportions that the others seemed pygmies beside him. Near daybreak the half-breed turned to the white men and said: “Wolf he howl. Injun dog he hear wolf, he howl too. Injun he...

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Desire to Punish the Cheyenne Indians

It is equally certain that the desire of punishing these Indians was increased, with loyal people, by the belief that their hostility was produced by Southern emissaries. How far their hostility was so produced will never be definitely known, but there was reason for the belief, without doubt. Soon after the beginning of the war the insurgents had occupied Indian Territory and enrolled many Indians in Confederate regiments. The loyal Indians tried to resist, but, after two or three engagements, about seven thousand of them were driven into Kansas. From the men among them three regiments were organized, and the women and children were subsisted out of the annuities of the hostiles. In the latter part of 1862, John Ross, head chief of the Cherokees, announced officially that the Cherokee nation had treated with the Confederate States, and, as is well known, there were several regiments of Indians in the regular Confederate service, besides numbers in irregular relations, among whom were Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Osages, Seminoles, Senecas, Shawnees, Quapaws, Comanches, Wachitas, Kiowas, and Pottawattamies, and none of them regained friendly relations with the United States until the treaty of September 21, 1865. On the south of Colorado the Comanches and Kiowas were at war, with Southern sympathies. The Mescaleros had taken the warpath on the advance of the Texans. To the north it was the same. The Sioux...

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Were the Cheyenne Responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre?

But were the Cheyennes responsible for all this? Quite as much so as any of the tribes. They began stealing stock early in the spring, and, on April 13, a herdsman for Irving, Jackmann, & Co. reported that the Cheyennes and Arapahoes had run off sixty head of oxen and a dozen mules and horses from their camp, thirty miles south of Denver. Lieutenant Clark Dunn was sent after them with a small party of soldiers. He overtook them as they were crossing the Platte, during a heavy snowstorm. A parley was commenced, but was interrupted by part of the Indians running off the stock, and the soldiers attempting to disarm the others. A fight ensued, in which the soldiers, who were greatly outnumbered, were defeated, with a loss of four men, the Indians still holding the cattle. After this fight, there was not a word nor an act from any member of the Southern Cheyennes indicative of peace, until the 1st of September, when the Indian agent at Fort Lyon received the following: Cheyenne Village Aug 22, 1864 “Major Collet, We received a letter from Bent, wishing us to make peace. We held a council in regard to it. All come to the conclusion to make peace with you, providing you make peace with the Kiowas, Comanches, Arapahoes, Apaches, and Sioux. We are going to send a messenger...

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Indian Slaves in the Rocky Mountains

All through the Rocky Mountains, except in what we have called the northeastern triangle, this system of human slavery extended, and it had obtained such a root that it was very hard to extirpate. In Colorado it was brought to a summary end, so far as white slaveholders were concerned, in 1865, through the efforts of the government. Indian Agent Head, accompanied by Deputy Marshall E. R. Harris, visited all owners of Indian slaves and informed them that they must be released. Says Mr. Head, “I have notified all the people here that in future no more captives are to be purchased or sold, as I shall immediately arrest both parties caught in the transaction. This step, I think, will at once put an end to the most barbarous and inhuman practice which has been in existence with the Mexicans for generations. There are captives who know not their own parents, nor can they speak their mother tongue, and who recognize no one but those who rescued [!] them from their merciless captors.” In New Mexico and Arizona the slaves have not yet been fully emancipated. There were twenty Mexican slaves released from among the Navahos in 1883. In 1866 the number of Indians held as slaves and peons by the whites was estimated officially at two thousand. There are undoubtedly many Indian slaves held among the Mexicans in...

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Apache Resist the Advance of the Whites

No more serious phase of the Indian problem has presented itself to the American people than that offered by the Apache tribes. Aided by the desert nature of their country, they have resisted the advance of the whites longer than any other Indian nation. They have fought with bravery and inconceivable cunning. They have committed atrocities that devils alone would seem capable of, and have been subjected to atrocities that devils might blush to commit. They have made their name a terror and a thing of execration to a section of country five times larger than all New England. They have kept miners for years from treasure deposits that have been regarded as of fabulous richness. They have gained the reputation of being the most treacherous, cruel, and inhuman savages that have been known in the United States. People who have been willing to extend sympathy and assistance to other Indians, have stood aghast at the murderous work of the Apaches, and given their opinions that nothing but the extermination of the tribe could ever rid Arizona and New Mexico of a constant liability to outrage and devastation. In noteworthy connection with this reputation is the fact that the Apaches are among the least known of the Indian tribes. Not only has their hostile attitude prevented white men from associating with them, but even when brought in contact with...

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Yakima Malcontents of 1856

One thing, of course, is to be remembered – there were all degrees of offending, from the active hostile to the almost neutral, just as there are in every Indian war. The worst of them all were Kamiaken, his brothers Skloom and Shawawai, Owhi and his son Qualchian, the Yakima malcontents of 1856, who had been roaming among the tribes, exciting discontent and committing depredations where they could Kamiaken was the most influential of them all. He was a man of unusual stature and remarkable strength. No man in the tribe could bend his bow. He was rated the best orator from the Cascades to the Rockies, and appears to have been inspired by a patriotic hope of throwing off the supremacy of the whites. In later years, when his plans were miscarried and his hopes of a great combination of the Indians against the common foe dashed to the ground, he refused to return to his own country, and, apparently brokenhearted, passed the rest of his days east of the Columbia. The Pelouses were next in culpability. They were a tribe of about five hundred, living along the north side of the Snake River. They were in three bands: Que-lap-tip, with forty lodges, camped usually at the mouth of the Pelouse; So-ie, with twelve lodges, was located thirty miles below on the Snake; Til-co-ax (Tel-ga-wax, Til-ca-icks), with thirty...

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War with the Spokan, Coeur d’Alene, and Pelouse

While the commissioners were negotiating with the Mormons, an extraordinary outbreak occurred in the eastern part of Washington Territory, which hitherto had been a scene of peace between the red man and the white. It had been the boast of the Spokanes and the Coeur d’Alenes that they had never shed the blood of a white man. In the winter and early spring of 1858, however, it was represented that there was much restlessness among the northern tribes, especially in the neighborhood of the Colville mines, and Brevet Lieutenant colonel Steptoe, who commanded at new Fort WallaWalla, determined to make an excursion in that direction. The new fort, which had been established as a military post after the last war, was on Walla Walla Creek, thirty miles east of the old fort, the latter being now used as an agency by the quartermaster’s department. In addition to looking after the northern inquietude, Colonel Steptoe also desired to investigate the recent murder of two American miners by a party of Pelouse (Paluce, Galousse) Indians, and, if possible, to bring the murderers to justice. These Indians lived just to the north of the Snake River, and were directly in his line of travel. Steptoe left Fort Walla Walla on May 6th with one hundred and fifty-seven men, dragoons and infantry, the latter acting as runners for two howitzers which were taken....

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Mountain Meadow Remains Buried

In the spring of 1859 a company of dragoons and two companies of infantry, under Captain K. P. Campbell, passed through the Meadows and buried the remains. Theirs was the last view of the Lord’s work. Dr. Charles Brewer, in charge of the burying party, reported; “At the scene of the first attack, in the immediate vicinity of our present camp, marked by a small defensive trench made by the emigrants, a number of human skulls, and bones and hair, were found scattered about, bearing the appearance of never having been buried; also remnants of bedding and wearing apparel. On examining the trenches, which appear to have been within the corral, and within which it was supposed some written account of the massacre might have been concealed, some few human bones, human hair, and what seemed to be the feathers of bedding, only were discerned. Proceeding 2500 yards in a direction N. 15° W., I reached a ravine fifty yards distant from the road, bordered by a few bushes of scrub oak, in which I found portions of the skeletons of many bodies – skulls, bones, and matted hair – most of which, on examination, I concluded to be those of men. 350 yards farther on, and in the same direction, another assembly of human remains were found, which, by all appearance, had been left to decay upon the...

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Mormons Passed in Preparation for War

During the long summer days that the Mormons passed in preparation for war, an emigrant train, known on the road as Captain Fancher’s train, was passing through Utah. It reached Salt Lake City in August, and took the “southern route ” which led through Provo, Nephi, Fillmore, Beaver, and Cedar City, and at the last named place joined the Spanish trail from Los Angeles to New Mexico, which ran thence southwest to the coast of California. These emigrants numbered originally fifty-six men and sixty-two women and children, most of them being from Carroll, Johnson, Marion, and other northern counties of Arkansas. At Salt Lake City they were joined by several disaffected Mormons. They had thirty good wagons, about thirty mules and horses, and six hundred cattle. Dr. Brewer, of the army, who met them on the Platte, in June, said it was ” probably the finest train that had ever crossed the plains. There seemed to be about forty heads of families, many women, some unmarried, and many children. They had three carriages, one very tine, in which ladies rode. Slowly this long line wound its way up the Jordan, around the sedgy border of Utah Lake, through Juab Valley, and down the long, dreary stretch of road from the Sevier to Little Salt Lake. At Beaver they were joined by a Missourian, who had been held in custody...

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Mountain Meadows Massacre

During these years whose happenings we have been recording, there has been a community existing in the centre of our region that we have barely noticed. Their history, at any period, is a subject which a conscientious writer approaches unwillingly, for it involves a certain consideration of the merits of Mormonism and the Mormons, and that means wholesale denunciation, almost always of the Mormons, and very frequently of their enemies. Sweeping accusations must be made, and these, he knows, weaken alike the testimony of a witness, the plea of an orator, and the statement of an author. It is repugnant to man to believe that the majority of mankind are evil, and it is contrary to ordinary experience that any large class or sect of men should be radically bad. Besides this, all candid men will admit that the Mormons have at times been treated badly; that the killing of Joseph Smith, their prophet, was one of the most disgraceful murders ever known in this country; and that they were driven from their homes in Missouri and Illinois under circumstances of cruel severity. But candid men must also admit that past suffering is no excuse for continuing crime, and, leaving out of consideration all of their offenses that preceded or followed it, it has not fallen, nor shall fall, to the lot of any man to record a more...

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Los Nabajos

Of all the interesting Indians of the Far West none are more interesting than the Navahos. The name is a Spanish one, in their orthography Nabajos or Navajos, and signifies ponds or small lakes. Their country, which abounds in these, most of them full in the rainy season and dry the remainder of the year, was originally called Navajoa, and the Indians, in the old New Mexican records, were called “Apaches de Navajoa,” which has gradually given place to the present form. The Apaches proper call them Yu-tah-kah, and they call themselves Tenuai or “men,” a title which nearly all the American tribes take to themselves in their respective languages. Their home, from our earliest knowledge of them, has been in the northwestern corner of New ‘Mexico and the northeastern corner of Arizona. It may, in a general way, be described as lying between parallels 35 and 37 of north latitude and 107 and 111 of west longitude; or east of the Moqui villages, north of Zuñi, west of the divide between the Rio Grande and the Pacific slope, and south of the Rio San Juan. Across it, from southeast to northwest, is a ridge of high land which takes a mountainous shape at the northern end. It is there known as the Sierra Tunicha; farther south as the Chusca; still to the south and cast as the Mesa...

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Tribes East of the Cascade Mountains Dissatisfied

Several of the tribes east of the Cascade Mountains were dissatisfied with the treaties which had been made with them, for their lands, by Governor Stevens, in the spring of 1855. They did not understand the bargain as the whites did. Chief among these were the Yakimas (Black Bears), a strong tribe of Washington Territory, whose country lay just north of the Klickitats. They were closely united by intermarriage and interest with both the Klickitats and the “King Georges,” or British, and carried on an extensive commerce through all the northern country from the coast to the Rocky Mountains. Their chiefs, Kamiaken, Owahi, Skloo, and others, had signed the treaty of Walla Walla under strong pressure from Governor Stevens, and almost immediately repudiated it. The Indians claimed that the chiefs who signed it had been bought up, a practice occasionally resorted to by the representatives of the government; they were indignant and alarmed. To the representations of the Hudson’s Bay people, that the Americans would take their lands, the Yakimas lent a credent ear. In fact, they had only to look across the mountains to see the lands of other tribes taken without recompense, while disease was sweeping the expelled owners from the face of the earth. Disaffection was rife everywhere, and there was scarcely a tribe from the British possessions to California but had its grievance. Mormon emissaries...

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Rogue River, Yakama and Klickitat War

Oregon was organized as a territory in 1848 by Congress, and its territorial government went into operation in the following spring, on the arrival of the governor, General Joe Lane, an Indianian who had won distinction in the Mexican War. Under the organic act, it embraced the country west of the Rocky Mountains north of parallel 42. The part of this north of parallel 46 to its intersection with the Columbia, and north of the Columbia thence westward to the ocean, was organized as Washington Territory in 1853. At the time of the organization of Oregon, the part afterwards erected into Washington Territory was still virtually in the hands of the Hudson’s Bay Company, except that a few families had settled in 1844 at Tumwater, now a suburb of Olympia, and one or two more at the latter place. Its first governor, Isaac I. Stevens (the Brigadier general Stevens of the Union army who fell at Bull Run), arrived, overland, in the fall of 1853, with a surveying party, examining the country which they traversed with regard to its availability as a railroad route. To these territories we must now return, for, while a restless peace has been maintained in Washington and Northern Oregon for several years, trouble has arisen in the South. Along the southern boundary, extending into both California and Oregon were several warlike tribes, who, though...

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The Outman Family goes on Alone

If an American who was not acquainted with the country might be seized by some supernal power and suddenly placed in Southwestern Arizona, he would never suspect that he was within the boundaries of the United States. Its soil, its vegetation, its sierra outlines, its dry, phantasmagoric atmosphere, its animal life, and its inhabitants, are all strange. Towards the Gulf of California the country for many miles is dry, barren, and desert, with no plant life but the cactuses, and even these seem depressed and hopeless, except when an angel’s visit of rain brightens them. A little farther back come ranges of Granite Mountains, still more desert than the plains, for on their sides no vegetation appears, nor any soil to support vegetation. White and glistening, they rear their crests like the skeletons of mountains whose flesh had dropped away. Still farther back more vegetation shows, but it is strange to the average American. There is a broken carpet of grass in many places, brown and dead in appearance. Here and there is a mesquite, a palo verde, or a patch of sage. The Spanish bayonet thrusts out its sharp leaves. The century plant rears its lance like stem and floats its graceful flowers. The prickly pear spreads its flat, jointed limbs in the heated air. Most striking of all, the saguarra, or pitahaya (petahyah), the giant cereus of...

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