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I. H. Leavenworth, trusted friend

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                   


In October of the next year some of the bands, having first had their safety assured by an old and tried friend, I. H. Leavenworth, Indian Agent for the Upper Arkansas, gathered together to hold a council with United States Commissioners on the Little Arkansas. The commissioners were empowered by the President to restore to the survivors of the Sand Creek massacre full value for all the property then destroyed; " to make reparation," so far as possible. To each woman who bad lost a husband there they gave one hundred and sixty acres of land; to each child who had lost a parent, the same. Probably even an Indian woman would consider one hundred and sixty acres, of land a' poor equivalent for a murdered husband; but the offers were accepted in good part by the tribe, and there is nothing in all the history of this patient race more pathetic than the calm and reasonable language employed by some of these Cheyenne and Arapahoe chiefs at this council. Said Black Kettle, the chief over whose lodge the American flag, with a white flag tied below, was floating at the time of the massacre, "I once thought that I was the only man that persevered to be the friend of the white man; but since they have come and cleaned out our lodges, horses, and everything else, it is hard for me to believe white men any more. * ** All my friends, the Indians that are holding back, they are afraid to come in; are afraid that they will be betrayed as I have been. I am not afraid of white men, but come and take you by the hand." Elsewhere, Black Kettle spoke of Colonel Chivington's troops as " that fool - band of soldiers that cleared out our lodges, and killed our women and children. This is hard on us." With a magnanimity and common sense which white men would have done well to imitate in their judgments of the Indians, lie recognized that it would be absurd, as well as unjust, to hold all white men in distrust on account of the acts. of that "fool-band of soldiers."

e terms of this treaty, a new reservation was to be set apart for the Cheyenne and Arapaho; hostile acts on either side were to be settled by arbitration; no whites were to be allowed on the reservation; a large tract of country was to be "relinquished" by the Indians, but they were "expressly permitted to reside upon and range at pleasure throughout the unsettled portions of that part of the country they claim as originally theirs." The United States reserved the right to build roads and establish forts in the reservation, and pledged itself to pay "annually, for the period of forty years," certain sums of money to each person in the tribe: twenty dollars a head till they were settled on their reservation; after that, forty dollars a head. To this end an accurate annual census of the Indians was promised at the time of the annuity payment in the spring.

The Indians went away from this council full of hope and satisfaction. Their oldest friends, Colonel Bent and Kit Carson, were among the commissioners, and they felt that at last they had a treaty they could trust. Their old reservation in Colorado (to which they probably could never have been induced to return) was restored to the public domain of that territory, and they hoped in their new home for greater safety and peace. The Apaches, who had heretofore been allied with the Kiowa and Comanche, were now allied with them, and to have the benefits of the new treaty. A small portion of the tribe-chiefly young men of a turbulent nature-still held aloof, and refused to come under the treaty provisions. One riotous band, called the Dog Soldiers, were especially refractory; but, before the end of the next year, they also decided to go southward and join the rest of the tribe on the new reservation. Occasional hostilities took place in the course of the winter, one of which it is worthwhile to relate, the incident is so typical a one.

On the 21st of February a son of one Mr. Boggs was killed and scalped by a party of four Cheyenne Indians about six miles east of Fort Dodge, on the Arkansas River. On investigation, it appeared that Mr. Boggs bad gone to the Indian camp without any authority, and had there traded off eleven one-dollar bills for ten-dollar bills. The Indian on whom this trick had been played found Mr. Boggs out, went to him, and demanded reparation; and, in the altercation and fight, which ensued, Mr. Boggs's son was killed. This story is given in the official report of Lieutenant-colonel Gordon, U.S.A., and Colonel Gordon adds, "I think this case needs no further comment."

The Cheyenne did not long remain at peace; in the summer the Senate had added to this last treaty an amendment requiring their new reservation to be entirely "outside the State of Kansas, and not within any Indian territory, except on consent of the tribes interested." As the reservation had been partly in Kansas, and partly on the lands of the Cherokees, this amendment left them literally without any home whatever. Under these circumstances, the young men of the tribe soon began to join again with other hostile Indians in committing depredations and hostilities along the great mail-routes on the plains. Again they were visited with summary and apparently deserved vengeance by the United States troops, and in the summer of 1867 a Cheyenne village numbering three hundred lodges was burnt by United States soldiers under General Hancock. Fortunately the women and children had all fled on the first news of the approach of the army. Soon after this another council was held with them, and once more the precarious peace was confirmed by treaty; but was almost immediately broken again in consequence of the failure of the Government to comply with the treaty provisions. That some members of these tribes had also failed to keep to the treaty provisions is undoubtedly true, but by far the greater part of them were loyal and peaceable. "The substantial cause of this war," however, was acknowledged by the Indian Bureau itself to be " the fact that the Department, for want of appropriations, was compelled to stop their supplies, and to permit them to recur to the chase for subsistence."

In 1868 "the country bounded east by the State of Arkansas, south by Texas, north by Kansas, and west by the hundredth meridian of longitude, was set apart for the exclusive use of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Comanche, and such other bands as might be located there by proper authority;" and the whole was declared to constitute "a military district," under command of Major-general Hazen, U.S.A. In October of the same year Major Wynkoop, who had been the faithful friend of the Cheyenne and Arapaho ever since the days of Sand Creek, published his last protest in their behalf, in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He says that the failure of the Government to fulfill treaty provisions in the matter of supplies forced them to resort to hunting again; and then the refusal of the Government to give them the arms and ammunition promised in the treaty, left them without any means of securing the game; hence the depredations. The chiefs had promised to deliver up the guilty ones to Major Wynkoop, "but before sufficient time had elapsed for them to fulfill their promises the troops were in the field, and the Indians in flight. * * * Even after the majority of the Cheyenne had been forced to take the war-path, in consequence of the bad acts of some of their nation, several bands of the Cheyenne, and the whole Arapahoe tribe, could have been kept at peace had proper action been taken at the time; but now all the Indians of the Upper Arkansas are engaged in the struggle."

In 1869 many Arapaho and Cheyenne had made their way to Montana, and were living with the Gros Ventre; most of those who remained at the south were quiet, and seemed to be disposed to observe the provisions of the treaty, but were earnestly imploring to be moved farther to the north, where they might hunt buffalo.

In 1870, under the care of an agent of the Society of Friends, the improvement of the Southern Cheyenne was remarkable. Buildings were put up, land was broken and planted, and the agent reports that," with proper care on the part of the Government," there will not be any "serious trouble" with the tribe, although there are still some " restless spirits" among them.

In 1872 the Cheyenne and Arapaho are reported as "allied to the Government in the maintenance of peace on the border. Very strong inducements have been made by the raiding bands of Kiowa, at critical times in the past two years, to join them in hostile alliance in raids against the whites; but all such appeals have been rejected, and, as a tribe, they have remained loyal and peaceful."

Thirty lodges of the Northern Cheyenne returned this year and joined their tribe, but many of them were still roaming among the Northern Sioux. In 1874 there were said to be over three thousand of these Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho at the Red Cloud Agency. The Government refused any longer to permit them to stay there; and, after repeated protests, and expressions of unwillingness to move, they at last consented to go to the Indian Territory. But their removal was deferred, on account of the unsettled state of the Southern Cheyenne. Early in the spring troubles had broken out among them, in consequence of a raid of horse - thieves on their reservation. The chief, Little Robe, lost forty-three head of valuable ponies. These ponies were offered for sale in Dodge City, Kansas, where Little Robe's son, with a small band of young men, made an unsuccessful effort to reclaim them. Failing in this, the band, on their way back, stole the first stock they came to; were pursued by the Kansas farmers, the stock recaptured, and Little Robe's son badly wounded. This was sufficient to bring on a general war against white men in the whole region; and the history of the next few months was a history of murders and outrages by Cheyenne, Kiowa, Osages, and Comanche. Sixty lodges of the Cheyenne took refuge under the protection of the United States troops at the agency, and the old problem returned again, how to punish the guilty without harming the innocent. A vigorous military campaign was carried on under General Miles against the hostiles until, in the spring of 1875, the main body surrendered.

Wretched, half starved, more than half naked, without lodges, ponies-a more pitiable sight was never seen than this band of Indians. It was inconceivable how they had so long held out; nothing but a well-nigh indomitable pride and inextinguishable hatred of the whites and sense of wrongs could have supported them. It was decided that thirty-three of the most desperate ones should be sent as prisoners to St. Augustine, Florida; but before the selection was completed a general stampede among the surrendered braves took place, resulting in the final escape of some four hundred. They held their ground from two P. M. until dark against three companies of cavalry and two Gatlin guns, and, "under cover of an extremely dark and stormy night, escaped, leaving only three dead on the field." It is impossible not to admire such bravery as this. The Report of the Indian Bureau for 1875 says of the condition of affairs at this agency at this time: "The friendly Cheyenne have had their loyalty put to the severest test by comparing their own condition with that of the full-fed and warmly-housed captives of the War Department. Not with standing all privations, they have been unswerving in their friendship, and ever ready to assist the agent in maintaining order, and compelling the Northern Cheyenne who have visited the agency to submit to a count." In consequence of the hostilities, they were obliged to remain close to the agency in them, and that could hardly be endured, and resulted in serious suffering. Their rations were not enough to subsist yet, being cut off from hunting, they were entirely dependent on them. And even these inadequate rations did not arrive when they were due. Their agent writes, in 1875: "On last year's flour contract not a single pound was received until the fourteenth day of First Month, 1875, when six months of cold weather and many privations had passed, notwithstanding the many protestations and urgent appeals from the agent."

The now thoroughly subjugated Cheyenne went to work with a will. In one short year they are reported as so anxious to cultivate the ground that, when they could not secure the use of a plough or hoe, they used " axes, sticks of wood, and their hands, in preparing the ground, planting and cultivating their garden spots."

The Northern Cheyenne are still on the Red Cloud Agency, and are reported as restless and troublesome.

In 1877 they were all removed to the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Agency, in Indian Territory. The Reports of the Department say that they asked to be taken there. The winter of 1866 and the summer of 1867 were seasons of great activity and interest at this agency. In the autumn they went off on a grand buffalo hunt, accompanied by a small detail of troops from Fort Reno. Early in the winter white horse thieves began to make raids on their ponies, and stole so many that many of the Indians were obliged to depend on their friends' ponies to help them return home. Two hundred and sixty in all were stolen-carried, as usual, to Dodge City and sold. A few were recovered; but the loss to the Indians was estimated at two thousand nine hundred dollars. " Such losses are very discouraging to the Indians," writes their agent, and are abut a repetition of the old story that brought on the war of 1874."

In midsummer of this year the "Cheyenne and Arapahoe Transportation Company " was formed: forty wagons were sent out, with harness, by the Government; the Indians furnished the horses; and on the 19th of July the Indians set out in their new role of " freighters " of their own supplies. They went to Wichita, Kansas-one hundred and sixty-five miles-in six days, with their ponies; loaded sixty-five thousand pounds of supplies into the wagons, and made the return trip in two weeks, all things being delivered in good condition.

This experiment was thoroughly tested; and its results are notable among the many unheeded refutations of the constantly repeated assertion that Indians will not work. The agent of the Cheyenne and the Arapaho, testifying before a Senate Committee in 1879, says: " We have run a wagon train, driven by Indians, to Wichita, for three years and over, and have never had a drunken Indian yet."

"Do they waste their money, or bring it home?"

"They almost invariably spend it for saddles or clothing, or something of use to them that is not furnished by the Government. * * * They have never stolen an ounce of sugar, coffee, or anything else: they have been careful not to injure or waste anything, and have delivered everything in good faith."

The agent reports not .a single case of drunkenness during the year. The manual labor and boarding school has one hundred and thirteen scholars in it, "all it can accommodate." The children earned four hundred dollars in the year by work of one sort and another, and have "expended the money as judiciously as would white children of their ages." They bought calico, cotton cloth, shoes, hats, several head of cattle, and one horse. They also "bought many delicacies for their friends in camp who were sick and in need."

"One Cheyenne woman tanned robes, traded them for twenty-five two-year-old heifers, and gave them to her daughter in the school. * * * The boys have one hundred and twenty acres of corn under cultivation, ten acres of potatoes, broom corn, sugar-cane, peanuts, melons, and a good variety of vegetables. They are entitled to one-half the crop for cultivating it."

This is a marvelous report of the change wrought in a people in only two years' time. It proves that the misdemeanors, the hostilities of 1874 and 1875, had been largely forced on them by circumstances.

The winter of 1877 and summer of 1878 were terrible seasons for the Cheyenne. Their fall hunt had proved unsuccessful. Indians from other reservations had hunted the ground over before them, and driven the buffalo off; and the Cheyenne made their way home again in straggling parties, destitute and hungry. Their agent reports that the result of this hunt has clearly proved that " in the future the Indian must rely on tilling the ground as the principal means of support; and if this conviction can be firmly established, the greatest obstacle to advancement in agriculture will be overcome. With the buffalo gone, and their pony herds being constantly decimated by the inroads of horse-thieves, they must soon adopt, in all its varieties, the way of the white man. * * * The usual amount of horse stealing has prevailed, and the few cases of successful pursuit have only increased the boldness of the thieves and the number of the thefts. Until some other system of law is introduced we cannot hope for a cessation of this grievance."

The ration allowed to these Indians is reported as being "reduced and insufficient," and the small sums they have been able to earn by selling buffalo-hides are said to have been " of material assistance" to them in " supplementing" this ration. But in this year there have been sold only $657 worth of skins by the Cheyenne and Arapaho together. In 1876 they sold $17,600 worth. Here is a falling off enough to cause very great suffering in a little community of five thousand people. But this was only the beginning of their troubles. The summer proved one of unusual heat. Extreme heat, chills and fever, and " a reduced and insufficient ration," all combined, resulted in an amount of sickness heart-rending to read of. "It is no exaggerated estimate," says the agent, "to place the number of sick people on the reservation at two thousand. Many deaths occurred which might have been obviated had there been a proper supply of anti-malarial remedies at hand. * * * Hundreds applying for treatment have been refused medicine."

The Northern Cheyenne grew more and more restless and unhappy. " In council and elsewhere they profess an intense desire to be sent North, where they say they will settle down as the others have done," says the report; adding, with an obtuseness which is inexplicable, that " no difference has been made in the treatment of the Indians," but that the " compliance " of these Northern Cheyenne has been "of an entirely different nature from that of the other Indians," and that it may be "necessary in the future to compel what so far we have been unable to effect by kindness and appeal to their better natures." If it is "an appeal to men's better natures" to remove them by force from a healthful Northern climate, which they love and thrive in, to a malarial Southern one, where they are struck down by chills and fever-refuse them medicine which can combat chills and fever, and finally starve them-then, indeed, might be said to have been most forcible appeals made to the "better natures" of these Northern Cheyenne. What might have been predicted followed.

Early in the autumn, after this terrible summer, a band of some three hundred of these Northern Cheyenne took the desperate step of running off and attempting to make their way back to Dakota. They were pursued, fought desperately, but were finally overpowered, and surrendered. They surrendered, however, only on the condition that they should be taken to Dakota. They were unanimous in declaring that they would rather die than go back to the Indian Territory. This was nothing more, in fact, than saying that they would rather die by bullets than of chills and fever and starvation.

These Indians were taken to Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Here they were confined as prisoners of war, and held subject to the orders of the Department of the Interior. The department was informed of the Indians' determination never to be taken back alive to Indian Territory. The army officers in charge reiterated these statements, and implored the department to permit them to remain at the North; but it was of no avail. Orders came-explicit, repeated, finally stern-insisting on the return of these Indians to their agency. The commanding officer at Fort Robinson has been censured severely for the course he pursued in his effort to carry out those orders. It is difficult to see what else he could have done, except to have resigned his post. He could not take three hundred Indians by sheer brute force and carry them hundreds of miles, especially when they were so desperate that they had broken up the iron stoves in their quarters, and wrought and twisted them into weapons with which to resist. He thought perhaps he could starve them into submission. He stopped the issue of food; he also stopped the issue of fuel to them. It was midwinter; the mercury froze in that month at Fort Robinson. At the end of two days he asked the Indians to let their women and children come out that he might feed them. Not a woman would come out. On the night of the fourth day-or, according to some accounts, the sixth-these starving, freezing Indians broke prison, overpowered the guards, and fled, carrying their women and children with them. They held the ' pursuing troops at bay for several days; finally made a last stand in a deep ravine, and were shot down-men, women, and children together. Out of the whole band there were left alive some fifty women and children and seven men, who, having been confined in another part of the fort, had not had the good fortune to share in this outbreak and meet their death in the ravine. These, with their wives and children, were sent to Fort Leavenworth, to be put in prison; the men to be tried for murders committed in their skirmishes in Kansas on their way to the north. Red Cloud, a Sioux chief, came to Fort Robinson immediately after this massacre, and entreated to be allowed to take the Cheyenne widows and orphans into his tribe to be cared for. The Government, therefore, kindly permitted twenty-two Cheyenne widows and thirty-two Cheyenne children-many of them orphans-to be received into the band of the Ogallala Sioux.

An attempt was made by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in his Report for 1879, to show by tables and figures that these Indians were not starving at the time of their flight from Indian Territory. The attempt only redounded to his own disgrace; it being proved, by the testimony given by a former clerk of the Indian Bureau before the Senate committee appointed to investigate the case of the Northern Cheyenne, that the commissioner had been guilty of absolute dishonesty in his estimates, and that the quantity of beef actually issued to the Cheyenne Agency was hundreds of pounds less than he had reported it, and that the Indians were actually, as they had claimed, " starving."

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

A Century of Dishonor, By Helen Hunt Jackson, New York, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1885

A Century of Dishonor


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