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Letter Number Three

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                    


The most fitting reply to the assertions in this extraordinary document was by still further citations from the sworn testimony given before the Congressional committees-evidence with which volumes could have been filled.

Letter III.
To the Editor of the Tribune:
SIR, In reply to the letter in Sunday's Tribune, headed "'The Starving Utes," I would like to place before the readers of The Tribune some extracts from sworn testimony taken in Colorado on the subject of the Sand Creek massacre. The writer of this letter says:
"The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians assembled at Sand Creek were not under the protection of a United States fort."

The following testimony is that of Lieutenant Craven, Senate Document, vol. ii., 1866-67, p. 46:

"I had some conversation with Major Downing, Lieutenant Maynard, and Colonel Chivington. I stated to them my feelings in Maynard, to the matter-that I believed it to be murder and stated the obligations that we of Major Wynkoop's command were under to those Indians.

"To Colonel Chivington I know I stated that Major Wynkoop had pledged his word as an officer and man to those Indians, and that all officers under him were indirectly pledged in the same manner that he was, and that I felt that it was placing us in very embarrassing circumstances to fight the same Indians that had saved our lives, as we all felt that they had.

"Colonel Chivington's reply was that he believed it to be right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians that would kill women and children; and, damn any one that was in sympathy with Indians;' and, 'such men as Major Wynkoop and myself had better get out of the United States service.' "

This conversation was testified to by other witnesses. Major Wynkoop, it will be remembered, was the officer in command at Fort Lyon when this baud of Cheyenne and Arapahoe came in there to claim protection, in consequence of the governor's proclamation, saying that,

"All friendly Arapahoe and Cheyenne, belonging on the Arkansas River, will go to Major Colby, United States Indian Agent at Fort Lyon, who will give them provisions and show them a place of safety."

Major Wynkoop was succeeded in the command of Fort Lyon by Major Anthony, who continued for a time to issue rations to these Indians, as Major Wynkoop had done; but after a time he called them together and told them he could not feed them any longer; they would better go where they could hunt. lie selected the place to which they were to snore on Sandy Creek. They obeyed, and he gave back to them some of the arms, which had been taken away. They were moved to Sandy Creek, about forty miles from Fort Lyon, partly "for fear of some conflict between them and the soldiers or emigrants," Fort Lyon being on a thoroughfare of travel. One of the chiefs One Eye was hired by Major Anthony at $125 a month "to obtain information for the use of the military authorities. Several times he brought news to the fort of proposed movements of hostile Indians." This chief was killed in the massacre.


This is the testimony of Captain Soule, First Colorado Cavalry: " Did you protest against attacking those Indians?"
"I did."
"Who was your commanding officer?"
"Major Anthony."
"Did you inform Major Anthony of the relations existing with Black Kettle? "
"I did. He knew the relations. I frequently talked to him about it."
"What answer did Major Anthony make to your protests? "
"He said that we were going to fight the hostile Indians at Smoky Hill. He also said that he was in for killing all Indians, and that he had only been acting friendly with them until he could get a force large enough to go out and kill all of them."

This is the testimony of S. E. Brown:
"Colonel Chivington in a public speech said his policy was to kill and scalp all, little and big: nits made lice."
Governor Hunt testified as follows: [Governor Hunt was one of the earliest settlers in Colorado. He was United States Marshal; Delegate to Congress, and afterward Governor of the Territory.]
"We have always regarded Black Kettle and White Antelope as the special friends of the white man ever since I have been in this country."
"Do you know of any acts of hostility committed by them or with their consent?"
"No, sir, I do not."
"Did you ever hear any acts of hostility attributed to them by any one? "
"No, sir."
The following extract is:
"The regiment, when they marched into Denver, exhibited Indian scalps."
This is from the official report of Major Wynkoop, major commanding Fort Lyon.
"In conclusion, allow me to say that, from the time I held the consultation with the Indian chiefs on the head-waters of Smoky Hill up to the date of this massacre by Colonel Chivington, not one single depredation had been committed by the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians. The settlers of the Arkansas Valley had returned to their ranches, from which they had fled, had taken in their crops, and had been resting in perfect security under assurances from myself that they would be in no danger for the present. Since this last horrible murder by Colonel Chivington the country presents a scene of desolation. All communication is cut off with the States, except by sending large bodies of troops, and already over a hundred whites have fallen victims to the fearful vengeance of these betrayed Indians."

January 15th, 1855.
The writer of this letter says, in regard to the investigation of the Sand Creek massacre by the Congressional committee, that " evidence was taken upon one side only," and " there was no answer for the defense."
A large part of the testimony is sworn evidence, given by the Governor of Colorado, by Colonel J. M. Chivington himself, who planned and executed the massacre, and by Major Anthony, who accompanied him with troops from Fort Lyon. The writer of this article says that " the investigation was made for a certain selfish purpose, to break down and ruin certain men."

The names of Senator Foster, Senator Doolittle, and "honest Ben Wade" are the best refutation of this statement. It will be hard to impeach the trustworthiness of reports signed by these names, and one of these reports says:

"It is difficult to believe that beings in the form of men, and disgracing the uniform of United States soldiers and officers, could commit or countenance the commission of such acts of cruelty and barbarity."

Of Colonel Chivington, it says:

"He deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre, which would have disgraced the veriest savage among these who were the victims of his cruelty."

And of Major Anthony:
"The testimony of Major Anthony, who succeeded an officer disposed to treat these Indians with justice and humanity, is sufficient of itself to show how unprovoked and unwarranted was this massacre. He testifies that he found these Indians camped near Fort Lyon when he assumed command of that fort; that they professed their friendliness to the whites, and their willingness to do whatever he demanded of them; that they delivered their arms up to him; that they went to and encamped on the place designated by him; that they gave him information from time to time of acts of hostility which were meditated by other hostile bands, and in every way conducted themselves properly and peaceably; and yet he says it was fear and not principle which prevented his killing them while they were completely in his power; and, when Colonel Chivington appeared at Fort Lyon on his mission of murder and barbarity, Major Anthony made haste to accompany him with men and artillery."

The writer of this letter says that the evidence given in this " so-called investigation " was " largely false and infamously partial." If this were the case, why did not all persons so " infamously " slandered see to it that before the year ended their own version of the affair should reach, if not the general public, at least the Department of the Interior? Why did they leave it possible for the Secretary of the Interior to incorporate in his Annual Report for 1865 to be read by all the American people these paragraphs?

"No official account has ever reached this office from its own proper sources of the most disastrous and shameful occurrence, the massacre of a large number of men, women, and children of the Indians of this agency (the Upper Arkansas) by the troops under the command of Colonel Chivington of the United States Volunteer Cavalry of Colorado.

"When several hundred of them had come into a place designated by Governor Evans as a rendezvous for those who would separate themselves from the hostile parties, these Indians were set upon and butchered in cold blood by troops in the service of the United States. The few who escaped to the northward told a story which effectually prevented any more advances toward peace by such of the bands as were well disposed."

And why did the Government of the United States empower General Sanborn, in the Council held October 12th, 1865, with the Arapaho and Cheyenne, including the remnants of bands that had escaped from the Sand Creek massacre, to formally and officially repudiate the action of the United States soldiers in that massacre? General Sanborn said, in this council:

"We all feel disgraced and ashamed when we see our officers or soldiers oppressing the weak, or making war on those who are at peace with us. We are willing, as representatives of the President, to restore all the property lost at Sand Creek, or its value. He has sent out his commissioners to make reparation, as far as we can. So heartily do we repudiate the actions of our soldiers that we are willing to give to the chiefs in their own right 320 acres of land each, to hold as his own forever, and to each of the children and squaws who lost husbands or parent: we are also willing to give 160 acres of land as their own, to keep as long as they live."

The writer of this letter, quoting the statement from a previous article in The Tribune, that the White River Utes, in their attack on Major Thornburgh's command, fought "to defend their own lands, lands bought, owned, and paid for," asks:

"Bought of whom, pray? Paid for by whom? To whom was payment made?
Bought "of the United States Government, thereby recognizing the United States Governments right to" the sovereignty of the soil" as superior to the Indians' "right of occupancy."

"Paid for "by the Ute Indians, by repeated "relinquishments" of said "right of occupancy" in large tracts of valuable lands; notably by the "relinquishment," according to the Brunot Treaty of 1873, of 4,000,000 acres of valuable lands, "unquestionably rich in mineral deposits." Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior for 1873, p. 464.

"To whom was payment made?"
To the United States Government, which has accepted and ratified such exchanges of "right of occupancy" for "right of sovereignty," and such sales of "right of occupancy" for large sums of money by repeated and reiterated treaties.

The Secretary of the Interior has incorporated in his Annual Report for 1879 (in the report on Indian Affairs, p. 36) the following paragraphs:

"Let it be fully understood that the Ute Indians have a good and sufficient title to 12,000,000 acres of land in Colorado, and that these Indians did not thrust themselves in the way of the white people, but that they were originally and rightfully possessors of the soil, and that the land they occupy has been acknowledged to be theirs by solemn treaties made with them by the United States.

"It will not do to say that a treaty with an Indian means nothing. It means even more than the pledge of the Government to pay a bond. It is the most solemn declaration that any government of any people ever enters into. Neither will it do to say that treaties never ought to have been made with Indians. That question is now not in order, as the treaties have been made, and must be lived up to whether convenient or otherwise.

"By beginning at the outset with the full acknowledgment of the absolute and indefeasible right of these Indians to 12,000,000 acres in Colorado, we can properly consider what is the best method of extinguishing the Indian title thereto without injustice to the Indians, and without violating the plighted faith of the Government of the United States."

The writer of this letter says:
"In withholding supplies from the White River Utes, the Secretary of the interior is simply obeying the law. He cannot, except upon his own personal responsibility, issue supplies to a hostile Indian tribe."

Secretary Schurz has published, in the Annual Report of the Department of the Interior for 1879, the following paragraph in regard to this case of the White River Utes:

"The atrocity of the crimes committed should not prevent those individuals who are innocent from being treated as such, according to Article 17 of the treaty, viz: Provided, that if any chief of either of the confederated bands make war against the United States, or in any manner violate this treaty in any essential part, said chief shall forfeit his position as chief, and all rights to any of the benefits of this treaty; but, provided further, any Indian of either of these confederated bands who shall remain at peace, and abide by the terms of this treaty in all its essentials, shall be entitled to its benefits and provisions, notwithstanding his particular chief and band have forfeited their rights thereto."

The writer of this letter says, in allusion to the murders and outrages committed by some of the White River Utes, that " H. H. is the champion of the fiends who wrought the ruin." Have the readers of The Tribune so understood my protests against the injustice of punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty?
H. H.

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

A Century of Dishonor


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