By Captain Jack Crawford
Formerly Chief of Scouts with the United States forces in the West.
|Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces|
The recent death of Joseph, chief of the Nez Perces, reminds one impressively how swiftly the grim ferryman has beckoned the last famous chieftains of the red men across the dark river into the councils of their forefathers. One by one the great leaders of the peoples that once roamed unhindered over the North American continent have stretched themselves on the earth and passed away. Some died by violence, and some in peace.
Spotted Tail, the Sioux, was shot by Crow Dog near the Rosebud Agency in 1881. Old Victoria was laid in the dust after a desperate fight in the Beratcha Mountains of Mexico, slain by the Mexican troops. Sitting Bull was killed by the Indian police. Red Cloud lived to enjoy the benefits of a treaty of peace, and died calmly, about a year ago, in his tepee at the Pine Ridge Agency, surrounded by his family. Chief Joseph's end was equally peaceful. Geronimo still enjoys good health, and by leading a life of indolence and piety is doing his best to live down his old title of the Apache Devil. He won distinction mainly by his unwillingness to give an enemy a fighting chance, and for his prowess and fiendishness in the dark. No more treacherous redskin ever lived. His crimes are without number, and his butcheries were more appalling than anything else recorded in the history of Indian warfare.
THE WORST OF ALL BAD INDIANS
Geronimo is easily the wickedest Indian alive to-day, and is therefore entitled to early discussion in this article. He became prominent after Victoria, the Warm Springs chief, was killed in 1881. About that time Geronimo, with a few of the dissatisfied White Mountain Apaches, decided that the warpath was preferable to peace, and began a series of raids upon the miners, lone ranchers, and herdsmen in the Southwest. His villainous tactics were too much for the scattered settlers, and his fights with them generally resulted in some unspeakable brutality offered by the merciless Apache to his captives. In every sense of the word he was a tough and crafty customer. He took Natchez, a son of Cochise, afterwards a war chief of the Chiricahuas, on the war-path with him throughout Mexico and Arizona, where for more than a year the pair kept at bay two thousand United States troops. A summary of his performances at that period would make a large volume, much of it unfit to print.
Geronimo finally surrendered to Lieutenant Gatewood, and was taken to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he was kept as a military prisoner. His chief occupation consisted of posing for photographs and making threats. He spent five or six years there, and was finally permitted to go forth into the marts of men and display his devilish visage in various Wild West shows. His deepset thirst for murder inspired frequent references to his enemies in Mexico and Arizona, whither he promised to return some day and spread carnage. He has learned to write his name, however, and at ten and twenty-five cents per signature his ambition to destroy human life is waning.
Among the Apaches Geronimo was regarded as a great medicine-man, especially schooled in surgery. He won his reputation by his deftness in removing bullets, arrow-heads, and buck-shot from his braves with a common jack-knife, which he plied with a vigor unsurpassed in modern surgery. In stature he is a small man, but his hatreds are large and lasting.
I recently saw him at the World's Fair in St. Louis, painfully scrawling his name for dimes and quarters. His ferret-like eyes caught sight of me in the crowd around him, and he promptly suggested that the price to me would be fifty cents.
I did not buy He is between eighty and ninety years old, but the fire in his eyes still flashes as in the days of his red and thirsty youth.
The Truth About Sitting Bull
In contrast with Geronimo we have that monumental fakir, Sitting Bull, who died December 13, 1890, at the age of fifty-six, killed by one of his own race. In the annals of Indian romance Sitting Bull has always been pointed to as a great Sioux brave, a deep-chested chieftain, with the tomahawk in his good right hand always. Now the fact is that Sitting Bull was a mere medicine-man, and became notorious simply because, with a few followers, he refused to come in and accept the rations offered by Uncle Sam. This put him into the outlaw class, and he was regarded as an enemy to the government. In 1875 he took to the hills and adopted the tactics of the renegade.
At about that time the writer, with a handful of men, undertook to penetrate the Indian country in the neighborhood of the Black Hills of South Dakota, afterwards purchased by the United States government. The entire section was rich in mineral deposits, and we found it advantageous for prospecting. Sitting Bull harassed us constantly, but we continued to look for gold in spite of him. He was more or less of a coward, as every brush we had with him proved, and his reputation was founded very largely on dime-novel exploits.
|Sitting Bull, Sioux Medicine Man|
In the Little Big Horn fight, where Custer, the greatest of all Indian fighters fell with his gallant three hundred scattered on the field of massacre, it was supposed that Sitting Bull led the victorious Indians and the world long pointed to him as the inspiring spirit of Sioux vengeance. The truth is that Sitting Bull was not in the Custer fight at all. He was looking for one of his youngsters who had strayed away from camp, and he did not put in an appearance until the historic fight was over. Nevertheless this tremendous and sensational self-advertiser was hauled all over the United States and Europe, lionized and paraded as the greatest Indian general on earth.
To be pointed to as "the chief who wiped out Custer's command" meant something to an Indian, and Sitting Bull showed no reluctance about reaping the profits. He raised the price of Sioux signatures from ten cents to one dollar, and nearly got writer's cramp at that. But he discovered, like other American heroes, that popularity is short-lived. His association with the palefaces had taught him the importance of being earnest. Therefore he inaugurated the famous Messiah craze among his people. He told them, with much beating of the tomtom that their forefathers would soon return to earth, properly decked in war paint, and would proceed to wipe out the palefaces yank out the barbed wire fences, burn the government posts, drive the United States troops into the tall timber, and return once again to the tepees and the watch-fires of the old regime.
During the time Sitting Bull was setting the stage and rehearsing his ghost dancers for the grand climax, he was so much afraid to show his face at the Indian agency that he sent one of his sons to gather in the biweekly rations supplied by Uncle Sam. The government authorities saw trouble ahead, and, knowing the Sioux tendency to massacre, gave orders for the arrest of the old medicine-man. Thirty-nine Indian police and four volunteers went to the home of the great maker of signatures and found him in the midst of elaborate preparations for flight. He submitted quietly to arrest, however, until one of his sons, doubtless familiar with his father's cowardly nature, began to jeer and jibe him.
Sitting Bull, true to his reputation, called in a loud voice for rescue. A general melee was precipitated, in which six Indian police and eight of Sitting Bull's braves were killed, himself among them.
This closed the career of one of the most garrulous old frauds with whom Uncle Sam has ever had to deal. He was a show Indian in every sense of the word, and those who know him best will bear me out in the statement that no single act of his was inspired by a desire to improve the condition of his people, or to further the peaceful relations that the government was trying to establish.
The Red Man’s Real Wrongs
|Nana, Chief of the Warm Spring Apaches|
It is true that the people at Washington have made mistakes in the effort to solve the Indian question, and some of these errors never can be repaired. That they were made under misapprehension is doubtless true to a certain extent, but that does not lessen the injury done to those of the really peaceful tribes that bore the brunt of the suffering. In the early days of the West it was a long journey from Washington to the plains, and seldom was much time taken to look into the merits of the red man's case. In consequence, some well-disposed tribes and some peace-loving chiefs fell foul of the government and went the way of the bad Indians.
Even as late as 1878, a misunderstanding between the government and old Victoria, head of the Warm Spring Indians, caused a bitter and bloody war-fare, ending with the old chiefs death in a manly struggle for what he regarded as his rights.
Victoria and his band had been living quietly at Ojo Caliente (Warm Springs), in a beautiful and fertile valley at the fort of the San Mateo Mountains, in New Mexico, where they worked their land and raised horses, cows, and sheep. Twice the Department of the Interior had ordered them to San Carlos, Arizona—to a torrid, arid desert, where, being of a peaceful disposition, Victoria was constantly harassed by the warlike and less civilized Apaches. Twice he came back to his old home, where his fathers had lived and died; but again an order came to go to the burning sands of Arizona, and a detachment of soldiers, under command of a hot-headed lieutenant, was sent to enforce the decree.
Victoria protested. He told Andy Kelley, the trader and interpreter, whom the Indians respected for his unquestionable honesty, that if the soldiers attempted to remove him forcibly, he would fight, and would stay on the warpath until the last man of his band was killed.
That very night the lieutenant mounted his troop and galloped through the Indian village, shooting and yelling. Apparently he desired to show his authority and to intimidate Victoria and his little band of peaceful braves, women, and children, who thought they were about to be massacred. As a Matter of fact the young officer was drunk. Within a year he committed suicide.
An Unnecessary Tradgedy
Thereupon Victoria left the agency with his band of eighty-five warriors, killing Duncan, the farmer who was sent there to instruct them, and taking to the San Mateo Mountains.
|Natchez, Son of Cochise|
A few days later General Morrow, in command of the Ninth Cavalry, sent Andy Kelley and Jack Sullivan, another man in whom the Indians hail confidence, with a flag of truce to Victoria. The general asked him to wait where he was while a courier was dispatched to the nearest telegraph station, about a hundred miles away, to ask the authorities in Washington that the Indians should be allowed to remain in their old home. Victoria agreed to this, saying, as Andy Kelley told me later:
"Me wait. Me no want fight. Big chief he make long tongue "—the telegraph" say me stay reservation, me no fight. Me want stay my old home. If Great Father he make long tongue say all right, me come in. But if long tongue say me go San Carlos, me fight all time, and you no more come back with white flag. You come back me kill you, too."
The courier was sent. Two days later Victoria, through his field-glasses, saw the man coming back, his jaded horse almost ready to drop. After waiting an hour, as no messenger came from the soldiers, he struck camp. From that time to the day when he was killed in Mexico, nearly two years later, he and his band killed more than six hundred men, women, and children.
An Indian agent at San Carlos was at the bottom of the whole trouble, insisting upon Victoria's people being sent to the Arizona reservation in order that he might have them at his mercy, so that he could steal from them, as he was stealing from all in his charge. This agent was a great church-goer, and some years after the Victoria campaign he became the subject of the only Indian problem I can recall. One of the Chiricahuas, formerly under Natchez, and nicknamed Dutch, was one of Captain Emmett Crawford's scouts when that gallant officer was killed by Mexican soldiers, supposedly by mistake. Dutch had a great admiration for Captain Bulbs, of the United States army, who was acting Indian agent after the Apache campaign. He was a fearless soldier who could swear like the proverbial trooper, and who compelled obedience and respect from the Indians, while Tiffany and his kind cajoled and robbed them in a sanctimonious way. One day, in comparing the two agents, Dutch wrote with a piece of charcoal on a door:
Old Tiff he kneel,
Old Tiff he steal—much.
Cap Bullis he no kneel,
Cap Bullis he no steal.
There was some poetry and much truth in this aboriginal quatrain.
Soon after Victoria went on the warpath I joined General Edward Hatch as chief of scouts, and followed the old chief all over New Mexico, Arizona, and part of Texas, finally locating him, after a sixteen days' scout, in the Candelena Mountains in old Mexico, where he was safe for a time.
The Fate of Victoria’s Band
His end finally came in the Beratcha (Drunken) Mountains, while thirty-two of his young warriors were absent, securing fresh horses and ammunition from the frightened Mexicans, and Victoria and the other old men, together with a few young bucks, were surrounded by Mexican soldiers. After surrendering they were ordered to stand up in a row. They obeyed, muttering to one another in their own language. Victoria knew what the order meant, and told his warriors at a signal to draw their knives and fight, as they were going to be shot down.
The result was that three Mexican soldiers were killed outright, and several others wounded, but old. Victoria died like a soldier, fighting to the last amid his fallen braves.
I was within twenty miles of this massacre, on the trail, when I was overtaken by a courier bearing a duplicate letter sent by General Terasses, commanding the Mexican troops, to General George P. Buell, in command of the United States soldiers who had entered old Mexico on invitation of General Terasses, and to cooperate with him. The order read in part:
It will be objectionable to my government for you to proceed any farther into the interior of Mexico.
General Buell, who had instructed me to hold Victoria's trail until I had located him, had therefore sent the courier to order me back to the American side. 1 learned the particulars of Victoria's capture, and of the fight which ended in his death, from a Mexican courier, and wired it at the time to the New York Herald.
Nana was second in command with Victoria, and almost as great a warrior and general. He was absent with the younger warriors when Victoria was caught in the fatal trap. Nana did much fighting after that, killing two men within eighteen miles of my own home, and wounding many others; but he was finally captured and placed on the reservation.
A Friendly Sioux Chieftan
Spotted Tail, the Sioux, was not in love with the war-path, and after his daughter's death he was always friendly with the whites. The kindness of the people at Fort Laramie when she was ill, and after she died, is said to have softened the old chief's heart toward the pale faces, though he told me another reason when I met him in 1875.
I was then carrying mail from Sidney. Nebraska, to the Red Cloud Agency, and I had important communications for General Custer, then on the trail of Sitting Bull. Many of Red Cloud's warriors had also taken the war-path, and in order to see Spotted Tail I had to find his camp and lodge in the dead of night. 1 wrapped an Indian blanket around me, and succeeded in getting into the chief's wigwam, where I remained undiscovered until Spotted Tail a wakened me in the morning. He considered it a wonderful feat that a white man should get into the middle of his village without his knowledge, even though he and his people were at peace with the whites.
Spotted Tail gave me a most delicious breakfast, I think the best I ever ate, and, having had a long night's ride, I had a most ferocious appetite. As he prepared the meal, I could detect a most savory odor, but could not recall what it reminded me of. Presently old Spot came in with a frying-pan, followed by a squaw with a coffee-pot. Putting the frying-pan on the floor, and handing me a tin plate and cup, the chief pointed to the meat in the pan and invited me to partake.
It took me but a few seconds to fill my plate, and I was soon masticating the most delicious morsel I had ever tasted. I said not a word until the meal was finished. Then I asked Spotted Tail what kind of meat he had treated me to. He pointed to two rattlesnake skins that had been nailed up to dry the day before, and I knew 1 had had my first feed of snake meat. I was glad that he had not killed a dog in honor of my arrival!
Spotted Tail was cooperating with General Custer against the hostile Indians, and notifying him of their whereabouts, while Red Cloud, who was of amore warlike disposition, was keeping the hostiles informed of the movements of the soldiers and the news of the agency. After getting all the information I could obtain from Spotted Tail, I took my departure; but before I left his wigwam he explained to me why he was a friend of the whites.
He told me the strange story of his daughter's death. The girl died three times—at least, that is why the old chief said. Twice she seemed to have breathed her last, and twice all preparations were made for her burial, but it turned out that she was only in a deep trance. After her first trance she called Spotted Tail to her side and spoke to him in wonderful words. She had been to the Happy Hunting-Ground, and the Great Father of All had sent her back to tell the Sioux chief and his people that they should fight no more; that the white men were like the grass on the prairie, as compared with the Indians; and that he should try to become like the palefaces should improve his land and educate his children.
Spotted Tail promised he would never go to war with the government again. She sank into another trance, from which she again woke, and again sank into her last sleep to return no more. That is why Spotted Tail became the friend and ally of the whites.
The Napoleon of the Nez Perce
Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perce, or Pierced Nose Indians, was without doubt the greatest general of his race. He was a warrior worthy of better treatment than he received at the hands of the American government. His people were peaceful and industrious but a quarrel arose with the Federal authorities through the revocation of a treaty grant. It was the old story; land in the Wallowa County in eastern Oregon, which had been given to Joseph's father had the proverbial string attached to it, and was taken away again to be sold to white settlers, because "the area of the tract being greater than that of Massachusetts, its restoration to the aboriginal character would give a serious check to frontier civilization."
How many Indian wars were due to the white man breaking his word! It did not follow, however, the all the Nez Perce’s Indians were malcontents. The Protestant and Catholic Indians signed the new treaty, and went peacefully to the reservation assigned them. Chief Joseph, with one or two other leaders, and in all about four hundred warriors, refused to accept the terms offered them, and to give up their homes in the Wallowa Valley. Quarrels with white settlers followed, and several murders were committed by Joseph's men. This was the beginning of hostilities and of the long flight and pursuit across the Rocky Mountains and back.
|Battlefield of the Little Big Horn|
The government had the fight won before it started, for its soldiers were in charge of that able officer, General Oliver Otis Howard, and other experienced veterans of the Civil War. Joseph broke northward and eastward across Salmon River, and on to the Clearwater, where Howard headed him off and gave him his first battle. About three hundred Indians were in this fight, the women acting as reserves, and proving themselves amazons of no mean ability. One old squaw, To-ka-map-po by name, was taken prisoner. While tied to a horse behind a soldier she craftily reached around, took his knife from his belt, and plunged it into his heart. Then she galloped away as fast as the horse could carry her, and rejoined her people. For this Amazonian act she demanded the right to sit in council with the braves and to fight with them. Ever after she was to be found near Chief Joseph in the fray, a self-constituted body-guard.
Joseph told his warriors to spare all white prisoners taken in battle, and not to kill a white woman or child. This was something out of the ordinary in an Indian chief, but unfortunately the order was not strictly adhered to by his men, as frequent murders of women and children occurred.
During the campaign Joseph's wife became the mother of a little girl. This new-born child was the only one left to him when he finally surrendered at Bear Paw Mountain, in northern Montana. His other child, a girl of about ten, ran away during the hostilities and was never found, probably perishing of hunger in the mountains. Of the four hundred warriors who formed Joseph's force in the beginning, only eighty-seven remained when he finally surrendered to Colonel Nelson A. Miles, after first offering his gun to General Howard, the persistent soldier who had followed him for fifteen hundred miles over icy mountains and through swollen streams, fighting him every foot of the way. Thus ended one of the most remarkable Indian campaigns in all the eventful history of the American frontier.
The Treacheries of Red Cloud
Red Cloud was afraid to take the warpath openly in the Sitting Bull campaign. He received his rations regularly at the agency, and claimed to be at peace with the whites. Nevertheless, he secretly aided and abetted the small parties of young bucks who, during the opening of the Black Hills country, made numerous raids upon the miners and massacred many people.
I was once surrounded by fifteen of Red Cloud's Indians, and my horse shot from under me. But for the fact that I reached the top of a high hill, I should not be telling the story now. I hid behind a pile of rocks and used my horse's body as a shield, fighting the Indians off with a shot now and then as they circled around me. When night came they dispersed, hurrying back to the reservation. These were the Indians for whom the agent was drawing rations from the government.
Again, at the mouth of Buffalo Gap, in the Black Hills, during the fall of 1876, another of Red Cloud's bands surrounded me and my men, and but for the heroism of Roger Williams, a Kentucky boy, who volunteered to ride through the Indians to Custer City and bring assistance, we should have been wiped out. I afterwards made Williams my lieutenant of scouts. Only recently I heard that he is now colonel of the Second Kentucky Cavalry, and was practically military governor of the State at the time of Governor Goebel's assassination.
Red Cloud's most successful performance, reckoning from an Indian's standpoint, was the massacre at Fort Phil Kearny in Dakota, December 21, 1866. The fight began by Red Cloud's men attacking a detachment of soldiers collecting firewood for the fort. The discharge of weapons brought assistance to the troopers, so that their entire force numbered about ninety men. The Indians drew off, and the soldiers undertook to follow and punish them. That was fatal. Red Cloud led his pursuers into an ambush of two thousand Sioux cutthroats, and the little command was surrounded and slaughtered. One man, the last survivor, took cover behind a fallen horse and used his six-shooters with marked success, dropping an Indian with every shot. Desiring to capture him alive, Red Cloud sent one of his braves forward making signs of peace. The Indian met death before he had taken a dozen steps. Other redskins rushed in to take the soldier prisoner. He emptied his weapons with telling effect, firing the last shot into his own brain, and falling dead across the horse that had been his shield. Suicide was preferable to being captured by the Sioux.
Surgeon Hines, who had gone out from the fort earlier in the day, viewed the entire massacre from hiding, and saw the lone survivor die by his own hand. He believed the brave fellow to be Lieutenant-Colonel Fetterman.
Red Cloud's stock as an Indian hero went up like a rocket, and for ten years he reigned as chief of his nation, outranking the very worst of his tribe. In 1876 General Crook, in the presence of thousands of Sioux, formally deposed him, and named Spotted Tail as his successor. The assassination of Spotted Tail by Crow Dog left the field open to Sitting Bull, who became a sort of tentative boss. In the meanwhile Red Cloud made a visit to Washington, professed contrition, and promised to reform. Returning to Dakota, he preached the simple life to the young braves, and did his best to throw cold water on Sitting Bull's pretension to the pedestal of greatness.
Secretly, however, Red Cloud was looking forward to another "mix-up" with the government. About the close of the Sitting Bull campaign, he made an attempt to join the renegade medicine-man with nine hundred warriors, but was captured before he reached the mountains. About eight hundred of his ponies were sent to Fort Laramie, where they were sold at auction. I was ordered to take command of Major Frank North's Pawnee Scouts on this expedition, as Major North was in the garrison hospital, suffering from asthma. General Crook allowed me to select seven head of Indian ponies out of the Red Cloud herd in return for two horses stolen from me by Red Cloud's Indians. The old chief afterwards told me that though I might get back my stock, I could never get back the two comrades he had killed when the horses were stolen.
The Red Man’s True Friends and Foes
It is not generally recognized, but it is nevertheless true, that the best friends of the red man were the soldiers and the frontier scouts who fought him. There is no instance on record where an army officer, acting as Indian agent, ever defrauded the aborigines of their just dues. It is also true that the frontier pioneers, scouts, and prospectors were almost always kind to the redskins, and shared rations with them in order to keep their good-will as a protection for the white settlers' families. Many a rancher has given a steer to a band of Indians in return for their friendship.
On the other hand, the "Indian rights" people with their mistaken sentiment, together with dishonest Indian agents, have caused many conflicts for which soldiers and frontiersmen were blamed.