Early in the present century, when our government formed treaties with the Cherokee and Creek Indians which resulted in their removal from Georgia and Alabama to the Indian Territory, there was not the remotest probability that so soon as 1878 there would be a demand for the removal of the barriers against immigration to their new lands, which then appeared beyond the desires of the white man. Half a continent of rich land lay comparatively unoccupied, and to comprehend the task of settling it seemed like trying to grasp the idea of eternity. To-day government homesteads of a desirable quality are scarce, and the question naturally arises, What will be the next recourse, unless Oklahoma is established in the Indian Territory?
The five civilized tribes living east of the ninety-sixth meridian, known as the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations, own 19,785,787 acres which have never been surveyed, and are held in common by the several tribes or nations. Of the countless acres in the reservations and hunting grounds of the semi-civilized and wild tribes farther west, I shall not attempt to form an estimate. Under existing laws, no man can buy or sell an acre of this vast domain, nor hold possession of even a garden spot, except for temporary use; nor can he secure this privilege unless he is a member of some one of the Indian nations, or a renter from a member of a nation.
Yielding to the human impulse which causes them to crave that beyond their reach, men have stood upon the boundary line and cast longing glances over to the Indian Eden, and have retreated with dissatisfaction; or, journeying through to Texas, have stopped by the wayside to chose a quarter section, leaving stakes behind them, driven with the hope that Congress might speed the day when the territorial land would become government homesteads. Others have alighted in the Territory, and through tact and good behavior have received permission to cultivate the soil, by paying to the Indian government one dollar per month, and to the renter of the land one third of the crops produced. If a man goes there unmarried, he is apt to find a helpmeet in an Indian maiden, there being many among the Cherokees and Choctaws who, for beauty and intelligence, compare favorably with any ladies in the States. This was especially the case when, a few years since, one of the Indian councils passed a law requiring all single white men to leave the Territory forthwith. As may be imagined, there was a lively skirmish after wives by bachelors and widowers whose business interests required them to remain. This successful ruse to turn the white man’s skill and influence to the Indian’s benefit was happily explained by a sprightly Choctaw lady, whose charming face and perfect grace would render her an ornament in any society of Boston or New York. She said, in speaking of the white man’s intrusion to the Territory: “We didn’t want him here, but he would come and would remain; so we thought the best thing we could do was to make him a peaceable citizen by marrying him.” A wise conclusion, I decided, on looking at the “peaceable citizen,” a dignified Quaker gentleman, whom she had thus reclaimed.
By forming an alliance of this kind a man may become a member of the nation to which his wife belongs, and attain the rights and privileges of an Indian, which consist of voting, owning property, except land, and paying no taxes to the United States or Indian governments. That many have taken advantage of this mode of gaining access to the Territory is evident from statistics, which show that there are 8767 citizens by marriage of the different Indian nations who are also citizens of the United States. In addition, there are several thousand white laborers upon farms, not members of tribes, who remain there by permission; merchants who are selling goods by license, cattle traders, lumbermen, and others. Altogether, about one seventh of the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations are citizens of the United States.
The Cherokees own 5,031,357 acres of land: the full-blood Cherokees cultivate 1500 acres, the mixed bloods 3000, and the white citizens 12,000. I am unable to state the amount of land which non-citizens cultivate by permission, but from the numbers given it will be seen that the greatest portion of the farming is done by white men, and hence that immigration to the Indian Territory is possible, although it may not, under present circumstances, be advisable.
If, through the influence of reliable men, a non-citizen procures a permit which authorizes him to live in the Territory, he has many difficulties to encounter after settlement. There is no law compelling a person to fulfill a contract. A man may rent a farm and discharge his obligations to the very letter by making the required improvements; may raise crops; and when they are ready to be harvested, if he receives a notice to vacate the farm, he must do so at once, leaving behind him the fruits of his labor for others to enjoy. Aside from personal inclination to pay, there is no way of collecting bills, and no way of obtaining redress for any sort of civil offense. If a man borrows another’s horse and he chooses never to return it, he cannot be forced to do so. For crimes committed one against another, the Indians punish their own citizens; but if a citizen of the United States commits a crime against an Indian or against a non-citizen, or vice versa, he is taken to Fort Smith, a distance of from one to three hundred miles, according to location, and, there he is dealt with by the United States authority. It is said that the trouble and expense of carrying a case so far cause white men to make complaints with great reluctance, and to long for a United States court within the Territory, that they may enjoy the privilege of carrying on lawsuits nearer home.
Since the suppression of Union Agency, which included the five tribes, matters over which the agent formerly had jurisdiction have been settled in Washington. Shortly after the last Union Agent (Dr. Marsten) was removed, an Indian who had favored the suppression of the post, but who still had confidence in the doctor’s advisory ability, came to him with the information that he (the Indian) was suffering annoyance from the continual trespass of a neighbor’s cow. “Now, doctor, what course do you advise me to take with that cow?” said the Indian. “Oh, drive her on to Washington,” answered the doctor, pleasantly.
In passing down the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad, through the eastern portion of the Indian Territory, one gains a knowledge of the commerce which this road is rapidly developing; also interesting glimpses of the scenery and the river system, which are so picturesque and broad as to render the Indians poetic appellation, “Land of running waters and of flowers,” strikingly appropriate.
Leaving the populous Kansas prairies, over which you cannot ride a mile without seeing evidences of individual ownership, you come suddenly upon vast tracts of land on which no crops have ever grown except the sweet wild flowers, which for unnumbered years Nature has sown with her untiring hands.
Vinita, in the Cherokee nation, is the first town south of Kansas. It numbers about three hundred inhabitants, and like all other stations on this line has been built up by white men, who pay the Indians an annuity of from fifty to one hundred dollars for the right to carry on their business within the Territory. Vinita is the present terminus of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, which enters the Territory from Southwest Missouri. Should this road ever be continued westward, as originally designed, it will be the means of opening rich copper mines near the Washita River, north-west of Paul’s Valley in the Chickasaw nation.
Below Vinita courses the Arkansas River in a southeasterly direction, to which the Washita, Canadian, and the Grand rivers, with numerous smaller streams, are tributary. Between this river and the Verdigris is the famous grazing range of the Northeastern Territory. In the sheltered valleys grow the orchard grass and tender wild cane, which the sharpest frost can neither nip nor toughen. Cattle subsist on this all winter without other food. In the picturesque oak openings, where springs are plentiful and the “mulatto” soil yields bountifully, the stockmen make their homes, and prosper, if they have the energy to work out good from their surroundings.
Muskogee, in the Creek nation, between the north and south forks of the Canadian River, is a shipping point for supplies to Fort Gibson, Okmulgee, and the Indian reservations beyond the ninety-sixth meridian. here one sees, vividly portrayed, the contrast between railroad locomotion and the old, slow process “overland.” Freighters from the far West, with their jaded animals and cumbrous “schooners,” arrive in Muskogee, eagerly inquire of friend and stranger the latest news from the seat of government concerning the transfer of the Indian Bureau and the opening of the Territory, and whether there is any prospect of the “Frisco” railroad taking a fresh start westward. For a single night their camp-fires illumine the town, and then these rough plainsmen swing again into their lonely round of travel, while the railroad trains flash by with a hundred times their schooners’ burden and many times their speed.
The Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad has done much towards encouraging the Indians, by liberally paying for all damage to property, and affording cheap transportation for produce. It should be remembered that this road gained an extension through the Territory against the popular prejudice of the Indians, and met at first great opposition from all sides. On the completion of the road in 1872, one of the officers was commissioned to invite a Choctaw delegation to go in an opening excursion to the terminus of the road, at Dennison. His courtesy was met by a refusal from the chief, who said, “The Indian does not want to go; he says car dirty, — smell bad.” The officer responded, “But our cars are new and elegant; you can rest your feet on handsome carpets, and sit on velvet cushions.” The old chief, however, was not to be persuaded. “The Indian will not go; he says the white man wants to get him big railroad snake to drag him down to Texas; then white man will put red man into a big pot and make an Indian stew of him,” he answered, with decisive grimness. Whether this was simple fear, or affected as a joke upon the white man, the Choctaws did not go to Dennison on the opening excursion.
Within the past six years the Indians sentiments have undergone a radical change respecting railroads. He now hauls to the stations on the line his pecans, pork, corn, and cotton, and his surplus game, receives a liberal sum of money in exchange, and goes home satisfied that the railroad is a friendly institution. From the single station at Muskogee there were shipped, in 1876, thirty thousand dollars’ worth of pecan nuts, a gratuitous crop which nature lavishes on the most shiftless husband-man, who need but reach out his hand to gather it. At a little station in the Territory, I saw upon a wareroom floor four thousand pigeons, which were being packed for freightage to St. Louis and New York. There are roosts on Sallisaw and Lee creeks, also south of the Arkansas River, where millions of wild pigeons flock by night, to fall an easy prey to men who will provide themselves with long poles and lose a night’s sleep to get the birds. Many hunters despise the “roost robbers” and condemn their wholesale slaughter, but those who practice it say that there is no perceptible decrease in the number of pigeons from year to year. Several thousand dollars’ worth of furs are annually shipped East, and berries of almost every kind, which grow in great abundance in the Territory.
Three years ago cotton seed was first distributed among the Indians of the five nations. Now nine large gins are kept in active operation, from Muskogee to Atoka, pressing two thousand bales per annum. It is but fair to say that a large share of the cotton has been raised by freedmen, who number 11,506 among the several nations. In the treaties with the Cherokees and Creeks and Seminoles in 1866, the negroes who before that date had been slaves of those Indians were made citizens of the several tribes in which they were slaves. The Choctaws and Chickasaws owned quite as many negroes as the Cherokees and Creeks; but though these Indians agreed in their treaty of 1866 that slavery should no longer exist among them, they did not adopt their former slaves as members of their tribes. Yet the old masters and their freedmen maintain the friendliest relations, and by mutual consent the negroes cultivate the Indians’ farms, although with more profit to themselves than formerly. It is said that the Indians made easy masters, their natural indolence preventing rigid discipline.
At McAllister, in the Choctaw nation, coal mines have been opened, and tram-ways built from the railroad to the mines, two miles distant. Hard, glossy coal is here obtained which is pronounced of equal value with the products of the Pennsylvania mines. Below McAllister the landscape becomes broken by rocky bluffs, moss-grown and crowned with evergreens. Forests of oak and ash and snow-white sycamore skirt the way. Human habitations grow less frequent, and as a supplement to this wild scene I am told that a gang of Indian desperadoes have their rendezvous just here, within gun-shot of the track; a remnant of the Pin Indian order, formed during the rebellion, who used to hold secret meetings in the forest, and as a distinctive badge wore pins inserted crosswise in the lapel of their coats. The cars run lightly here, and I am able to catch the story which a stock agent, cow coroner in local parlance, tells concerning an adventure which he had with these same desperadoes. Business required that he should go among them, and being in a courageous mood he went without a guard, carrying in his pocket a considerable amount of money. The Pin Indians received him cordially, and invited him to take a social glass with them before proceeding to business. He assented, and the liquid was poured out; it proved to be the double extract of Jamaica ginger, which these law-abiding citizens use instead of whisky, a forbidden beverage in the Territory. The agent swallowed a few drops, and stopped for want of breath. What was his dismay on being told that he must drain the glass, and sip an equal quantity with each member of the group, which numbered five. He begged to be excused, but with drawn revolvers they renewed their friendly invitation. Death seemed imminent, when another party stepped upon the scene, announcing that there was a bovine inquest to be held upon his premises, over which the cow coroner must preside, amid with a pistol in each hand reversed the order of affairs. In justice to the civilized tribes, it should be stated that the Pin Indians are outcasts from their society, and are punished for lawless acts when proof can be obtained against them. No people are more severe in dealing with criminals than these Indians. For the first offense of larceny the punishment is fifty lashes; for the second, one hundred; and for the third, the criminal suffers death.
The scenery grows more wild until we reach the famous Limestone Gap, a deep, narrow pass cut through rocky hills that bear a close resemblance to the Ozark Mountains, farther east. Embroidery Range is the local name for a remarkable chain of hills set in even scallops, as if cut from one, pattern, against the azure ground-work of the sky. Among these mountains is the hunter’s paradise; here be finds a great variety of game, including deer and territorial “razor backs,” a species of the wild hog, with a long pointed snout, a hoof like a mule’s, and a thick tuft of bristles which stands erect above the spinal column.
At Stringtown, below Limestone Gap, eight saw-mills are making lumber from logs obtained from a pine forest, forty miles wide by one hundred long, which has its west end at Stringtown. Three million feet of lumber are annually shipped from this point by rail. Silver in small quantities has been discovered in four places east of Stringtown; there are also lead mines, as yet unworked, but giving indications of mineral in paying quantities; in addition to these natural resources there are four sulphur springs one mile from Stringtown, which doubtless will become a favorite summer resort, in the event of the opening of the Indian Territory.
Crossing the North Boggy River we reach Atoka, a town of five hundred inhabitants, and the centre of a large coal and cotton trade. Atoka contains the only Catholic church. in the Indian Territory, which, owing to the work of missionaries, is preëminently a land of churches.
Caney, below Atoka, carries on a thrifty business in converting bois d’arc wood into pavement blocks for the streets of Eastern cities. This wood is of a bright ochre color, extremely hard, and said to resist decay longer than any other native wood. Skimming over a river which we recognize by its red water and redder banks, we are soon in Dennison, which has sprung into existence and attained a population of thirty-five hundred people within the past six years. Here the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad connects with the Texas Central, which passes on towards the Gulf of Mexico. Dennison has two commodious hotels, several churches, and many handsome private residences. Forty thousand bales of cotton have been transferred from the Texas Central to the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad during the past year.
A tour by railroad through the Territory cannot fail to be one of interest and profit. Yet to become acquainted with the people and their customs, to view in full the scenery, and to gain an insight to the agricultural and educational systems, one must seek out the tribes in their retreats, behind the wooded hills that hide them from the “railroad serpent,” which has pushed its way through this fair Indian Eden. Even the five civilized tribes, who no longer light their council-fires, save with metaphorical matches, prefer to live in close retirement from the shifting bustle of the outside world.
Taking a wagon route from Muskogee, we crossed the Arkansas River on a ferry, and drove forty miles across the country to Tahlegwah, the quaint old capital of the Cherokee nation. November was fast slipping into winter, yet Indian summer, absolutely perfect, shed its charm over the landscape. The hills were bathed in golden haze, birds sang in the woods, and wild apple-trees and oleanders flowered along the way. We passed through forests whose red and brown and orange foliage formed the richest of chromatic combinations. Gnarled trees stretched out their giant arms loaded with mistletoe and waxen berries of pearl white, suggesting Druid temples and Christmas Eve in English halls.
We crossed and recrossed the Bayou Menage, which has its source from springs among the hills. The small streams, like the rivers, in the Indian Territory are mostly clear, with rocky bottoms and mural banks. Fish abound, — pike, cat-fish, and red-horse east of meridian ninety-six, and trout in the Wichita Mountains.
The products of the country are corn, wheat, oats, cotton, rice, sweet and Irish potatoes, sorghum, pea-nuts, and tobacco. With the present system of cultivation, corn has an average yield of thirty bushels per acre, price fifty cents per bushel; wheat fifteen bushels, price one dollar; oats thirty bushels, price thirty-five cents; and cotton three hundred pounds per acre, price seven cents per pound. In the stock line cattle take the lead; then follow hogs and horses. Goats and sheep are also raised to a considerable extent.
Tahlegwah was made the capital of the Cherokee nation in 1840. It is a town of five hundred inhabitants, wearing an ancient aspect, with its dilapidated houses and irregular streets. A few modern buildings have arisen, among them a spacious brick capitol, in which I attended a meeting of the council, holding its annual session of thirty days’ duration.
The Cherokees have a governor or principal chief, an assistant governor or sub-chief, elected every four years by the people, and a council, consisting of an upper and lower house, whose members are called senators and representatives, also elected by the people. There are judges of the supreme and district courts, county officers, school superintendents, and other public functionaries. Bills originate as in Congress, and the principal chief vetoes in the same manner as the president of the United States.
The treasury at Washington holds in trust for the Cherokees $2,500,000, derived from the sale of their lands in Georgia and North Carolina. Of the interest on this amount, they annually expend $80,000 for executive, judicial, and legislative purposes. The Creeks pay the members of their council $18,750 per annum; their judiciary, $13,000; their delegates to Washington, $6000. The Chickasaws pay their executive and judiciary $20,000, and their legislative department $1500. The Choctaws pay their council $7000, and their executive and judiciary $29,000. The cost of the Seminole government is $11,200. In addition to the necessary governmental outlay, the Cherokee nation sometimes expends $25,000 per year for the support of delegates at Washington. The other four nations maintain delegates at the seat of government every year. If a territorial government should be formed, and a delegate to Congress be chosen from the members of each nation, many thousands of dollars would be saved to the tribes annually.
The present Cherokee chief, Oosalatah, is a full-blood Indian, of a dignified and courteous bearing. Proud of his unmixed lineage, he disdains to speak English, although it is reported that when the mood suits him he can equal his interpreter in the use of forcible Saxon. An exemplary chief magistrate, he is a religious minister of the Baptist persuasion. His zeal may not exceed that of the Sac and Fox chief, Keo-Kuk, who, having become convicted of the error of his ways, particularly Jamaica ginger tippling, forthwith mounted his pony and rode two hundred miles to be immersed, yet Oosalatah is said to be a faithful pastor, and goes about preaching eloquent Indian to audiences who mostly fail to understand the language. I happened to be present at the Young Ladies’ Seminary, where he preached a sermon on Thanksgiving Day. One hundred hungry girls sniffed roast turkey and plum-pudding from afar, and listened to their chief with reverent attention. When he had finished speaking, a blue-eyed Indian girl, who taught languages, philosophy, and the higher mathematics in the school, informed me that she understood but two words in the sermon. “And the other girls were no better off than I,” said she. “To tell the truth, Cherokee has been crowded out by other languages, with the most of us; although,” looking unflinchingly at a full-blood squaw, who had come with her papoose to partake of the liberal Thanksgiving cheer offered at the seminary, “I am far prouder of my Indian blood than of the white blood in my veins.”
As an amusing paradox, however, this same young lady introduced soon afterward a companion teacher, who resembled a vivacious French girl, and bore the lovely name of Eloise, saying with a touch of generous pride, in referring to her friends patrician ancestors, “Miss Eloise is Cherokee, and also a grand-niece of Commodore ——, and an own niece of Senator ——, who is now a member of Congress in Washington. She was educated in Philadelphia, and has seen something of Washington society herself.” This harmonious blending of the two races, it seems to me, is the great solution of the Indian question as regards the five civilized tribes, which with the rising generation will do away with prejudice and establish peace and good-will between the whites and Indians. The Cherokees, with a population of 19,000, support two seminaries, male and female respectively, an orphan asylum, a deaf and dumb asylum, and seventy-four common schools, having in all 3000 pupils. They annually expend for purposes of education $79,000. The seminaries and asylums are in brick buildings with three stories and a basement, and are quite handsome and commodious. They were erected at a cost of $40,000 each.
The Creeks, who number 14,260, have twenty-eight public schools and two mission schools, with 1200 pupils, costing $23,000. The Choctaws, numbering 16,000, have fifty-five schools and one academy, costing $29,000, with 1200 pupils. The Chickasaws, numbering 5800, have twelve public schools and one academy, costing $21,000, with 400 pupils. The Seminoles have five schools, with an attendance of 180, for which they pay the annual sum of $2800.
It will be observed that the Cherokees are far ahead in point of education, owing to their having had the earlier work of missionaries and a larger school fund than the other nations. In natural intelligence, the Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws are said to be quite equal to the Cherokees. At the Tullahassee Creek mission school there was pointed out to me a little full-blood Indian, nine years old, who entered the school one year ago unable to read or spell, and with no knowledge of the English language. He now spells rapidly upon the black-board long columns of two-syllable words, and adds figures which number tens of thousands. Professor Dobson, of the Cherokee boys’ seminary, who has been a teacher with the Indians since 1860, informed me that, the course of study being equal, Indian children attained as high a standard of scholarship, especially in mathematics, as the average American youth. For instance: two years ago a class of boys, many of them full-bloods, entered the seminary, and began the study of arithmetic with the primary department. They have now thoroughly finished decimal fractions, that chapter of horrors to the school-boy, of whatever nationality. Another full-blood youth of eighteen years, who has suffered the amputation of both arms to the elbow, has made remarkable proficiency in book-keeping, writing a legible and even handsome hand by using the pen inserted in a band above the elbow. An example worthy of mention is Professor Vann, the present superintendent of the Cherokee boys’ seminary, a young man in whom the Indian predominates. He has acquired a thorough education in all the branches included in a college course, with no other aid than that found in a district school-house near his father’s cabin. The study of European literature has been his chief source of information. He has never been outside of the Indian Territory except on one occasion, when he crossed the border into Arkansas, yet his conversation on all topics pertaining to the world is broad and brilliant. His library contains the works of standard authors, and the first-class magazines of the day are found upon his study table. It can safely be predicted that one hundred and fifty boys, whose education is being superintended by this self-made man, will be prepared for whatever emergencies may arise concerning a change of government and the admission of white immigration to the Territory. The principal objection which the Indians urge against opening the Territory is that they would be unable to cope with the white man in mechanical skill and business enterprise; that should they consent to have their lands sectionized, and one hundred and sixty acres apportioned to each member of the tribes, a few years, or even months, would find them robbed of their property by sagacious speculators, and left destitute and without the power to earn a living for themselves and families. On the other hand, it is proposed that if the Territory of Oklahoma is established, a law shall be passed restraining the Indians from disposing of their homesteads for a certain number of years, or until the rising generation shall take the places of their sires, and from their superior education be able to manage their affairs with better judgment. It is stated that the interest which will accrue from the sale of lands to the United States over and above their homestead rights, added to the interest upon sums already in the treasury at Washington, will give the Indians a share, per capita, that will make them absolutely independent. It is further argued that the present generation will have little to dread from white immigration, for, as the Indians themselves admit, they owe their whole advancement to the influence of white people, acting in the capacity of missionaries, teachers, tillers of the soil, and political directors.
The most rapid improvement which has been observed among the tribes is that made by the Seminoles, till lately but little in advance of the wild Indians, whose leader is a white man, having been adopted by the tribe.
Among the Cherokees, ex-Chief Wm. P. Ross, who is called their most brilliant speaker, had a Scotch grandfather whom he claims with pride. Wm. P. Adair, their most skillful politician, and Wm. Boudinot, the best reasoner in their council halls, also boast of white ancestors. Colonel B. C. Boudinot, who in his lecturing tours through the United States has been designated the “learned and eloquent Cherokee,” is a brother of Wm. Boudinot, but has been banished from his tribe on account of his radical sentiments in favor of opening the Territory. The Creeks have their McIntosh, Porter, Graysons, Stidham, and many others of acknowledged talent, who are all of a mixed lineage; and the same can be said of the leaders of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations.
I cannot close this article without alluding briefly to the Nez Percés, whom I visited at their reservation in the north-east portion of the Territory. When we read about the chivalrous Chief Joseph, who ordered the horses of his enemies to be returned, and his people, who disrobed themselves of blankets to cover their wounded foes upon the battle-field, our sympathies are awakened for these homesick exiles, in whom a spirit of tenderness and wildness struggles for the mastery. The Indian summer weather had changed to a cold rain-storm, through which we drove for miles among the timber bordering Lost Creek, — a suggestive name when associated with the forlorn people who are encamped upon its banks. The Nez Percé village embraces an area of about a half mile in circumference, and here I saw the blanket Indian, with his strange, barbaric mode of life. The lodges were composed of army tents grouped among the trees, each tent containing several families, forming messes after the usual manner of nomadic Indians.
In spite of the rain dripping from the trees and chilling the ground, the men and many of the squaws and children were outside the tents, dressed only in their leggings and blankets, without moccasins, or covering to their heads. Some of their faces were painted in characters which signified the number of scalps the brave had taken; whether the squaw was eligible for marriage, or whether the mother of many children, etc.
Chief Joseph is a stately brave, above six feet in height, and is generally conceded to be the grandest specimen of an Indian warrior that has existed since the days of Black Hawk. Aside from his honors as chief, he is renowned among his people for his literary triumphs, having written in hieroglyphics a complete history of his campaign in Oregon, which resulted in his capture and banishment to the Territory. He now mourns the loss of a young daughter, fifteen years of age, who went out to help drive in the cattle on the morning of her father’s engagement with General Miles’s command, and was never seen again. It is supposed that she was killed by some stray shot, or that she joined the force of Sitting Bull with the remainder of her people who escaped capture. Another source of grief to the Nez Percés is the loss of forty-five hundred ponies, which were taken from them at the time of their surrender, and not returned, as they believed that they would be. Next to his own flesh and blood, the Indian loves his pony, and to be bereft of this animal causes lasting sorrow. My attendant to the camp chanced to be the bearer of a telegram to the interpreter, and as a return for this favor we gained admittance to the tent in which the medicine man was holding mysterious service over the sick. White persons are excluded from the “medicine making,” on account of the belief that they will spoil the charm which is transfused into the medicine, and hence that it will fail to cure the sick. From an old man racked by frequent coughing we learned that there were “many sick, many dying, and many wanting to go back.” It is not strange that sickness prevails, for in their persistent clinging to old customs the Nez Percés refuse to put on the comfortable garments offered them by the government, preferring to go almost naked to adopting the garb of civilization. Their sole wish is to return to their northern home. Their feelings may be compared to those of the Modocs, as expressed to Colonel Meaham when he visited that people in their intrenchments in the lava beds of Oregon, just before the fatal tragedy by which General Canby and Mr. Thomas lost their lives. Said Captain Jack: “Give me these rocks for a home: I can live here; I can take care of my people here.” But the Modocs were not granted the rocks, and as a precaution against a second outbreak they were settled in the Indian Territory. Mark the change which five years have brought about! The Modocs are now living on farms, in snug log houses built by the government. Their petition now is: “Give us some mares and plows, and seed to plant, that we may make a living for ourselves.” I caught a glimpse of Scar-Face Charley and of some comrades, who had come to call upon Chief Joseph. As a pleasing contrast to the pitiable condition of the Nez Percés, they were warmly dressed in citizens clothes, with felt hats, and boots as neat as though they had been made to order. “We get enough to eat, and are happy,” said one of them in reply to my question whether they were satisfied with their new mode of living.
In view of this marvelous change in the Modocs, to send the Nez Percés back to their old life of irresponsible wandering would seem like turning a wailing child, who refused to be warmed and fed, into the street to suffer cold and hunger.
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