The Dalles Weekly Chronicle, The Dalles, OR., February 2, 1933, page 4
HISTORIAN SAYS INSIDE STORY OF BANNOCK WAR NOT PRINTED
This is the concluding article of a story written by W.F. Brockton of Summerville, Ore., relating his personal observations and opinions of early Indian troubles.
Except in the interesting writings of Sarah Winnemucca,
I have never seen the inside of history of the Bannock Indian war printed.
There were important incidents of that war which Sarah did not relate because
of her friendship for certain whites who had befriended her and her people
and who did not want to be involved because of the general feeling among
whites against the Indians.
Her writings were tempered, more or less by the feelings and interests of General Howard, who was her employer and her benefactor. As his guide and interpreter she greatly respected him and his word to her always was made good, so far as possible.
After the war, Sarah lived in our family, at different time. I often rode with her when she was going on missions for her tribesmen and for the Indian agency. I knew her feelings and her background and the history of her people. These I learned from her and from Young Chief Winnemucca, who became my hunting companion.
Loyal To Howard
In justice to Sarah I want to say that I believe that
she always was loyal to General Howard and to the white man and that her
people were greatly wronged and persecuted by both whites and Indians. About
500 ponies were killed and wounded by the volunteers and by the gunboat as
they made efforts to cross from the south to the north banks of the Columbia.
For several months the wounded horses stood along the banks and became prey
The shabby treatment which Father Wilbur and the U.S. government gave the Piutes who were held in concentration camp at Simcoe, is the most cruel and inhuman treatment given to human beings that ever I have seen. Much of the time they were not issued rations and they lived on grasshoppers and beetles, when they could not procure game close to the camp. They were not allowed to go into the mountains to hunt, as the best hunting grounds were saved for the Yakima Indians, who had first claim to the reservation. I know, because my father was dispersing agent for the food and clothing they got, which was very little.
No Rations Issued
Leo F. Brune, a stockman, now living at Northdalles,
Wash., will verify my statements as to the privations. During the weeks that
the Indians were herded on the barren hills and flats across from The Dalles,
with no issue of rations to them as prisoners, Leo Brune and his sister helped
the squaws catch black crickets and watch them bake and eat the crickets.
For many days the crickets where about their only food, with the addition
of ground squirrels and such few birds as they might shoot with bows and
Father Wilbur, agent of the Yakimas, was directed by the Indian bureau at Washington to assemble all the Columbia and Snake river Indians upon the Yakima Indian reservation, if possible. To that end he called a great council, near Simcoe.
As a boy I slipped into the council and heard the speeches
of whites and Indians. The leading speakers were White Bird, chief of the
Yakimas. He had been coached by Father Wilbur and told the renegades that
they would be safer and better treated by the whites if they would stake
out lands and farm along the Yakima.
Moses, the magnificent chief of the nomadic, and the Big Bend Indians, in fact all Indians along the rivers who had not taken lands on the reservations, made one of the finest speeches that I ever heard, saying that if driven to a reservation he and his Indians would submit but that the reservation life was not their choosing.
Sarah Winnemucca and Chief Winnemucca (sub-chief) consented to go upon a reservation if the reservation was set apart for them in their own country - Nevada and southern Oregon, the original grounds of the Piutes. The pow-wow ended without any decision. Every Indian who spoke, pictured the broken treaties made by the whites and the white fathers and said "How do we know that a treaty made here will not be broken as have all the rest of the treaties."
When I think of the conquest of the American continent
by the white race over the brown tribes, the practical annihilation of the
Indians, the breaking of treaties with them, I wonder what right we have
to go on before the world to discuss the broken treaties of Europe, what
right we have to say to Japan, to leave Manchuria to self-determination.
Did we leave the Indians to self-determination?
The Indian bureau, operated at Washington, controlled by Indian agents with self seeking motives and congressmen who represented the predatory stockmen and settlers, over-rode every natural right of the Indians of America. So far they have had no redress. Those sinned against will have died before their wrongs are righted.
It is so with all bureaucratic government, whether operated for whites or for Indians. The governing power is too far removed from the people governed. There is no such thing as justice to the individual were a people are governed by a far removed source of power, such as a bureau at Washington. The injustices committed by the Bureau under the Czar of Russia brought about a downfall of that government and made possible the Soviet regime, itself a machine of bureaus.
War, whether with or among the Indians or whites, brings
about the gravest injustices to individuals. The Bannock rebellion did great
injustice to the Piutes, most of whom wanted to be at peace with the whites.
Participation therein by renegades from Moses Indians, put the chief and
his loyal Indians in bad with the whites and caused them to be banished from
the Grand Coulee, which had been their home for hundreds of years.
The conquest of Manchuria by Japan is a parallel with the conquest of the American planes by the white races. What about self-determination of peoples? During the last 50 years, I have run across in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, a number of families who came to this country in the eighties as a result of my father's letters published in Ohio newspapers during the Indian uprising. The pictures of the fertile landscapes, the equable climate, the rich pastures and the beautiful country appealed to a people whose soil already was becoming a worn out and a magnet to those who had a liking for adventure.
Then Chinamen, rocking cradles along the bars of the rivers, were making more money than any farmer made in Ohio. L.W. Curtis, at Northdalles, Wash., is another pioneer who remembers well the Piutes and their suffering when they were herded through the snows of the mountain ranges, scantily clad, from Idaho to the Yakima reservation.
The Dalles Weekly Chronicle, The Dalles, OR., February 2, 1933, page 6
PIONEER RESIDENT TELLS OF EARLY INDIAN TROUBLES ALONG COLUMBIA
The following story is the first of two chapters written by W.F. Brock of Summerville, Ore., who according to his story, lived at Columbus Landing with his parents during the Bannock-Piute uprising about 1878. The story is composed of the personal opinions and observations made by him during his early residence along the Columbia.
My father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Brock, had been
engaged by Father J.H. Wilbur, agent of the Yakimas, to teach the Indian
school at Fort Simcoe. I was about 8 years old and I remember vividly the
incidents in which there was any action. Our family reached Columbus Landing,
about 15 miles by steamboat above The Dalles, early in June.
The ferryman there gave my father a message from Father Wilbur advising the teachers to bivouac at Columbus or Goldendale until the Indians, make restless by the threat of the Bannock-Piute uprising, should quiet down. So my father engaged board for my mother and myself with the ferryman, Mr. Hickenbotham. My mother spent the summer drying and canning fruit from the fine Hickenbotham orchards, of which there were three, two on the sandbar and one half way up the mountain towards Goldendale.
Having settled his family safely, my father joined civilian scouts and volunteers to go over the Indian country, in order to pick out a farm when things should settle down. Almost every white man who came to Oregon or Washington territory at that time was seeking a homestead. Incident to his travels, my father wrote articles about the country and the Indians for Ohio newspapers.
Battle Scatters Indians
With one of the fighting contingents of volunteers, my
father, after witnessing the battle at Cayuse station, above Pendleton, rode
from the Yakima country through the hills and along the Columbia river, following
the fleeing Indians who were seeking to cross the river. These Indians were
supposed to have taken part with the Bannock-Piutes in the battle at Cayuse
station. They gathered range horses as they fled and drove the horses before
them along the south side of the Columbia. Finally my father, with some other
volunteers and plainsmen, arrived at Columbus landing.
The Indians crossed the Columbia, from south to north, where every they could find driftwood with which to build rafts, beginning their crossings at about the mouth of Willow creek and crossing in small parties over a period of several days. About the last of the groups to cross by swimming, by raft and boat, was at Columbus landing.
Cross' On Rafts
The squaws and papooses were with the men or bucks. In the
night they made rafts of driftwood, tying the logs and sticks together with
raw hide ropes, loaded thereon their families and belongings and driving
ponies ahead of them, they entered the river and paddles and swam across.
Many horses and some Indians were drowned, as the Indians were pressed hard
by the fire of the pursuing volunteers and unauthorized plainsmen. The majority
of the whites wanted war to extermination, because the whites wanted the
Indian lands. This is what to be whites had come west for - the lands.
So far as I have been able to learn from officials records and talking with regular army man, that the cow men who pursued those fleeing Columbia river Indians and took part in the skirmishes were not under regular army officers and made no written reports to the war department or posts at Walla Walla or Vancouver.
However, the gun boat that fired into the Indians, killing many of their horses and several of their women, was commanded by a regular army officer. From the hills above Columbus, I witnessed some of the slaughtered by the gun boat and saw the Indians bury a squaw on the north side of the river. They left a white horse by the grave, tied to a sage brush for her spirit to ride to the happy hunting grounds on.
Mr. Hickenbotham talked to the Indians when they came
back several times to visit the grave of the woman. He helped them keep the
body covered with sand as the coyotes worked around it at times, also on
the bones of the horse. I used to go out to the sand dunes with him when
he went to look after the grave for the Indians.
In the years that followed I learned to speak the Piute, Yakima, Chinook, Walla Walla and some of the Cayuse dialects. Indians from these tribes, also those from Moses Columbia River band spent their summers on my meadows in the Blue mountains. They worked and herded for me and hunted with and for me. From their own lips I heard repeated over and over again the stories of the Bannock-Piute war, as well as of other wars against whites and against other tribes of Indians.
I became acquainted with some of these same Indians who
were fired upon as they crossed the Columbia. Some of them had been driven
out of the Blue mountains by the Indian war and had taken no part in it.
They were simply trying to get out of the war country. Many of the volunteer
whites who went out in the Indian war, and in many other Indian wars, did
not care to know who were the peaceably inclined Indians and which where
General Howard and gives an account of a stormy belligerent interview he had with one white man who criticized him because with his army he did not kill all Indians indiscriminately. Some of the newspapers of the Pacific coast, as well as some of the eastern newspapers, declared that all Indians were bad Indians and demanded a general slaughter.
I well remember such expressions on the part of many whites. It was whites with such opinions and such practices who made all the trouble with the Indians and caused most of the massacres. As in all wars, there was a lot of propaganda in connection with all the Indian troubles and it was used by the whites with designs and purpose. There also were propagandists among the Indians who wanted the white men kept out of the Indian country.
The Dalles Weekly Chronicle, The Dalles, OR., March 16, 1933, page 4
PIONEER HISTORIAN VERIFIES MANY DISPUTED POINTS OF PREVIOUS STORY
Personal reminiscences of Wilbur F. Brock of Summerville,
Oregon, on the Bannock-Piute Indian war were recently published in this
newspaper. These articles brought out a variety of opinion on the different
phases of the war as recalled by early day residents. In support of his first
articles, Mr. Brock has written the following verification of different points
subject to discussion.
I appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending me the two copies of your paper containing a condensation of my recollections of the summer of 1878 at Columbus landing during the Bannock-Piute Indian war followed by a letter on the same by Leon W. Curtiss, a Klickitat pioneer, which is interesting and well stated.
I gave my recollections to the press in order that they might have contradiction or verification by old timers who personally knew of the incidents recalled along the Columbia river. And I welcome Mr. Curtiss' views, even though not altogether in harmony with mine.
I am on the side of the Piute Indians (not of the Bannocks). Directly after the war I lived among them at Simcoe agency and my father issued their scanty and insufficient rations, as furnished at wide intervals by the Big White Chief at Washington, on the requisition of Father J.H. Wilbur, the agent of the Yakima. During that time Sarah Winnemucca, the trusted Piute guide of General Howard throughout that war, lived in our household; and during the years that followed, visited in our household often. From her and from my own observation I know how those Piutes suffered and were wrongly accused and oppressed and wrongly removed from their own haunts in Nevada.
Like a band of sheep driven by dogs through the snowy Blue mountains, the Piutes, most of whom took no part in the Bannock war, were herded by soldiers after snowfall from Southern Idaho to Fort Simcoe, about 1700 half naked natives, men, women and children, a number dying from exposure on the way.
This unhappy migration was instigated by predatory stock men in Nevada, Southern Idaho and Southeast Oregon, who wanted the Piutes and their ponies off these ranges. And these stockmen, to accomplish their purposes of taking over fine ranges from these Indians, wrote lies about those Indians to their congressmen and to the war and interior departments. This propaganda had its results in the order of banishment of the Piutes to Fort Simcoe, Washington territory.
General O.O. Howard assembled many of these letters, passed some of them to Sarah Winnemucca and treated of them in his official reports to the war department as well as in his published writings. And from first to last, as the commanding officer in charge of this department of the Columbia and in charge of the operations against the Bannock Indians, General Howard recommended that the Piutes be allowed to live their natural life upon the Nevada pastures. His advice finally was partly adopted for a part of the tribe but not until most of its members had been decimated by starvation, abuse and disease.
For verification of my assertions in these matters I refer the reader to the annual reports of General O.O. Howard for the years 1878, '79 and '80, officials records of the war department; also to his book "My life and experiences among the Indians," published in 1907 and to his magazine and newspaper articles.
Now as to Indians being fired upon as they crossed the Columbia by river steamers fitted out as gun boats. In my original manuscript I did not refer to this phase of the war as a battle or battles, which terms have been given in the editorial writing down of my manuscript. I described the incidents along the Columbia as needless and wanton slaughter of Indians and horses. This slaughter was committed by the gun boats and by volunteers (not regulars) who pursued the Indians and drove them from the south side of the Columbia to the north side.
Most of the Indians fired upon by the gun boats and by the volunteers were non-combatants returning from the Blue mountains in Oregon Several of them are alive and now on the Yakima Indian reservation and their stories are in writing in the hands of Historian L.V. McHorter, Yakima, Wash.
In my files of the Walla Walla Gazette, during 1894-'95-'96, I have the narratives of several of the volunteer Indian fighters of those days who participated in the driving of the Indians from the south to the north side of the Columbia, none of which narratives were contradicted by the many surviving scouts and Indian fighters of those days. I did those interviews myself in my sketches of pioneer days and I tried to sift out the truth by inviting contributions from those who had personal knowledge of the incidents.
In 1897, I accompanied officers of the fourth cavalry over the battle grounds of the Bannock rebellion and with them located, from the officials records sent for the purpose from the war department, the land marks of those battle grounds. This reconstruction of war maps I reported for the Walla Walla Union, so far as I was permitted to publish findings made for the war department. Then, when the Indiana War veterans of the Yakima Indian war met in Walla Walla in 1894, I accompanied them to the battlefield of the Umatilla Meadows and Butter creek, in Umatilla county, and herd first hand their narratives of that fierce struggle. At the same time the stories of their pursuit of renegades, as they called them, during the Bannock war of 1878, when some of those same Indian fighters drove Indians across the Columbia, and when some Indians were shot and many horses killed.
Mr. Curtis says that during the war of 1878 "Bannocks or Piutes, as they were commonly called, and some of the Umatillas, tried to cross the Columbia river near Umatilla and make a junction with Indians of the upper Columbia valley and these Indians were intercepted by United States troops on the armed steam boats but a few Indians and horses were likely killed - not a great number."
Please note that the Bannock Indians are not Piutes nor are Piutes Bannocks -- that different dialects are spoken by the two separate and distinct tribes and that for all the years that the Indians have been known by the white man that the two tribes have been at war with and against one another; that a small part of the Piute tribe was forced into this war by the Bannocks and by the mismanagement and contrivance and strategy of the Indian agents in Idaho and Nevada who wanted to get rid of Piutes - and drive them up into Washington.
Umatilla landing was strongly fortified in 1878 and peopled by about 500 whites who gathered there when the Indians were first heard of in their approach at the head of the John day. No Indians were shot at nearer Umatilla then the mouth of Willow creek, according to the interviews that I have been gathering both with the whites and with the Indians of that day. If Mr. Curtis is sure that Indians were shot at near Umatilla he is furnishing history with facts heretofore overlooked. And I am glad to look into that phase further.
While the Bannock war was in progress in 1878 and our family was quartered with the Hickenbothams at Columbus Landing (now Maryhill) I was a boy of only eight years of age. But so impressed was I with what I saw and heard of Indian fighting that I have followed up the subject ever since and I have supplemented my own memory and observations with the writings of others. All of which confirm the killing of some few Indians and of many horses - about 500 -- by volunteers and regulars between Willow creek and Columbus landing, unjustified slaughter.
My comments on this war are not intended as a brief in defense of the Indian in general as against the white man, only on the merits of this particular war.
At different times the Indians of the plains practiced the most inhuman cruelties, which justified their subjugation and in many cases the extinction of entire tribes and races. But there is a difference in Indians and a difference in causes. Let us preserve the balance of justice.
General Crook, for many years one of our most conspicuous Indian fighters, was interviewed by The Oregonian, August 14, 1878, after he had gone over the whole matter of the Bannock-Piute rebellion, and among other things this is what he said:
Of about 1500 Bannocks and Shoeshones, not more than 150 went on the war path and that caused a hunger. Of about 2,000 Piutes, not so many as 150 were voluntary associates with the aggressive Bannocks. The war leaders forced innocent members of their tribes into the war camps and put all Indians of those tribes on the defensive.
These Indians were starved into rebellion by hunger, according to General Crook's findings. He visited their former haunts and reservations and made investigations before giving out his interview to The Oregonian.
He found that the government had forced the Piutes on the Bannock reservation, where their squaws were ridden down by Bannock braves, lassoed and outraged, with nothing done about it by the agent or other government authorities; that the Piute got along badly with the Bannocks because intruding upon their reserve.
Finally, in The Oregonian of Nov. 30, 1878, General Crook is quoted as saying that the government had been allowing the Indians only 4½ cents per day per head for food after transferring them from their own places in Nevada to the Bannock reservation in southern Idaho; that they were in a starving and impoverished condition and beset on all sides by emcumbrances.
That the food was scandalously insufficient during the two years that the Piutes were held in concentration camp near Simcoe I very well remember, for my father was ration master during the most of that time.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer