Vaccinating Indians

Arapahoe and Cheyenne camp

Special Agent H.T. Ketcham spent the winter of 1863-64 traveling alone from camp to camp vaccinating Indians against small-pox. In the months of October through December 1863 he estimated vaccinating about 1,100 Indians.
          Ketcham arrived at an agency near Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory in October 1863. He reported that Major Colley “told me that the Indians of his agency would be glad to see me, as some of them had suffered terribly with the small-pox, and were anxious to be vaccinated.” Ketcham found many Arapahoes “badly pitted” as a result of small-pox.
          He then travelled toward Fort Larned in Western Kansas to visit Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches. “On my way down the Arkansas River I vaccinated a number of bands of Indians who were en route to Pawnee Fork, Walnut Creek and other locations, where the buffaloes were said to be numerous. Twenty-five or thirty lodges were encamped at the old Santa Fé crossing; and had been there some time, unable to move on account of sickness…There were no buffaloes near them, and they seemed to be subsisting chiefly on emigrant’s cattle that had died of disease in passing through the country. I have no doubt but their destitution and this unwholesome food caused the erysipelas, that was prevailing among them. They also had the whooping-cough and diarrhoea.”
          Ketcham said, “I have no interpreter, and consequently could not always tell to what tribes or bands the Indians belonged. All that I have seen are peaceable and very friendly.”

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Quoted text from an undated letter from H.T. Ketcham to Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans found in the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1864.

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Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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