Traders Took Advantage of Indians

From Fort Larned, Special Agent H.T. Ketcham wrote to John Evans, Governor of Colorado Territory, on April 4, 1864. He described how traders took advantage of the Indians who did not realize the value of buffalo hides—also called buffalo robes.

Press at Bent's Old Fort used to compact hides

It was a two person job to turn the press

“The Indians have all been very successful in killing buffaloes, have had plenty of meat, and have been able to purchase with their robes, flour, sugar, coffee, dry-goods and trinkets from the white and Mexican traders; but they do not realize one-fourth their value. [The robes] are now worth eight or nine dollars by the bale at wholesale. The traders pay [the Indians] seventy-five cents in brass wire or other trinkets for a robe; two dollars in groceries and less in dry-goods. It is estimated that the six tribes here, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Caddoes, Apaches, Kiowas, and Comanches, will furnish, this season, at least fifteen thousand robes, which, at eight dollars, would amount to one hundred and twenty thousand dollars.”
          Ketcham offered a solution to this problem. “…as the government is doubtless more desirous to better the condition of the Indians than to enrich the traders,” Ketcham suggested the government take the place of traders. The government could pay the Indians full value for their robes and sell them whatever goods they needed at cost plus transportation expense. The system could be managed, according to Ketcham, by “honest capable agents employed for that purpose, at a salary to be paid by the Indians out of proceeds of their furs.”

Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1864.

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.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Plague of Grasshoppers

James B. Thompson, back row second from left, with a delegation of Muache Utes

James B. Thompson was a brother-in-law of Territorial Governor Edward M. McCook and served as McCook’s Private Secretary. In August 1870, Thompson visited the Southern Ute Indian Agency at the request of McCook. He reported his observations in a letter. 
“The agency farm has not proved a success this season, owing to the almost insuperable climate and other difficulties to be surmounted,” Thompson wrote. “A tract of eight to ten acres was planted with oats, potatoes, turnips, etc. all of which might have made an average crop but for the advent of the grasshoppers.”
          “These insects devoured all the farm produce above ground in a single day. I am informed by the agent that a severe frost killed the grasshoppers the same night.”
          People talked for many years after this about the year of the grasshopper invasion.

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Wester History Collection
Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1870

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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An Indian Agent’s Unusual Proposal

In his October 4, 1867 annual report to Colorado Territorial Governor Alexander C. Hunt, Indian Agent Daniel C. Oakes proposed a plan to make the Ute Indians under his charge self sufficient, no longer in need of government support.
          “I have under my charge about 1,500 souls, say 250 lodges,” Oakes wrote. “Not one of these people object to being put upon a reservation if they could be assured of subsistence where their own exertions and vigilance would bring them reward. Agriculture in any part of the country where they are likely to be settled is out of the question on account of the short season peculiar to the climate.”
          Oakes proposed an initial government contribution to start the Indians on the road to self-sufficiency. He estimated costs as follows:
“Twenty sheep to each lodge cost probably $15,000;
two tame American cows to each lodge cost $20,000;
two bulls, $500;
making in all, $35,500.”
          “Add to this $5,000 paid out in cheap spinning wheels, looms, and wool cards, with a white man capable and willing to instruct the women how to prepare the wool and make cloth and blankets, and my word for it, no more annuities or presents need be sent them after the second year. These herds would give them something to protect and make them fear war rather than desire it, give them a kind of employment very desirable to them, and one which would very soon cause them to adopt the manners and customs of their white neighbors.”
          “I would give this bearing stock [female animals] to the women alone, and in case of death the next eldest female child to be the possessor of all bearing animals, giving to the men only a right to the male issues [male offspring of the animals], and restricting butchering to male issues alone.”
          Clearly, Oakes saw Ute women as key to stability. He concluded, “No difficulty need be apprehended of the squaw preserving and keeping her property.”

Photo by H.S. Poley, courtesy the Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1867

Colorado Names in New York Times

“A Dull and Unimportant Day in Congress” read a New York Times front-page headline on Wednesday, March 22, 1866. Among other items in the news from the nation’s capitol was a long list of nominations confirmed by the Senate.
These included appointments of Consuls to places familiar – Kingston, Jamica, Trinidad de Cuba, and St. Thomas – and not so familiar –  Tumbez, Funchal, Smyrna, and Bayonne. Appointed “Minister Resident at the Hawaiian Island” was Edward M. McCook. Three years later he would become Governor of Colorado Territory.
In the same New York Times article, Daniel C. Oakes of Colorado was confirmed as Indian Agent of the Grand River and “Wintah” [Uintah] band of Indians. He would still hold that position when Edward McCook became Territorial Governor and Ex Officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Colorado Territory.

Photos courtesy the Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

John L. Routt Governor of the Territory and the State

Honoring the 150th Anniversary of Colorado Territory (officially formed February 28, 1861), this series of posts offers a brief glimpse into Indian affairs during the terms of the seven territorial governors.

John L. Routt was the last Governor of Colorado Territory (1875-76) and first Governor of the State of Colorado. Like McCook, he was a former Union soldier well known by President Ulysses S. Grant, who appointed him.
          As Colorado transitioned from Territory to State, Indian Agent Henry F. Bond reported advances in education at the Los Pinos Ute Indian reservation. “The school has been as successful as could be expected, taking into consideration how lowdown in acquirements the scholars commenced. The improvement of several of the pupils is very marked. Quite a victory has been gained over the prejudices of influential members of the tribe. Members of Ouray’s family and of the families of four other prominent chiefs have attended the school. The English language is taught by constant and persevering conversation on things of which the senses take cognizance, or acts which the children can perform or see in others. Thus they learn the use of the words while they become accustomed to the sounds and the look.”

Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1875

Celebrating July 4th in 1861

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Colorado Territory, officially formed on February 28, 1861. What was July 4th like at that time?
          Historic newspapers offer a peak back in time. Abraham Lincoln was the new President of the United States, eleven states had seceded from the Union to become the Confederate States of America, and by July 4th the Union and the Confederacy were at war.
          The front page of the Rocky Mountain News Weekly on July 3, 1861 made no mention of celebration. Four of the eight columns contained news of the war. The rest of the front page focused on a recently completed census of the territory, the upcoming convention in Golden City to nominate a delegate to Congress, and reports from the gold mining areas.
          Page two contained the full text of “An Act to Provide a Temporary Government for the Territory of Colorado” as approved by the U.S. Senate. Section 16 stated, “The Consitution and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable shall have the same force and effect within the Territory of Colorado as elsewhere in the United States.”
          The only July 4th entertainments were found on page three. In Central City there would be a grand Citizens’ and Fancy Dress Ball at the new National Theater in the evening. Grand Balls and suppers were also being held at the Nevada House Hotel and at Bergen’s Ranch. No other forms of celebration were mentioned.
          News notes of the day included: “The C.O.C. & P.P. Express [stagecoach] arrived from the States last evening, in five days and six hours from St. Joseph [Missouri].”
          Many short items from other newspapers appeared. Even this entertaining note reminds us that the war was never far from people’s thoughts. “The Cincinnati Inquirer says one of the fairest and most respected of Kentucky’s daughters has at various times conveyed out of that city two hundred revolvers under her hoops.”
          The lady pictured above would certainly be able to hide a few guns under her hoop skirt, which was the popular style of the day!

Photo courtesy Victorian Images

Elbert’s Short and Quiet Stint

Honoring the 150th Anniversary of Colorado Territory (officially formed February 28, 1861), this series of posts offers a brief glimpse into Indian affairs during the terms of the seven territorial governors.

Samuel H. Elbert was the sixth Territorial Governor, serving one year (1873-1874) which was a fairly quiet time in Indian relations.
          Special Indian Agent James B. Thompson, based at Denver, reported that small bands of Utes “visit Denver nearly every week, from October to April…either on their way from the agencies, at White River and Los Pinos, to the buffalo grounds…or for the special purpose of disposing of the furs and skins they have taken in the chase, and to supply thenselves with the means of continuing their hunt.” The Indian Bureau did not authorize agents to pay for housing the Utes when they passed the city and Thompson said they were not welcome in the public-houses (hotels). They Indians depended on charitable Denver residents who might give them food and shelter.

Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1874

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Government Delays

Honoring the 150th Anniversary of Colorado Territory (officially formed February 28, 1861), this series of posts offers a brief glimpse into Indian affairs during the terms of the seven territorial governors.

The 1869 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior included a report from the recently displaced Colorado Territorial Governor, Alexander C. Hunt, as well as a report from his replacement, Edward McCook.
          Governor Hunt served just one year as Territorial Governor. In his report he took the opportunity to vent his frustration with federal government delays in delivering goods and services promised to the Indians by treaty.  

“In my years of experience among the various tribes I have found delays the most fruitful of all causes which engender war. An Indian, who is the soul of punctuality, cannot comprehend why the officers of a government in the possession of unlimited wealth cannot be as prompt as a poor untutored native; nor can this failure, so often repeated, be explained satisfactorily to him.”

A.C. Hunt,
Governor and ex officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs
Colorado Territory

“We Won’t Go,” said the Utes

Honoring the 150th Anniversary of Colorado Territory (officially formed February 28, 1861), this series of posts offers a brief glimpse into Indian affairs during the terms of the seven territorial governors.

When Alexander Cummings became Governor of Colorado Territory, he quickly discovered the Ute Indians were not happy.
          “When I arrived in the Territory in October 1865…my predecessor had but just returned from his interview with the Tabeguache, to whom he had given annuities of goods and stock. He was under the impression that the Indians…had resolved to go across the mountains toward or into their reservation.”
          To his surprise, Cummings found “that the Tabeguaches never had much idea of going to their reservation, or, if they had, they very soon abandoned it.”
          Cummings reported that he met with the Uintah and Yampa (Green River) bands of Utes. His purpose was to convince them to give up their current land and to join the Tabeguaches on a reservation agreed to in the 1863-64 treaty.
          “I took with me to this meeting…a quantity of provisions and cattle, and part of the goods which had been stored in Denver for a year or two past,” Cumming reported. “I met with Indians under very favorable circumstances; found them in a very good humor…but I soon learned that they were utterly averse to parting with the lands in question, and also unwilling to even entertain the proposition of permitting roads to be made through their grounds.”
           Drawing a map in the dirt, Cummings showed the Unitah and Yampa leaders certain areas of land they claimed to be theirs which the Tabeguache had sold to the government in the recent treaty. “This exasperated them very much…They said the Tabeguaches had never sold these lands, but if they had done it they had no right whatsoever to do so. They said the country that they were now occupying was their own hunting ground…and that no power should disturb their possession of it.”
          Cummings attempted to convince the Uintah and Yampa to “abandon their claim and go over to the White River to a reservation in the immediate vicinity of the Tabeguache reserve.” The Uintah and Wampa (sic) leaders refused. Cummings pushed this idea so hard that he began to fear for his own safety.
          “They are quite intelligent,” Cummings said of these Utes, “and point with great earnestness to the condition of all the places where the whites have obtained a foothold. And they say with great force that if roads and settlements are allowed to be made in their present hunting grounds, which is all that is left to them, the game will vanish and they will soon be left to starvation.”
          “These bands, the Uintahs and the Wampas (sic), are a quiet, peaceably-disposed people: say they want to live on friendly terms with the whites…”
          Cummings did make a treaty with the Uintahs and Yampas in August 1866 but it was never ratified by Congress.

Photo courtesy Colorado State Archives
Text from Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1866