Legend of the Springs

FountaineAt the base of Pike’s Peak is a little valley carrying a stream the old French voyageurs… named Fontaine Qui Bouille, or Boiling Fountain…[At] its source were springs which boiled forth charged with carbolic acid gas and pleasantly saturated with soda and other minerals.

These springs were held sacred by all the Indians both of the mountains and the plains because of their supposed medicinal qualities. Around [these springs] they wove traditions, as they did about most natural phenomena which they could not understand. This was supposed to be the spot where Manitou, the great spirit of all the Indians, came forth upon the earth from the happy hunting grounds. The gas bubbles in the water were thought to be his breathing.

Major Ruxton, an eccentric English Army officer…sought health by traveling in the Rocky Mountains all alone as far back as 1834…[He] found the springs filled with bead work and trinkets, left by the Indians as …offerings to Manitou. In his memoirs is found the legend that accounted for the springs.

A Comanche and a Ute…met at the springs…The Ute had killed a deer and this had aroused the jealousy of the Comanche. As the Ute stopped to drink, the Comanche leaped upon him and held his head in the stream until dead. At once the form of Manitou, an aged man with white beard, appeared out of the stream…and, with a war cry, brained the murderer. Immediately the water of that spring turned bitter.

So that his children might not have to drink of this, the great spirit smote the rocks some distance away and sweet and healing waters came forth.

All of this happened a long time ago “when the cotton woods along the big river (the Arkansas) were no larger than an arrow” and was the beginning of that feud between the Indians of the mountains and those of the plains, which lasted for centuries.

From “Shan Kive Marks Race Friendships” The Salt Lake Telegram, September 2, 1913, by Frederic J. Haskin

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Plains Indian Signs for Other Indians

In his book Our Wild Indians, Richard Irving Dodge described hand signs used by Plains Indians to identify other Indians.
          The signs described other Indians according to the Plains’ word or words for those Indians. For example, with the “right hand extended to left and front of body, index finger extended, others [fingers] closed, draw the hand backward with a wriggling motion across the body. The motion symbolized the Plains Indian name for Comanche: “snakes.”      
         
          Ute – Left hand held horizonally in front of body, fingers extended, thumb closed on palm, edge of hand down. With extended fingers of right hand, rub gently toward the wrist, along the extended index finger of left hand. An alternative was to make the sign for black and the generic sign for Indians to indicate the dark skinned Utes.

          Apache – same as left hand position for Ute. With extended fingers of right hand flip back and forth on the index finger of left hand as a barber strops a razor. (meaning unknown to Richard Dodge).

          Arapahoe – index finger of right hand extended, rub right side of nose. Origin and meaning unknown.

          Kiowa – open palm as though holding a small bowl beside the right side of face, make circular motion. This symbolized the Kiowa style of cutting the hair off the right side of the head.

          The Plains Indians had descriptive names for many groups:

          Sioux – “cut throat”

          Cheyenne – “cut finger”

          Pawnee – “wolf”

          White man – “hat wearer”

          Mexican man – “beard wearer”

          Negro man – “black white man”

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 390-391.

Indian commissioners; Colorado connections Part 2


William W. Bent and Christopher (Kit) Carson 
 were among the men who represented the United States as commissioners in peace talks with the Plains Indians.

On October 14, 1865, at a meeting place along the Little Arkansas River in Kansas, chiefs of the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Apache nations signed a treaty with the U.S. government. The Apaches left their alliance with the Kiowa and Commanche to join with the Arapaho and Cheyenne.

Too Many Indians

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 Evans took over as Governor of Colorado Territory on May 17, 1862. He identified the parts of the territory claimed by various Indians in his October 30, 1862 letter to the Commisioner of Indian Affairs.
          By the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramiethe Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians claimed land that included “portions of the State of Kansas and Nebraska Territory [plus] all that part of the present Territory of Colorado north of the Arkansas river and east of the snowy range of the Rocky mountains.”
         The Kiowa and Comanche Indians occupied the territory “south of the Arkansas [River]and east of the snowy range.” Evans estimated there were about five thousand Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Kiowa and Comanche reporting to Agent S. G. Colley, who was based at Fort Lyon.
          Evans reported that “all that part of the Territory lying west of the great snowy range or Cordilleras is occupied by the various bands of the Utah [Ute] Indians. These Indians are reported to be about ten thousand strong, and are active, independent, and warlike. They have never been at war with the whites, and have little idea of the military prowess of the government, making the danger of hostilities by them more imminent.”
          “There are two bands of these Indians [Utahs or Utes] that go down into New Mexico to report to…agencies there…[B]ut by far the larger part of them obtain the goods which the government distributes for the purpose of securing their friendship from Lafayette Head…of the Conejos agencies.”
          Evans noted that Congress had approved an additional agency for the Green River and Uintah bands of Utes but no agent had been appointed and the agency was not in operation.
          In addition to urging the necessity of treaties with the Indians belonging to Colorado territory, Evans reported a new problem. “We have been troubled by the presence in Colorado, for a good part of the summer, of different bands of the Ogillullah and Brule Sioux Indians, belonging to the neighboring agency at Fort Laramie. They settle along the Platte river for the purpose of begging from, if not committing depredations upon, the great stream of travel to and from the settlements of Colorado.”

Note: Governor Evans misspelled the name of the Oglala Indians. 

Photo of John Evans courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection
Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1862.