Spotted in Lincoln

Ely Parker Library of CongressIf you have seen the wonderful movie Lincoln, did you notice a Native American man accompanying General Ulysses S. Grant in a couple of scenes?  This character, like many others in the meticulously researched movie, was a real person. He is Ely S. Parker, the subject of a post on this blog a little over a year ago. Parker was the first Native American to serve as  Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Read about him here.

Photo from the National Archives collection.

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Published in: on December 3, 2012 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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News From Colorado, 1874

High country snow.

From the National Republican newspaper, May 26, 1874, Page 5

Commissioner of Indian Affairs E. P. Smith received the following letter from the Indian Agent at Los Pinos, Colorado :

Alfred Packer and party (21 miners) were visitng Ouray’s camp in winter. Ouray advised them to stay with the camp. Ten stayed. Five went on and died near Gunnison cattle camp. Packer was one of six men who left the first of February. Packer alone arrived at the Agency April 16th, apparently in good health.

Photo by E.A. Mills from the U.S. Geological Survey Photo Gallery

“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

Protecting Citizens in Indian Country 1859

J. L. Collins, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico Territory, believed in punishing Indians for crimes against settlers. He also thought settlers needed to protect themselves.
          “It is not practicable,” he wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1859, “to have [military] troops in every neighborhood, and it seldom occurs, when a depredation [crime by an Indian] is committed, that a notice can reach the troops in time to enable them to effect anything.”  
          “How were the frontiers of Kentucky and Tennessee defended in the first settlement of those States? …[hearing] an alarm of Indians aroused every [male] citizen; they shouldered their rifles, and rallied to the rescue, leaving their noble wives and daughters to defend their homes and firesides, while [the men] followed the enemy…”
          Collins had little patience with people who complained that the military did not do enough to protect settlers in the vast New Mexico Territory. “…Now, we expect the government to do everything. In place of fighting to defend our own interest, we spend our time writing letters and newspaper editorials, condemning a policy that has been approved by the wisdom of each successive administration for the last thirty years.”

Map by M.A. Leonard

Text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1859

Ute Indians and Gold Seekers 1859

From his office in Santa Fe, J.L. Collins,  Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico Territory, wrote about the conflicts between the Ute Indians and the gold seekers who were invading their territory.

September 17, 1859

To: Hon. A.B. Greenwood
Commissioner of Indian Affairs
Washington city, D.C.

          A difficulty lately occurred between the miners operating about Pike’s Peak and the Tobawaches [Tabeguache Utes]. Several miners are reported to have been killed, and also some eight or nine Indians…
          …my position has always been that all Indians should be taught to respect an American wherever they meet one; but, on the other hand, it must be admitted that our countrymen often act with great imprudence in reference to the Indians. Two or three men will often venture into the Indian country, placing themselves entirely beyond the reach of protection, and at the mercy of the Indians…
          Men who are strangers to Indians, entirely unaccustomed to their habits and characters, are very apt, when they meet one, in place of showing him some act of kindness, to insult him by driving or, perhaps, kicking him out of camp. This is done without reflecting that they are surrounded by hundreds of Indians by whom they could be overpowered at half an hour’s notice.

Collins noted that gold seekers scattered throughout the mountains would be at great risk of trouble with the Tabeguache Utes. He recommended “that a treaty be at once negotiated with these Indians, and that an agent be placed in charge of them, to reside at Fort Garland or some one of the new settlements near Pike’s Peak.”

From the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the year 1859, New Mexico superintendency, pages 334-362