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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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.