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.

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Dining In A Kiowa Lodge

In April 1864, Special Agent H.T. Ketcham visited Kiowa camps along the Arkansas River. He included this description in an April 10, 1864 report to H.P. Dole, Commissioner of Indian Affairs:
          “I was four days in Satana, or White Bear’s village, who is, I believe, their principal chief. He is a fine-looking Indian, very energetic, and as sharp as a brier. He and his people treated me with much friendship. I ate my meals regularly three times a day with him in his lodge. He puts on a good deal of style; spreads a carpet for his guests to sit on, and has painted fire-boards, twenty inches wide and three feet long, ornamented with bright brass tacks driven all around the edges, which they use for tables; he had a brass French horn, which he blew vigorously when the meals were ready. I slept [in the teepee of] Yellow Buffalo, who was one of the chiefs that visited Washington with Major Colley.”
          “They have quite a number of cows and calves, and a good many oxen and some mules and American horses, that they say they stole from Texas. A body of Kiowas and Comanches, and some Cheyennes, intend to make another raid into Texas in about five or six weeks.. I apprehend that their successful expedition there will embolden them to make aggressions on trains passing up the Santa Fé road this spring and summer.”
          Ketchum noted that these Indians were likely to let wagon trains pass in exchange for a few gifts of food.
          In his1984 book Son of the Morning Star, Evan S. Connell writes that Satana lived in a red painted lodge, painted his body red when he road to war and carried a red shield.

Photo by William S. Soule ca. 1969-1874 courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, American Indian Select List #130

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 10, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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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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