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

Published in: on February 8, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

Did the Utes Use Sign Language?

Rushing Bear demonstrates sign for "now"

Rushing Bear demonstrates sign for “now”

In his book Our Wild Indians Richard Irving Dodge shared what he learned about the Indians’ use of sign language.
          “Plains Indians,” according to Dodge, “used sign even to accompany speaking among themselves. Talking with their hands was just habit to them.”
         But Dodge noticed that other tribes made far less use of sign language.
          Dodge once asked Chief Ouray about Ute sign language. “Ouray told me his people never used the sign language among themselves,” Dodge reported. “Most of the [Ute] warriors had picked up a little smattering of this language and used it in their [communication] with the Plains Indians or with the whites.”
          Similarly, “most of [the Utes] had acquired a slight knowledge of Spanish by and for use in their trade with Mexicans and Apaches.”

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 384.

Photo from Smithsonian collection

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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John Wesley Powell Survey

John Wesley Powell, 1869

In the summer of 1868 John Wesley Powell led his second western expedition. With a group of students and friends, he studied the natural history of the Rocky Mountains. Most members of the expedition returned home in the fall. But Powell, his wife Emma, and three men spent the winter of 1868-69 camped along the White River in Colorado.  There he met a band of Ute Indians led by Chief Douglas. Powell observed Ute customs and began to learn their language.
          According to anthropologists Don and Catherine Fowler, “The Utes dubbed him [Powell] Kapurats, meaning ‘arm off’.” Powell had lost his right arm in the Civil War.
          A century later, the Fowlers met “an old Kaibab Paiute woman from northern Arizona” who said “Kapurats was remembered by her people as the man who many years ago tied rags on trees (apparently referring to the surveying tape used by Powell and his men in mapping the area).” The old woman said, now “those rags are way up high in those trees.”
          “In later years, Powell again worked briefly with various Northern Ute. During a horseback trip from the Uintah Indian Agency to Gunnison, Utah, Powell fell in with a Ute band, travelled with them, and spent the evenings around the campfire learning more of their language.”

Richard Komas, 1872

          “In the summer of 1874, after he [Powell] had completed his geological studies in the Uinta Mountains, he went to the Uintah Agency for a few days to gather more information on the Ute language. In the winter of 1875 he brought Richard Komas, a Northern Ute youth who was a student at Lincoln College in Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C., for a time to continue his studies of the language.”

For more information about John Wesley Powell, see A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell by Donald Worster

Quoted text from “John Wesley Powell’s Anthropological Fieldwork,” by Don D. Fowler and Catherine S. Fowler, Geological Survey Professional Paper 670 http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/geology/publications/pp/670/sec1.htm

Photo of Powell courtesy National Park Service photo collection.

Photo of Komas courtesy First People Photo Gallery.

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.

Accounting for Indian Funds

In January 1880, Congress held hearings on the Meeker Massacre. William Leeds, Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (often called the “Indian Bureau,” said in his testimony:

“From 1874, for three years, there was $25,000 a year due them [the Utes] that was not paid. Then when the new Ute Commission went out [to Colorado] in 1878, they paid the Indians something on account, but there is now some sixty and odd thousand dollars due them, or more than that.” Leeds noted that this was a “source of constant grievance, and all the more so because Ouray was paid his $1,000 a year.”

          William Leeds was apparently sympathetic to the plight of Indians he encountered in his job with the Indian Bureau, and perhaps irritated with the way the Bureau handled Indian affairs. Leeds had been an investigator for the Board of Indian Commissioners until his appointment as Chief Clerk in 1877.
          In 1879 Leeds had hosted the visit of Hinmaton Yalakit of the Nez Perce, also known as Chief Joseph, who came to Washington to plead his case. During the chief’s visit, Leeds resigned from the Bureau. That same year, Leeds informed the Indian activist writer Helen Hunt Jackson about government supplies for Indians that were left sitting at Rawlings, Wyoming for over a year. (The Indian Reform Letters of Helen Hunt Jackson, 1879-1885)

Leeds quote from: Testimony in Relation to The Ute Indian Outbreak taken by the Commission on Indian Affairs of the House of Representatives, 46th Congress, 2nd Session, HR, MIS DOC No 38

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Stridiron’s Strange Story

His name was St. Clair Stridiron and he claimed he was raised by Chipeta. His story appeared in the Rocky Mountain News July 17, 1895.
Stridiron          He was a white child, born in Lexington, Kentucky and later adopted in Texas by a rancher. At age four, he was traveling with a group of Texas men who camped on the banks of Fountain Creek near Manitou Springs. Ute Indians attacked and the men ran off, leaving the boy asleep under a wagon. Stridiron said he woke to find himself in the arms of a squaw. “I was taken charge of by two squaws who treated me kindly and taught me how to live as an Indian.”
          “After being washed in a cool mountain stream, I remember that I was given a coat of paint and fixed up in Ute Indian style. [Stridiron said the Ute women kept him painted to hide his white skin.] They gave me buckskin leggings, a little buckskin shirt and gave me a blanket. My hair was light colored and grew so long that it reached below my waist. I was given bow and arrows and taught to run and jump, ride horseback and later, was taken on hunting expeditions and inducted into all the arts of shooting deer, elk, bear, buffalo and smaller game.  As I grew up I joined the war parties and engaged in many a foray against the plains Indians who had been from time immemorial at war with the Utes or the Indians of the mountains. I readily learned the languages of the various tribes and before I reached the age of 18 could carry on conversation with Utes, Apaches, Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoes, Navajoes, Commanches, and Yumas.”
          He boasted of his exciting adventures among the Utes of “Chipeta’s band.” He was among a group of six Utes attacked by twenty Arapahoes. An Arapahoe lassoed a young Ute woman and yanked her off her horse. Stridiron leaped to the ground, cut the rope, he and the woman jumped back on their horses, and they escaped with four Arapahoe warriors in pursuit. In another adventure, he was suffering from a wound in the thigh when he single-handedly fought off an attack by three Cheyenne warriors.
          “It was years before I learned that I was not a real Indian….One day a white trader asked me to wash my face. I did so and the paint came off. The trader handed me a glass and for the first time I saw that I was white.”
          Stridiron said he was reunited with his birth mother a few years later. She heard reports of a boy who emerged from captivity and travelled to Denver to identify her son. 

          Quite a tale, is it not? Ah, but this is not the end of Mr. Stridiron. The story gets stranger next week.

Published in: on December 7, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Government contracting in 1874

The United States government made treaties with American Indian nations to gain their cooperation – and their land. In return, the government agreed to give the Indians basic food and supplies. Indian Agents were responsible for delivering the goods. The Agent made a public notice of the opportunity for private individuals or businesses to sell something to the government.
          On October 1, 1874, the Colorado Weekly Chieftain (Pueblo) ran a notice from Agent Henry F. Bond at the Los Pinos Ute Agency requesting two proposals (bids) to supply: 

       Proposal #1                         Proposal #2

110,000 pounds flour              30 rifles
150,000 pounds beef          2,000 pounds lead
      600 pounds soda            700 pounds powder
     500 pounds soap              50,000 caps
   5,000 pounds bacon        5,000 cartridges
      5,000 pounds salt

          Bond specified flour “of the quality known as XX, subject to inspection, and to be put up in 100 pound sacks of strong material.” The order would be delivered half in November and half the following June. Bond specified beef as “steers between the ages of three and seven years, to be free of disease and to weigh not less than 900 pounds each.” The meat would be delivered on-the-hoof the following June.
          Bond would open the bids at the new Delmonico House in Denver at 10:00 am on October 13, 1874. At that time he would look at samples of goods to be supplied “as far as is practicable.” (No one needed to bring along a steer.)
          Letters from two responsible people “vouching for the ability and good faith” of the bidder were required with each proposal. A successful bidder was required to “post a bond with good sureties in the penal sum of double the amount of the bid.” A bond is a guarantee. Sureties agree to pay the amount of the bond if the bidder fails to deliver as promised. A good suretie might be a banker or other business person.
          A government contracting officer today uses the same basic process.

Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln’s Secretary in Colorado

John G. Nicolay on left with President Lincoln and John Hay taken November 8, 1863 by Alexander Gardner in his Washington studio. Image from the Library of Congress collection.

John G. Nicolay on left with President Lincoln and John Hay taken November 8, 1863 by Alexander Gardner in his Washington studio. Image from the Library of Congress collection.

President Abraham Lincoln sent his secretary, John G. Nicolay,  as his personal representative to the 1863 treaty council with the Utes at Conejos, Colorado Territory. Nicolay arrived in September and spent a month touring the Territory. He arrived at Conejos on  October 1, 1863 to lead the team of government representatives that included Territorial Governor John L. Evans, Dr. Michael Stech, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico, plus Indian Agents Simeon Whiteley and Lafayette Head.
          Fifteen hundred Tabeguache Utes (Ouray’s band) turned out for the treaty council. Only three Mouache chiefs and one Capote chief attended. The Weeminuche and the northern Ute bands did not participate. A treaty was concluded on October 7, 1863. It was primarily an agreement with the estimated 4,000 Tabeguache Utes, who gave up their lands east of the Continental Divide.
          After the agreement was made, Nicolay presented silver peace medals bearing President Lincoln’s image to seven chiefs, including Ouray. These were men Nicolay counted as most cooperative.
          The treaty Nicolay negotiated was ratified, with amendments, by the U.S. Senate on March 25, 1864, and accepted by the Utes on October 8, 1864.

          Arnold Schwarzenegger was the voice of Lincoln’s Bavarian-born secretary, John G. Nicolay, in the 1992 ABC documentary Lincoln (Richard Zoglin, “Trying To Hype History,” TIME, December 28, 1992).
          Helen Nicolay wrote a biography of her father: Lincoln’s Secretary (Longmans, Green and Co. 1949; reprinted Greenwood Press, 1971).

Counting Indians

The 1860 census of Colorado Territory did not count Indians. The 1863 Report of the U.S. Secretary of Interior estimated 9,800 Utes in Colorado Territory. Based on reports from Indian Agents there were about 500 Muache, 800 Capote, 2,000 Weeminuche, 2500 Grand River (Northern Utes) and 4,000 Tabeguache.

           American Indians were first counted as a separate group in the 1860 U.S. census but only if they “paid taxes” or lived among white settlers. In the 1890 Census, Indians living in American Indian Territory and on American Indian reservations were also counted. It was not until the 1940 Census that ALL Indians were counted as part of the U.S. population. Source: Measuring America The Decennial Census from 1790 to 2000

Published in: on August 3, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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