Citation
Chief Little Raven of the Southern Arapahos

Material Information

Title:
Chief Little Raven of the Southern Arapahos
Creator:
Walker, Donald L.
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
140 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Arapaho Indians -- History ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- History -- Great Plains ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- Biography -- Great Plains ( lcsh )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 136-140).
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Donald Lee Walker Jr.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
45553266 ( OCLC )
ocm45553266
Classification:
LD1190.L57 2000m .W34 ( lcc )

Full Text
CHIEF LITTLE RAVEN OF THE SOUTHERN ARAPAHOS
by
Donald Lee Walker Jr.
B.A., Indiana University, 1994
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
2000


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Donald Lee Walker Jr.
has been approved
by
7 ^Date


Walker, Donald Lee, Jr. (M.A., History)
Little Raven of the Southern Arapahos
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
Little Raven, the principal chief of the Southern Arapahos led his people
during some of the most turbulent years of American history. Bom in the first
decade of the nineteenth century, Little Raven experienced the fur trade, intertribal
warfare, the Colorado Gold Rush, numerous wars with the U.S. Army, and finally
removal to the reservation. In contrast to other leaders on the southern plains,
Little Raven used a sophisticated peace policy to deal with the westward moving
whites.
Little Raven's life overlaps a broad context of white and Indian
relationships. He struggled to find a middle ground with the whites. Surrounded
by other war bands of the Southern Cheyennes, he saw that even powerful tribes
would eventually lose in a protracted war with the United States. Although Little
Raven signed every treaty placed before him and promised to keep the peace, he
openly challenged reservation boundaries and reminded government officials of
their many broken promises to his people.
m


I
1
Near the end of his life, Little Raven lived in a large, expensive brick
building, sent his children to boarding schools, and dressed as a white man.
Although a popular leader among his people, his support of assimilation alienated
influential factions of the Southern Arapahos.
Little Raven's career was marked by ambiguity. He challenged the feared
Dog Soldiers of the Cheyennes and lectured them on keeping the peace. But, his
own Southern Arapaho warriors fought in some of the wars on the southern plains,
even though he claimed he had never fought the whites.
Little Raven's intelligence and diplomatic skills enabled his people to
follow their traditional way of life as long as possible. A profile of Little Raven's
life that analyzes intertribal pressures, diplomatic maneuvering, and the struggle to
preserve the Southern Arapahos' culture is long overdue.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
IV


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
My thanks to my advisor, Dr. Thomas Noel, for his patience, encouragement, and
guidance during the past two years. I also wish to thank Dr. Mark Foster and Dr.
James Whiteside for their advice and support in the development of this thesis.


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..........................................1
Arapaho Historiography..............................3
2. ARAPAHO CULTURE AND WHITE CONTACT....................16
The Fur Trade......................................24
3. INTERTRIBAL AND WHITE CONFLICT.......................29
The Battle of Wolf Creek 1837......................29
Treaty of Fort Laramie 1851........................34
The Colorado Gold Rush 1858 .......................39
4. TREATIES AND WAR ON THE PLAINS.......................45
The Treaty of Fort Wise 1861.......................46
Sand Creek Massacre 1864...........................55
The Treaty of the Little Arkansas 1865.............60
The Medicine Lodge Treaty 1867.....................67
The Battle of the Washita 1868.....................75
5. LITTLE RAVEN VISITS THE EAST.........................85
Little Raven's Speech at New York City.............89
6. RESERVATION LIFE AND BEYOND..........................96
vi


Red River War 1874-1875........................100
The Southern Arapahos in the Twentieth Century.105
7. CONCLUSION......................................110
ENDNOTES...........................................117
BIBLIOGRAPHY.......................................134
vii


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Chief Little Raven, one of the most influential chiefs of the Southern
Arapahos, experienced the bison and horse culture of the early nineteenth century
and led his people on the inevitable journey to the reservation. His fascinating life,
largely ignored by scholars, is the subject of this thesis.
As a young man, Little Raven proved himself a capable warrior against Ute
and Pawnee enemies. In 1840 he demonstrated his leadership skills when he acted
as an intermediary in gathering his people near Bent's Fort, along with the Southern
Cheyennes, Comanches, and Kiowas. During the negotiations, Little Raven ended
a bloody intertribal war and concluded the peace ceremony by marrying a Kiowa
woman.
The Southern Arapaho leader usually camped on the front range of the
Rocky Mountains in the region of present day Boulder and Denver. In 1858-1859
the Colorado Gold Rush brought thousands of fortune seekers who Little Raven
greeted peacefully. After signing the Treaty of Fort Wise, he became disillusioned
with the government's failure to live up to its promises. After the Sand Creek
Massacre, November 29, 1864, Little Raven briefly aligned his band with the
1


Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and his warriors attacked white emigrants and raided
settlements in Kansas and Colorado.
During the Indian wars Little Raven kept his people at peace and avoided
contact with the whites. After signing the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, Little
Raven's Southern Arapahos and other tribes moved on the reservation. At the
invitation of President Grant, in 1871, Little Raven and a group of Indian leaders
visited the East. Through an interpreter, he addressed large audiences in New York
City and Boston. The Southern Arapaho chief held most of his people at peace
during the southern Plains warfare of 1874-1875. After leading his people for over
forty years, Little Raven died at Cantonment, Oklahoma, in 1889.
Little Raven's life raises important questions. Raised in a culture based on
the warrior tradition, why would he make peace with the whites? Did Little
Raven's peace policy ultimately enable the Southern Arapahos to follow their
chosen way of life? What influences did the other tribes have on Little Raven's
actions?
Government policy in solving the "Indian problem" evolved throughout
Little Raven's life. The government did not initiate a coordinated American
Holocaust, as some scholars insist. In the early nineteenth century, Indian policy
took away the Indians' land, divided the tribal leadership, and concentrated them on
reservations. When it became clear that the conquest of the Plains Indians was only
2


a matter of time, many government agents, politicians and military officers,
attempted to design a system that integrated the Indians into American society.
However, assimilation based on education, Christianity, and farming failed to
alleviate the racism of nineteenth century America or close the wide gulf that
existed between Indian and white cultures
Scholars have classified the leaders of the Plains Indians as the war chiefs
and peace chiefs. Such a broad definition oversimplifies the complex decisions of
many leaders such as Little Raven. And, due to their infatuation with the war
chiefs, historians have dismissed him and others like him as "hang around the fort
Indians." Little Raven only appears in a few articles and a few paragraphs in
books; he even eludes some Native American encyclopedias.
Arapaho Historiography
In the late nineteenth century, anthropologists wrote the most valuable
studies on the Plains Indians. Their work illuminated the rich, cultural complexity
of the tribes. By the early twentieth century historians attempted to explain the
settlement of the West, and categorized the various tribes as simply "Indians."
Slowly, however, their explanations evolved to our present understanding of how
diversity and multiculturalism shaped the American West. Understanding Little
3


Raven's life and times requires a historiographic review from its broadest works on
the American West to the most specific Arapaho tribal studies.
Frederick Jackson Turner's The Frontier in American History, written in
1920, argued that the "existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession,
and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American
development."1 In Turner's mind, Indians such as Little Raven presented obstacles
to the white settlers, comparable to drought, flooded rivers, and blizzards. The
most important contribution of Native Americans to the settlement of the frontier
was that their attacks forced the pioneers to band together in defense. The desire
for mutual protection against Indian attacks became a key component in the
development of frontier communities.
Walter Webb characterized the Indians as obstacles too, but considered
them much more dangerous than an errant thunderstorm. In his 1931 book, The
Great Plains, Webb explained that "to the Anglo-American, the Indian was
primarily a warrior, a fighting man, an implacable foe."2 The Plains Indians were
the most formidable Indians the pioneers faced anywhere on the American frontier.
Webb explained that the unique geography of the Great Plains, combined with the
Indians' nomadic way of life, made it difficult for the Army to catch them, unlike
the agrarian Indians east of the Mississippi who had lived in fixed lodges. Other
than enjoying the benefit of fighting on familiar terrain, the Indians of the plains
4


were also considered "more ferocious and cruel than all other tribes."3 Lastly, their
most important advantage over the white settlers was their complete mastery of
horsemanship, which gave the Plains Indians their greatest edge as fast-striking,
light cavalry.
By the 1960s, scholars challenged the classic interpretation of the Indians'
role in the history of the American West. The "New West" scholars rejected the
idea that Indians were nothing more than sand in the smoothly oiled gears of
Manifest Destiny.
Historian William Hagan challenged the traditional view of Native
American history represented by Turner and Webb. Hagan published American
Indians in 1961 and focused on the cultural clash between Native Americans and
the United States from the colonial period to the 20th century. He concentrated on
two themes throughout American Indians that diverged from the western classic
genre. The first theme explained that the Plains Indians were daring in attack and
elusive in retreat, but their lack of discipline to enforce sentry duty, conduct
adequate reconnaissance, or prevent one enthusiastic warrior from spoiling a well
planned ambush, seriously hampered their ability to defeat the United States Army
on the battlefield.4 In other words, no matter how hard the Plains Indians tried to
fight like the white men, they continually failed, being hampered by a culture that
glorified the exploits of the individual warrior. Hagans second theme emphasized
5


that the end of the Indian wars represented more than removing a frustrating
obstacle to the white settler, but marked the conclusion of a long chapter in
American history:
For nearly three centuries the threat of the scalping knife and the
tomahawk had haunted the settlers on the frontier. Wars and rumors
of wars had contributed much to the determination of western
personality and political and social organization. What unity there
was on the frontier, together with the tendency to look to federal
authority, was due in large part to the Indian problem. Generations
of Indian fighters had capitalized on their reputations at the polls, as
was exemplified by Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison.
And in their way the Indian wars had been an economic boon to the
frontier. One estimate in 1870 was that each Indian killed in these
wars had required the expenditure of more than one million dollars.5
In a concise 171 pages Hagan's chapters covered the colonial period 1776-
1816, Indian removal 1816-1850, the warriors last stand 1840-1876, acculturation
under duress, the Indian New Deal, and the twentieth century Indian nations.
Hagan also extended the focus of his book beyond the traditional period into the
twentieth century. Few scholars even acknowledged that Native Americans had a
relevant history beyond the horse and bison era. William Hagan revised American
Indians in 1979 and 1993 and included new research from Native American
sources.
Continuing the trend of exploring new frontiers in the scholarship of Native
American history, Dee Brown contended that from 1860-1890, the United States
6


systematically and brutally, annihilated Native Americans. In Bury My Heart at
Wounded Knee, Brown used "government reports, documents, other sources of
forgotten oral history... [and] fashioned a narrative of the conquest of the American
West as the victims experienced it, using their own words.6 Throughout the book,
the author creatively draws the reader into the world of the Native Americans by
using their traditional language in describing battle scenes, the seasons of the year,
and geographic features of the West. The book is divided into individual chapters
on the tribes of the Navaho, Cheyenne, Sioux, Apache, Nez Perce, and the Utes.
Within each chapter Brown provided mini-biographies of the tribal chiefs and
explained the military and political decisions that affected their people in
confronting the white invasion of their homeland.
In 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee reigned as one of the most
influential books ever written on the American West, creatively, explaining history
entirely from the Indian point of view. Dee Brown condemned the United States
for all of its governmental policies while he portrayed the Native Americans as
innocent casualties of Manifest Destiny. By virtue of the books popularity, selling
over four million volumes and translated in seventeen languages, Bury My Heart at
Wounded Knee continues to influence scholars as a reminder that not all history is
told looking westward.
7


Despite numerous scholarly studies and an inordinate number of popular
narratives on the Indian campaigns in the Trans-Mississippi West, Robert M. Utley
provided an exceptional overview of the Indian fighting army in his 1967 work
Frontiersmen in Blue 1848-1865. Six years later he completed his survey of the
Indian wars with Frontier Regulars 1866-1890. Comprehensive in scope, as well
as interpretive and analytical, Utley covered the combat and diplomatic role of the
military. Utley focused on the territorial, political and military conditions that
confronted the nation. As conflicts increased during the nineteenth century,
Congress formulated neither an adequate peace policy nor a military solution to
deal with the Indian problem. It neither halted ample annuities for the Indians, nor
did it establish a military arm effective enough to subdue their warlike spirit. In
addition to the actions in the nation's capital, Utley provided an excellent
description of the experiences of the frontier soldier.
Complementing Utley's work, Wilbur Nye's published Plains Indian
Raiders in 1968. Nye spent four years researching official documents and
conducted extensive interviews with aged warriors. His book focused on the
warfare along the Smoky Hill Trail in 1864-1865, the Hancock campaign of 1867,
the Medicine Lodge Treaty and its legacy, and Sheridan's winter operations of
1868-1869.
8


In 1984, Utley wrote The Indian Frontier of the American West and
diverged from traditional, narrative military history. Utley described the distinctive
Native American cultures and contrasted them with the ideas and perceptions of
westward moving white Americans. His discussion of the policies practiced by the
American government, the army, and the peace reformers never overshadowed the
resistance of the Native Americans. With this well-balanced approach, Utley
contended that the white and Indian worlds never understood each other. The
divergence of the two cultures remained so great that whether federal policies relied
on military campaigns or religious reformation, they inevitably ended in failure.7
Native American history has expanded into several new fields in the 1990s.
Today, new emphasis has been placed on discovering the untold history of the
American West.
The book, Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past was
published by William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin in 1992. This
anthology of fourteen essays challenged scholars to expand their academic pursuits
beyond the traditional era and include the neglected multicultural contributions of
Native Americans, African Americans, Mexicans, Asians, and women of all
ethnicities. The authors appealed for combining popular culture and ideological
analysis; document, artifact, and art; experience, memory, and traditional
disciplinary practice in the new American Western history.8
9


Challenging Turners frontier thesis, Under an Open Sky proposed six broad
processes of frontier change that occurred not only in the West, but everywhere in
North America. The first step included a process of species shifting, that
explained how foreign germs, plants, and animals replaced native ones in the
ecosystem. Secondly, market making initially drew Native Americans into an
economic bond and then excluded them when new economic systems replaced
earlier ones in the exploitation of natural resources. Thirdly, land taking occurred
as various European and American communities enforced property rights against
Native Americans. In this process, class systems developed. Fourth, boundary
setting matured as economic, social, and religious systems separated western
regions into distinct communities, classes and regions. Fifth, state forming
resulted as frontier inhabitants locally organized and manipulated government
authorities to secure protection as territories or states. And lastly, the West went
through a self shaping process as local and regional areas were established
through conquest and migration.9
On the chapter titled, To Hear an Old Voice: Rediscovering Native
Americans in American History, George Miles explained that scholars have
written important tribal histories as well as major interpretative essays about Native
Americans, but most historians have failed to integrate Native Americans into their
accounts.10 By this process, Native American history has remained an interesting
10


sideshow worthy of a preliminary chapter before the main act of white history takes
the stage. Miles condemned the portrayal of Native American history as either the
inevitable clash between incompatible cultures as the price of Americas glory or
the source of its shame, and Indians as either enemy or victim.11 He lamented that
this process reduces American history to a moral fable in which Native Americans
become little more than abstract components of an ideological agenda.12
Although not embracing all the proposals of Under an Open Sky, Paul
Carlsons The Plains Indians, written in 1998, included several elements of the new
interpretation of the American West. Professor Carlson covered the traditional
period when horses and material goods, radically enhanced the complexity of the
Plains Indians life and society.
Carlson argued that horses, firearms, western trade goods, shifting
migration patterns, disease epidemics, and events associated with white contact
created channels through which Plains Indians societies evolved to an
unprecedented peak of influence in the early 19th century. In his examination of
Plains Indians history and culture, Carlson stressed the transitory nature of the
period, the idea of cultural adaptation, and role of the environment.13
The shifting ecological dynamics of bison, grass, and horses served as the
foundation of the Plains Indians way of life that ultimately contributed to its decline
and virtual elimination. The introduction of firearms changed warfare among the
11


tribes and native demands for manufactured goods encouraged the Indians to
increase the frequency of their bison hunts. As successful traders, the Plains
Indians collected thousands of horses and needed to constantly move their villages
to prevent from over-grazing their favorite campgrounds. When the white settlers
moved west, the competition for the scarce environmental resources of grass,
timber, and water sparked the period of major warfare on the Great Plains from
1864-1876.
Carlson believed that the Plains Indians remained more interested in raiding
other Indian villages and stealing horses than in fighting whites. The eventual
relocation of the Plains Indians to reservations came as much from the extension of
railroads, extermination of the bison herds, and appearance of white settlements as
it did from any military action or government policy.14
In comparison to the Plains Indians, the historiography on the Arapahos is
far from extensive.15 George A. Dorsey and Alfred Kroeber wrote the first
important work on the tribe, the Traditions of the Arapaho, in 1903. The book
focused on the rich record of oral history, folklore, and mythology of the Arapahos.
Growing up among the Arapahos is well described in Arapaho Child Life
and Its Cultural Background, written by Inez Hilger in 1952. Edited by Althea
Bass in 1966, The Arapaho Way is taken from the letters of Carl Sweezy, a
Southern Arapaho who spent his childhood in the 1860s and lived on the
12


reservation in Oklahoma. Sweezy made an important contribution to understanding
the relationship between the Cheyennes and Arapahos. He wrote that the tribes
joined together against common enemies and "our religions, our stories, our way of
doing things in camp and on the hunt and the warpath were very much alike."16
Along with the close relationship between the tribes he detailed the Arapahos'
individuality and language.
Some of the most valuable information on Little Raven and the Southern
Arapahos is available in Donald Berthrong's The Southern Cheyennes. Written in
1963, the book expanded on George Grinnell's 1915 work The Fighting Cheyennes
and focused on the history of Southern Cheyennes' struggle between 1840 and 1875
to maintain their tribal freedom and defend their hunting grounds against the
advancing wave of white settlers.
George Hyde's book, The Life of George Bent was written in 1968 and
organized from the letters Bent wrote to Hyde between 1905 and 1918. A half
Cheyenne, Bent's letters dealt primarily with his recollections of the Cheyenne wars
between 1863 and the 1870s. George Bent maintained a close friendship with
Little Raven and the Southern Arapahos.
The son of William Bent, and Owl Woman, a daughter of a high priest of
the Southern Cheyennes, George Bent spent his early years at his father's
prosperous trading post. In 1861 he joined the Confederate Army, but was later
13


captured and paroled. Bent returned to his father's ranch in Colorado and joined his
mother's tribe. Hyde's narrative touched on many aspects of Indian life when the
Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos fought other tribes and white settlers. George
Bent is remembered for witnessing the Sand Creek Massacre when he camped with
Black Kettle's band.
Virginia Trenholm published the single most important work on the
Arapahos in 1970. Her tribal history, The Arapahos, Our People started with the
Arapahos' arrival on the northern plains. She explained that the Arapahos have the
unique distinction of occupying the Northern, Central, and Southern Plains during
the traditional era of following the buffalo. Unlike their northern allies, the
Southern Arapaho bands on the Central and Southern Plains maintained friendly
relations with the white man, but fought fiercely when attacked. During the Indian
wars, the Arapahos usually supported their allies, the Cheyennes and Sioux.
Trenholm stressed that the history of the Arapahos is not one of battles, but of a
small tribe that lived in turbulent times. During her research on the Cheyenne and
Arapaho reservation in Oklahoma, Trenholm interviewed Gus Yellow Hair, the
great-grandson of Little Raven.
Margaret Coel's Chief Left Hand, written in 1981, profiled Little Raven's
good friend. Placed in the context of Arapaho history, her biography detailed the
interaction with whites after the discovery of gold in Colorado. Until then, the
14


Arapahos had followed the buffalo along the front range of the Rocky Mountains
between the North Platte and Arkansas rivers. Coel explained that Left Hand and
Little Raven tried to maintain peace in the face of overwhelming numbers of
whites. Tensions reached the breaking point after the Arapahos' campground on
the South Platte became the city of Denver. Soon afterward, the whites also
occupied the Indians' winter refuges in the foothills. With no other option, the
Arapahos departed for the plains and pursued the diminishing buffalo. Chief Left
Hand died of wounds inflicted in the massacre at Sand Creek on November 29,
1864. Today he is commemorated by the names of Left Hand Creek and Left Hand
Canyon near Boulder, Colorado. A mountain and town share his Arapaho name,
Niwot.
Historians' interpretations of Indian history have evolved from explaining
the role of Native Americans as obstacles to Manifest Destiny to many complex,
valuable, ethnohistories that combine several academic disciplines. However, when
discussing Indian leadership, the literature continues to emphasize the war chiefs.
Few historians have addressed the role of the peace chiefs, including Little Raven.
15


CHAPTER 2
ARAPAHO CULTURE AND WHITE CONTACT
Around the year 1804 a Southern Arapaho woman gave birth to a male
infant and named him Little Raven.17 The baby took his name after a relative or
some peculiar, meaningful sight. In keeping with Arapaho tradition, Little Raven's
father held a feast and boasted to his comrades about the new addition to his
family. As a baby, Little Raven spent his first years wrapped in soft deerskin.
Ground buffalo chips packed around his lower body kept him clean and prevented
rashes. As a young child, Little Raven was spoiled by the tribe and cared for by
an extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents.18 He was welcome
in any lodge in the village. Like most Arapaho children, Little Raven probably was
never punished or forced to perform daily chores. Much of his time was passed
playing hoop and pole games that symbolized the earth and heavens, life cycles or
war. Playing involved throwing a spear, arrow or dart, through a rolling hoop.
Games also introduced young Little Raven to gambling. However, games were not
only used for wagering, but had connections to Arapaho traditional and spiritual
life. They also developed important hand eye coordination, a necessity for killing
buffalo.19
16


Little Raven's education began at an early age. Horse riding was his first
and most important skill to master.20 He learned quickly after being tied to a saddle
made of buffalo bull hide. Little Raven's extended family taught him to identify the
local edible plants and how to hunt. Hunting with the men was the highlight of any
Arapaho boy's experiences. The Arapahos used arrows in hunting and each
specially marked shaft identified who killed the buffaloes. After each man killed
five or six buffalo cows, they butchered the meat and skinned the hides. Before
they went back to the village, Little Raven helped the men pile the hides and meat
onto the buffalo horses.21 At the village women tailored the hides into robes for the
winter and lodge skins in summer. While on the hunt with the older men or in the
lodge watching the women dress the hides, Little Raven learned the origin and
culture of his people.
Oral tradition related that before there any animals inhabited the earth and it
was covered with water, an Arapaho sat on a mountain crying in distress. The gods
pitied him and sent him three ducks. The Arapaho told the ducks to dive down in
the water and find some dirt. The first duck dove in the deep waters and failed. The
second went down, was gone for a longer time, but also failed to find any dirt. The
third duck stayed under for such a long time that the Arapaho believed he had died.
When the duck finally arose to the water's surface he had dirt in his bill. Suddenly
the waters subsided and left the Arapaho in possession of all the land. The water
17


had gone so far that it could not be seen from the highest mountain, but it still
surrounded the earth. The Arapaho created the grasses, trees, rivers and streams.
From the union of a Spaniard and a beaver came the other people of the earth,
including the whites, who lived beyond the ocean. The Arapaho created buffalo,
elk, deer, antelope, wolves, foxes; all the mammals of the earth, birds of the air, and
fishes in the streams.
The Arapaho who created everything in the world was the Creator. Of all
people, he made the Arapahos first and placed them at the center of the earth. He
showed them how to make bows, arrows and fire by rubbing two sticks. The
Creator taught them their sign language and the skills of life necessary for survival
and happiness. He told the other people of the surrounding tribes to live at peace
with the Arapahos.23 Their spiritual symbol, the flat pipe, distinguished them as the
Creator's chosen people.24
From his lodge on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, Little Raven
learned that his people originated almost a thousand miles away. Several hundred
years ago the Arapahos lived in present-day Canada and in the Red River Valley of
western Minnesota. They stayed in fixed lodges and raised com and other crops.
However, by around 1789, the French, British, and Sioux had pushed them
westward onto the northern plains above the Missouri River. Moving west they
started hunting buffalo on foot until they acquired the horse. Around the
18


headwaters of the Missouri River the Arapahos met the Cheyennes for the first time
and made peace with them.25 The two tribes joined forces and camped together for
many years. But, after fighting the Blackfeet and Sioux, who were rich in horses
and firearms, both tribes were pushed south. Eventually, the Cheyennes and
Arapahos secured territory between the North Platte and Arkansas rivers and from
central Kansas to the front range of the Rocky Mountains.
The Cheyennes and Arapahos fought to keep their new territory from
competing tribes. South of the Arkansas River their enemies included the powerful
Kiowas and Comanches. To the west, the Utes occupied the fortress of the Rocky
Mountains. On the eastern plains rode the hated Pawnees.
On their chosen territory, Little Raven's people maintained a lifestyle of
seasonal migration that centered on the movement of the buffalo. The Cheyennes
and Arapahos traveled nomadically over the short grass of the Great Plains, camped
along the wide bottomed streams of the front range, and made war upon enemy
tribes.26
In maintaining the balance of power in their relationship, the two tribes
became very close, but they maintained separate camp circles and held separate
Sun Dance rites, thereby remaining independent both socially and politically.27
Another element that separated the Arapahos from the Cheyennes involved
the meaning of their tribe's name. The derivation of the word Arapaho is uncertain,
19


but the Sioux called them the bluecloud men, the Pawnees referred to them as
one who buys or trades. The Arapahos called themselves In Unaina which
translates to our people. The men distinguished themselves from other Plains
Indians by their tattooed breasts, scars which resulted from the self-mutilation
practiced during the annual Sun Dance ceremonies.28
The Arapaho religion centered on the Sun Dance. To prepare for the dance,
participants abstained from food and drink for four days and nights.29 During the
ceremony, the dancers' backs were cut open and rawhide strings were attached to
their muscles that bore the weight of shields. After dancing for hours, the shields
possessed the power to protect a warrior in battle. The participants also cut off a
piece of flesh from the arm and offered it to the god in the sun, praying that the
people might live long on the earth and be spared from sickness and disease. They
prayed to the Great Spirit who gave them everything the earth could provide, stone,
com, wind, air and rain.
The Arapaho tribe was governed by chiefs and divided into male and
female age graded societies, each spanning four years in a person's life. The
number four had a prominent role in the Arapaho world. They had four lineages,
believed in four comers of the universe, four ancestral beings, and four stages of
life (childhood, youth, maturity, and old age). Ideally, they spaced their children
four years apart and held lodge meetings of four days duration.30
20


Along with the culture and history of the Arapahos, Little Raven understood
that the most important values to his people included respect, patience, kindness
and endurance. These qualities resulted in a strong, friendly, diplomatic people.
In Arapaho society labor was distinctly divided between men and women.
The Arapaho male protected the village from enemies and provided enough food
for his lodge. Women learned how to clean, and prepare food, tan buffalo hides,
erect and disassemble tipis for movement, and raise children. In effect, women did
everything except go on large animal hunts and war parties. An early plains
traveler, Thomas J. Famham, observed:
His wife takes care of his horses, manufactures his saddles and
bridles, and leash ropes and whips, his moccasins, leggings, and
hunting shirts from leather and other materials prepared by her own
hands; beats with a wooden adze his buffalo robes till they are soft
and pleasant for his couch; tans hides for his tent covering, and
drags from the distant hills the clean white pine poles to support it;
cooks his daily food and places it before him.. .His sole duty, as her
lord in life, and as a citizen of the Arapaho tribe, is to ride the horse
which she saddles and brings to his feet, kill the game which she
dresses and cures; sit and slumber on the couch which she spreads;
and fight the enemies.31
As he grew older, Little Raven guarded the tribe's immense pony herd with
the other children. According to Little Raven, horses were originally stolen from
the Shoshones. However, captured wild horses made the best mounts for hunting
21


buffalo. Wild herds usually grazed on the same range right beside the buffalo and
were not frightened by the animals.32
The Arapaho measured wealth by the numbers of horses, women, and
weapons a man possessed. A wealthy man might have 40 horses, five wives, and a
collection of firearms. A skilled man could steal many horses from other tribes or
white travelers. Horses were very valuable because they could be traded for
firearms and had many other uses. A warrior who accumulated many hides and
horses also required more wives to manage his domestic affairs.
By the time he reached thirteen years of age, Little Raven accompanied the
adult males on war parties. Similar to other tribes of the Great Plains, warfare was
the source of glory and riches. Young Little Raven wanted to count coup on a
dangerous enemy warrior in front of his peers. A warrior counted coup by striking
an enemy warrior with a staff or other implement and usually killed his adversary
in the process. An Arapaho who counted coup on a dangerous, physically
imposing warrior performed a great act of bravery. Warfare among the Plains
Indians was primarily used to acquire horses or as acts of retribution for previous
attacks.33 The battles between the tribes usually lasted only a few hours and fewer
than ten warriors typically died. Little Raven learned that leadership in battle
depended on personal influence rather than command. Warriors obeyed or
disobeyed as personal inclination dictated, and combat took the form of personal
22


encounters rather than fighting between organized units. After a successful war
party, the men returned with their faces painted black as a sign of joy and victory.34
As he matured, Little Raven probably learned leadership skills from his
father while listening to the discussions of the other band chiefs about following the
buffalo into enemy territory, moving camp, making war, and stealing horses.
Inside his father's lodge, Little Raven learned that in every decision, the chief
considered the welfare of his immediate band, and the interests of the entire tribe.
Each band maintained a group of economically self-sufficient, extended
households. But, a change of band affiliation was possible, and the family might
return to the husband's band or join another one. Bands hunted and camped
independently for most of the year under the leadership of a band chief. While
definite territories did not exist, each band had one or more favorite spots where
they wintered.
Bands were further divided into eight societies arranged in a graded
structure through which successive groups of men passed. The highest society,
composed of the old men, made the most important decisions for the tribe. In
political organization, the tribal leadership rested in the hands of four chiefs who
held office for life.35
Typically, the various bands of the Arapahos united a few times each year.
In the summer, after successful buffalo hunts, they met at white trading posts and
23


celebrated the Sun Dance together. The Arapahos could not remain together the
entire year because of the immense amount of land required to graze their pony
herds. They depended on a delicate balance with nature and ranged miles from
camp in a constant search for shelter, food, water, and better grazing.36
The Fur Trade
Little Raven was about twenty years old when he first saw white men on the
Missouri River.37 Accompanied by some Cheyennes he visited the villages of the
Mandan and Rees. Since around 1750, these northern tribes traded goods with the
English and French traders.
The hunters and trappers who moved up the Missouri River and the
thousands of streams in the Rocky Mountains searched for fresh sources of beaver.
Working independently or for big fur trading companies, the mountain men
explored and created trails through the West. They spent most of the year in the
wilderness and emerged in the summer with bundles of valuable pelts at trading
posts to barter food, liquor, trinkets for their wives, and enjoy a week of wild
carousal before returning to the mountains.38
Outnumbered by the Plains Indians, the mountain men and fur traders
intermarried with the tribes. Taking an Indian wife cemented political alliances
with the tribes and allowed white men to trap and trade along the mountain streams.
24


Intermarriage also resulted in a growing population of mixed blood children who
were adopted by the Indians.39
Little Raven enjoyed the manufactured goods from the East: flour, sugar,
coffee, cloth, guns, knives, and tobacco. All of these items were traded for beaver
skins or buffalo robes. In the early years of the fur trade, Little Raven sold beaver
skins for $6.00 to $8.00 apiece, and buffalo robes $3.00 to $4.00.40 Felt, tailored
from the beaver made fashionable hats sported by easterners, and European
gentlemen. Buffalo skins served as blankets, robes, saddles, and belts. Arapaho
women worked hours preparing the hides for trading.
Along with the luxurious manufactured goods, the white men introduced
Little Raven to whiskey. Whiskey trading became big business on the western
frontier. For a nominal sum, whiskey traders purchased a 40-gallon cask of alcohol
and added four gallons of water to each gallon of whiskey. This resulted in 200
gallons, or 1600 pints, and for each pint, the trader received a buffalo robe. A
trader could easily clear a profit of $8000 for the initial purchase of a barrel of
whiskey. Even though the federal government outlawed selling whiskey to the
Indians in 1832, nothing prevented this lucrative trade.41 One Arapaho told an army
officer the five most desirable things in life were firstwhiskey, secondtobacco,
thirdhorses, fourthguns, fifthwomen. 42
25


Years later on the reservation, Little Raven explained the ideal lifestyle for
his people included freely hunting the buffalo on the plains, making war against
their Ute and Pawnee enemies, and trading for manufactured goods.43 The most
valued items collected by the typical Arapaho family included knifes, pots, pans,
eating utensils, and firearms.
Little Raven visited four important trading posts on the South Platte River.
From Fort Vasquez, Fort Lupton, and Fort St. Vrain he watched millions of dollars
worth of furs and skins loaded on flatboats for delivery to New York, Boston, Paris,
and Berlin. But, of all the trading posts on Arapaho lands, Little Raven spent most
of his time at Bents Fort on the Arkansas River. 44
William and Charles Bent of St. Louis built Bents Fort on the Arkansas
River near the Santa Fe Trail in 1833. The Arapahos and Cheyennes wanted the
trade goods offered by the conveniently located post. Bents Fort sat close enough
to the mountains to attract the mountain men, but remained far enough east to be
within the hunting range of the southern plains tribes. Little Raven camped close to
the post which became the center of commerce and exciting social life for trappers,
traders, and western travelers.45
The establishment of Bents Fort caused the division of the Arapaho tribe
into the Northern and Southern Arapahos. The trading post's geographic location
and manufactured goods changed their traditional lifestyle. Little Raven watched
26


the bands of his relatives move north of the South Platte while his own people
concentrated in southeastern Colorado along the Arkansas River. In the winter
Little Raven returned to his favorite front range campgrounds. 46
The informal division of the tribe seemed temporary to Little Raven at the
time, but after 1833 the Arapahos never again traveled the plains as a united people.
The most commonly given reason for the tribes division was that the Northern
Arapahos preferred the cool, temperate weather of the Powder River country. Like
many Southern Arapahos, Little Raven enjoyed the trade goods offered at Bents
Fort. The increasing pressure of whites moving along the Santa Fe Trail persuaded
the northern bands to seek land undisturbed by the white man.
The trading posts became another element of competition among the tribes.
With the whites' expansion westward, Little Raven's tribe fought not only for
valuable hunting grounds, but also access to the manufactured goods of the trading
posts. Most of the goods offered simply substituted more efficient tools that were
previously made from the buffalo. Cooking accessories, coffee, and sugar, made
life easier and more varied. The skills that had produced the native versions of the
items obtained in trade fell into disuse and were not taught to later generations.
However, with the introduction of firearms, warfare gained new importance.
The trade with the white man strengthened the influence of the war societies
that Little Raven passed through as a young man. Along with other warriors, Little
27


Raven realized that guns afforded a decisive weapon in warfare against poorly
armed enemies. But, firearms forged another bond of dependence on the white
man since powder, lead, and repairs could only be obtained at the trading posts. As
a result, the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho leadership encouraged young
warriors such as Little Raven to steal more horses in order to trade for more
firearms. Thus, intertribal warfare increased for economic and political reasons and
not simply as the traditional way of building a warrior's reputation.47 As the tribes
competed to monopolize the trade goods for themselves, casualties increased with
more intertribal wars or failed horse-stealing expeditions. In the long run, the
Indians killed more game than they needed in the effort to pile up hides and furs to
trade for firearms.
28


CHAPTER 3
INTERTRIBAL WAR AND WHITE CONFLICT
In 1837 news of a military disaster shocked the Southern Cheyennes and
Arapahos. A party of forty-two Cheyenne Bowstring warriors went hunting and
hoped for the opportunity to steal some ponies from any Comanches, Kiowas, or
Apaches they encountered. Well armed, the Cheyennes planned to fight any small
parties they might run across. After a successful hunt, they stumbled upon all three
tribes camped on the Washita River. Two of the Cheyennes were on lookout when
a Kiowa warrior came within one hundred yards and spotted them. The Kiowa
rode into his villages and alarmed the people. The warriors mounted their ponies
and dashed out to confront the Cheyenne war party. The Bowstring warriors hid
behind rocks, a desperate position because they had used up nearly all their
ammunition hunting. The Comanches and Kiowas surrounded and killed them
all.48
The Battle of Wolf Creek. 1839
Two years later, in 1839, Little Raven accompanied a war party to avenge
the deaths of the Bowstring warriors. The Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos
followed the war party and camped on Beaver Creek, near the North Fork of the
29


Canadian River in present day Oklahoma. The women and children set up camp
and moved to the bluffs that overlooked the enemy village to watch the battle. At
the Battle of Wolf Creek, Little Raven and the warriors surprised the Kiowas and
Comanches by capturing their pony herd. However, the fighting surged back and
forth all day and both sides lost important chiefs and warriors. The victorious
Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors triumphantly returned with their prize
ponies and gave them to the women and boys to guard. The old medicine men and
women cared for the wounded.49 Little Raven's people lost twelve warriors and
their foes counted sixty dead.50
An Arapaho warrior killed in battle had his face painted red and was buried
in the ground with his best blankets and pipes. A sacrificed pony enabled his spirit
to ride into the country beyond the rising sun. In the afterlife, the Arapaho
believed, they had plenty of buffalo, antelope and other kinds of game. The road to
the land of the rising sun lay beyond the mountains. The advantage of being killed
in battle was that the Arapaho warrior could ride through the air to the afterlife
instead of traveling the long trail by foot.51
Throughout most of 1839 Little Raven probably fought in several
retaliatory raids against the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches. So many warriors
died in the fighting that the tribes desired peace. In 1840 the enemies gathered near
Bent's Fort to make peace. The Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos camped on the
30


north side of the Arkansas River, near the fort and their enemies stayed on the
south bank. To end the tribal war, the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches wanted
guns, blankets, brass-kettles, and paints for their peace presents and would provide
ponies in return. As acceptable terms, the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos
invited the enemy chiefs to cross the river into their village. The chiefs sat in a
line as the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos brought in the presents. To
demonstrate that their firearms worked, the guns were loaded with powder only and
fired off in front of the headmen. With the enemy leaders satisfied, the Cheyennes
and Arapahos selected Little Raven and other chiefs to go to the Kiowa, Comanche,
and Apache village to receive ponies.
One young Kiowa chief named Sitting Bear gave away 200 ponies. During
the ceremony, the Kiowas also brought the scalps of the forty-two Bowstring
warriors wrapped in fancy blankets to return to their families. However, the
Cheyenne chiefs told them the families did not want to see the scalps, realizing that
the image could possibly upset the delicate peace. Little Raven played a major role
52
in the negotiations and married a Kiowa woman to conclude the peace ceremony.
Bringing a Kiowa woman into the tribe was a bold personal decision for Little
Raven. He had to weigh the impact on his other wives, children, and relatives.
By this time in his life, Little Raven was a highly respected leader. He had
passed through the ranks of the war societies and proved himself a capable warrior.
31


Negotiating the peace with the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches exemplified his
skill as an intelligent negotiator. Soon, his diplomatic skills would be tested with a
new challenge from the East.
In 1841, Little Raven witnessed increasing numbers of white emigrants
crossing the Southern Arapaho tribal hunting grounds. The traffic became so heavy
that the stock animals eventually devoured the prairie in a wide strip along each
side of the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. Eventually, the buffalo refused to cross the
barren areas, which caused a shift in the traditional migration routes.53
The increasing wave of white settlers coming west searched for cheap or
free land to start farming or ranching.54 And, they encountered the Plains Indians.
Travelling along the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in 1844, Rufus Sage
observed:
The Arapaho nation boasts some 525 lodges, numbering not far
from 4000 souls. In appearance as well as manners and customs,
they assimilate the Sioux and Cheyennes. The insignia of
nationality is a tattooed breast by which they are distinguished from
neighboring tribes. The Arapahos.. .have never been known to kill
or even injure a white man and rarely steal from him any article of
value. They seem to take pleasure in the bestowment of kindness
and hospitality .. .but commonly in expectation of reward, are
exceedingly annoying as beggars.55
Not every emigrant crossed the plains unmolested. Although considered
isolated incidents on the Santa Fe Trail, angry bands of Southern Cheyenne and
Arapaho warriors sometimes demanded tribute in the form of whiskey and horses.56
32


Reports of Indian thefts and murders increased proportionally as more whites
moved westward. Tensions escalated when Arapaho warriors attacked wagon
trains. Occasionally, too, settlers fired wildly without cause at peaceful groups of
Indians.
In 1848 the California gold rush attracted thousands of miners and fortune
seekers who streamed in record numbers through Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho
country. Many of them carried cholera, which had ravaged St. Louis. Many
members of both tribes quickly succumbed to the highly infectious disease.
William Bent's son, George, estimated that half of the Southern Cheyennes had
died as a result of the disease. Entire lodges often remained standing, filled with
the dead.57
The government ignored the dying Indians but wanted to prevent them from
molesting travelers on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. The agency entrusted with
solving the "Indian problem" was the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Organized as a
component of the War Department in 1824, the bureau co-located with military
f o
units at frontier forts.
Little Raven disappears from the written record from 1840 to 1850 but
probably stayed along the Arkansas River near Bent's Fort and followed the
buffalo. Perhaps he demanded tribute from white emigrants along the Santa Fe
33


Trail, but if violence had resulted it probably would have appeared in the reports
from Indian agents or army officers in the area.
The Treaty of Fort Laramie. 1851
In a grassy valley on the North Platte River, on September 15, 1851, ten
thousand Sioux, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Crows, Gros Ventres, Assiniboines,
Arikaras, and Shoshonis mingled menacingly with one another and with 270 tense
soldiers.59 The government wanted to prevent the Indians from molesting travelers
on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails and end the tribes' raiding into Texas and
Mexico.
Before the treaty negotiations began the white commissioners and chiefs
smoked a large red pipe with a three-foot stem, decorated with colored beads and
filled with a mixture of plants, tobacco and the bark of the red willow. As each
chief accepted the pipe, he drew his hand from the bowl to his throat as a sign of
the sincerity and truthfulness of his words. During the smoking, the pipe was
passed to Little Raven, the representative of the Southern Arapahos.60
Thomas Fitzpatrick, Indian Agent for the Upper Platte and Arkansas
Agency and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, David D. Mitchell began the talks
and acknowledged that the Indians' concern about the destruction of the buffalo
herds and grazing lands. The government offered the tribes fifty thousand dollars
34


in annuities for fifty years. They also promised to protect the Indians from United
States citizens. Even more important, the commission recognized Indian
ownership of the land. Each tribe maintained the legal right to the area that it had
traditionally claimed. The commissioners wrote descriptions of the territorial
boundaries of the Southern Arapaho and Cheyenne lands as located between the
North Platte and Arkansas rivers and from the Continental Divide eastward into
central Kansas.61
Satisfied with the tribal boundaries and the government's offer of annuities,
the chiefs gave the government permission to establish roads, military posts, and
similar buildings on Indian lands. They also agreed to keep the peace among
themselves and to remain at peace with the whites. The chiefs celebrated by
joyously sharing in the mountain of presents that lay enticingly near as a temptation
to quickly conclude the deliberations.
Like many leaders present, Little Raven probably did not understand the
treaty in its entirety. However, the concentration of thousands of Indians from
several tribes must have been an exciting occasion. Like most chiefs, Little Raven
looked forward to distributing the white man's gifts among his people. He made no
speeches during the negotiations, which indicates that the Southern Arapaho s were
considered less of a concern by the government than the belligerent Sioux.
35


Reflecting on the treaty, Superintendent Mitchell admitted that fifty
thousand dollars was a small amount to be distributed among at least fifty thousand
Indians when considering that white settlement had taken away their means of
support. The amount in dollars would "in all probability, save the country from the
ruinous and useless expense of a war against the prairie tribes which would cost
many millions and be productive of nothing but increased feelings of hostility on
the part of the Indians and annoyance and vexation to the government."62
Unknown to Little Raven and the other chiefs, the U.S. Senate soon
amended the Treaty of Fort Laramie and substituted "fifteen" instead of "fifty"
years for the period in which the Indians received an annual supply of goods at the
discretion of the president of the United States. Mitchell changed his previously
sympathetic sentiment and wrote that the modification of the treaty was proper
since "the condition of these wandering hordes will be entirely changed during the
next fifteen years." He said,
It is in vain to speculate upon the future destiny of this peculiar race
of people. They are as wild and untamable as the animals they
pursue in the chase; and the feeble efforts that have been made by
zealous missionaries to turn them from the wild error of their ways
have been wholly abortive. All that can be done for them is,
gradually to substitute domestic animals, in place of the buffalo, elk,
and antelope that are so rapidly disappearing.63
By setting definite boundaries for the tribes the government had instituted a
policy which had already proved successful with the Eastern Indians.
36


Theoretically, Indian policy consisted of simply dividing and conquering. As long
as the tribes moved at will throughout the West, the government could not exercise
any meaningful oversight. The government controlled the process by assigning
each tribe a specific tract of land with agents distributing annuities at designated
locations. Whenever the Indians misbehaved or the government needed additional
tracts of land, agents bribed or intimidated the Indians into signing treaties. In this
way, the government reduced Indian lands one tribe at a time.
After signing his first treaty with the government, Little Raven expected to
receive annuities, cash dispensed in annual installments over a period of years. He
learned the system was highly vulnerable to abuse by politically well connected
traders, who sat at disbursing tables each year to collect real or fictional debts run
up during the year by the Indians. Aggravating the abuse was the custom of
making lump sum payments to chiefs for distribution to their people, especially
when a chief formed a corrupt alliance with dishonest whites. Finally, cash
annuities lubricated the growing commerce in liquor and afforded traders the
opportunity to pocket the Indians' annuity payments.
According to the Indian commissioner George Manypenny in 1853, the
numerous financial claims against the government from Indian attacks became a
source of "great perplexity and embarrassment."64 The act of June 30, 1834, "to
regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes and to preserve peace on the
37


frontiers," guaranteed that the "destruction of property owned by US citizens would
be paid for out of the annuities to the Indians or out of the treasury."65 Thus, not
only was the annuity system ripe for corruption, but the Indians were financially
punished when other tribes raided white emigrants.
The Treaty of Fort Laramie did nothing to reduce the vast number of
emigrants killing the game and chopping down the cottonwoods on Southern
Cheyenne and Arapaho lands. Robert C. Miller, who became agent for the Upper
Arkansas tribes in the summer of 1857, found three hundred lodges of Little
Raven's Southern Arapahos starving ten miles north of Fort Atkinson. Instead of
requiring Little Raven to proceed to the usual point of distribution for his annuities,
Agent Miller issued rations at once to the Southern Arapahos. Miller noted that
Little Raven wanted his people to cultivate the soil and become farmers since the
chief knew that the buffalo would disappear from the prairie in a few years. Little
Raven hoped the Great Father would send farming implements and instructors to
teach the Indians how to use them.66
By 1857, Little Raven had developed a skillful strategy of appeasement
with the whites. After spending many years mingling with Indian agents, military
officers, and traders, he understood that the whites expected his people to become
farmers. Little Raven's diplomacy, combined with the starving condition of his
people, granted the chief immediate rations. Although the treaty Little Raven
38


signed clearly stated that he needed to proceed to a centralized point of distribution,
exceptions were granted for a peace chief.
The Colorado Gold Rush. 1858
In the fall of 1858, William Green Russell and his party discovered gold at
the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. On Little Raven's
favorite campgrounds, hundreds of miners built log houses and canvas tents that
became the twin towns of Denver and Auraria.67 Little Raven's people had an
increasingly difficult time surviving on the limited game of the area. As more
white men arrived and staked out ranches and farms, they changed the migration
routes of the buffalo once again.68
The incredible rush of people stunned the Southern Cheyennes and
Arapahos. William Bent observed:
The Cheyennes and Arapahos are very uneasy and restless about
their country. The whites are making large and extensive
settlements, building homes over the best part of their country.. .The
South Platte and Cherry Creek are their principal hunting grounds.
This movement they do not understand, as they have never traded
for it (the land).69
Nevertheless, Little Raven treated the white settlers as friends. During the
Christmas season of 1858, the whites and the Indians traded and gambled on horse
racing. The Southern Arapahos bet 150 ponies that their mounts could beat any of
39


the white settlers' horses in a quarter mile race. The Indians also had a Mexican
mule, which they put up against any other mule for the same wager.70 The new
settlement of Auraria hosted a huge feast of roast oxen, bread, coffee, and dried
apples for some five hundred of the Arapahos. The miners listened to Little
Raven's friend, Chief Left Hand, speak English, and watched Little Raven eat with
a knife and fork, and smoke cigars like a civilized man.71
Reporter Albert Richardson visited the settlement in Denver and observed
that the Arapahos encamped in the city were ordinarily peacefiil, but dangerous
when intoxicated. One evening he saw an Arapaho man with a club strike another
Indian upon the head. Richardson claimed the blows were heard a quarter of a mile
away. Echoing the sentiments of many whites, Richardson considered the
Arapahos "always treacherous and bloodthirsty."72
A lack of hygiene also determined the Arapahos' status as uncivilized. The
whites witnessed them devouring the entrails of animals and the women and
children were reported to "pluck and eat greedily vermin from their own heads."73
The whites proclaimed chastity was unknown among Arapaho women, and that
nearly all of them suffered from venereal diseases. Whites were appalled that
parents sold young girls into marriage to Indians or to white men in exchange for
horses. A particularly attractive Arapaho female with several chiefs in her lineage
sometimes commanded four or five horses. Apparently, the nineteenth century
40


whites did not see any parallel with the arranged marriages of upper class American
society on the basis of land holdings and income.
Little Raven broke the "savage" stereotype and Richardson called him "the
nearest approximation I ever met to the ideal Indian." He had, said Richardson, a
"fine manly form and a human, trustworthy face." The chief visited Richardson
about an hour each afternoon. Considering that Little Raven could not speak
English and Richardson's utter ignorance of Arapaho, the two enjoyed a "pleasant
communion together and carried on conversation by signs and the very few words
they had in common." During these visits Little Raven entered Richardson's cabin
with a cordial grunt and shook his hand. The Arapaho chief sat in the only chair in
the cabin and Richardson perched himself on a table. The reporter filled Little
Raven's long pipe with Virginia tobacco and lit it with a cigar. After a period of
"solemn and smoky silence," Little Raven remarked about a fight with the Utes, the
weather, or the mines.74
During one particular visit, Little Raven studied Richardson's maps and
asked about the location of the Great Father at Washington. Apparently, Little
Raven understood how to read a map. Richardson delighted the chief with stories
about the "wonders of civilization." When questions turned to personal matters,
Little Raven asked the reporter where he lived. Richardson answered that he lived
in the East near the great waters a hundred sleeps away. Little Raven asked how
41


many wives and children he had and when Richardson replied that he had none, the
chief bragged about his seven wives and ten children. The reporter felt that Little
Raven had thus established his social superiority. Questions turned to material
wealth when Little Raven asked how many horses Richardson owned.
The reporter did not own a single horse and Little Raven pointed
triumphantly at his thirty sleek ponies grazing on the adjacent prairie. Since one's
wealth and position in Arapaho eyes depended solely upon the number of wives
and horses owned, the reporter felt that "Little Raven was becoming directly
personal and inferentially abusive. So I place him in the witness box and became
questioner myself."
Richardson asked how many revolvers Little Raven possessed. The chief
shrugged his shoulders and Richardson produced Colt's new patent, which he
examined with great curiosity and admiration. Little Raven handled it cautiously,
"as if it were an infernal machine, and showed a childish satisfaction not unmingled
with terror, as I discharged the five barrels in rapid succession." Little Raven asked
how much the pistol cost and the "fabulous sum" that Richardson cited elicited
visible respect for the white man. Richardson commented, "Even the Indian is
moved by the almighty dollar... "75
Remembering the question of horse transportation, Richardson asked how
many locomotives Little Raven owned. The chief shook his head and the reporter
42


tried to convey "crude ideas of the fiery, untiring monster" which carried him
"further in one sleep than his fleetest horse can bear him in ten..." Little Raven had
heard stories of the trains before, but had never seen one. Richardson gave the
impression that he owned several trains and Little Raven treated him with profound
deference, "a fit associate of the Arapaho monarch."76
While visiting Little Raven's village, Richardson discovered the chief
preparing for war in a sweat lodge. Several other warriors accompanied Little
Raven in a low lodge that was guarded by two young men. Covered with masses of
buffalo robes, the sweat lodge did not have a single aperture. Next to the lodge on
a little mound of fresh earth lay the skin of a wolf and the horns of a buffalo. Little
Raven emerged from the lodge with eight perspiring, naked warriors who threw
themselves upon the ground, dizzy and utterly exhausted.77
That night Little Raven's entire band paraded through Denver, and
drummed upon a circular piece of buffalo hide stretched over a wooden frame. The
ceremony was an invocation to the whites to protect the tribe's women and children
while the warriors departed to fight the Utes. Returning from their foray the next
day, the newspaper reported that "Little Raven's Arapahos'.. .buckskin quivers and
rifle cases were as white and their moccasin fringes as gay as ever; but the warriors
were sad and taciturn, for.. .their warpath proved bloodless."
43


Denver became a permanent settlement and the Arapahos were slowly
pushed to the outer edge of white society and eventually excluded. The trade in
buffalo robes could never compete with eastern money that brought freight goods,
mining companies and, eventually, the railroads to town.
Deverites quickly forgot their early friendship with the Arapahos. By June
1860, the Rocky Mountain Weekly News declared that when dealing with the local
Indians, "it was best to get the first shot off."79 In his History of Colorado (1918),
Wilbur Stone characterized the Arapahos as "crafty, treacherous, cruel, pugnacious,
dishonest, and even murderous. The contact of civilization did them no good, as it
brought to them all the vices, including whiskey, to further inflame their warlike
propensities."80
Little Raven's conversations with Richardson establish important facts
about his life at the time. He knew how to read a map, an important skill when
Indian Agents continued to draw new lines that eliminated his people's lands. He
understood the concept of money and the importance of firearms. His reputation as
an "ideal" Indian was finely honed from being around whites for many years. His
ability to smoke and to eat with a knife and a fork impressed nineteenth century
Americans who believed the Indians' salvation depended on their ability to imitate
the practices of whites.
44


CHAPTER 4
TREATIES AND WAR ON THE PLAINS
With the heavy influx of settlers, politicians wanted to impress their
constituents with a land cession from the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos. In
1860, the government violated the terms of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and
established the Territory of Colorado.
Many of the Southern Cheyenne and Arapahos desired a new treaty that
protected them from white intruders. As long as they retained the freedom to hunt
buffalo, some even wanted to give up part of their land for a reservation
independent from white interference.
Little Raven and other chiefs received an invitation in late 1860, to meet
white commissioners in January 1861 for treaty negotiations.81 The short notice
did not allow the chiefs on the Arkansas River time to notify the other bands who
were hunting on the northern plains.
Little Raven joined chiefs Storm, Big Mouth, Left Hand, White Antelope,
Black Kettle, Old Woman, Black Bird, and Strong Arm. At the meeting, the
commissioner distributed President Buchanan's peace medals and medals with the
images of the rival candidates of the presidency, Stephen Douglas and Abraham
Lincoln. The chiefs received the peace medals with visible pride. During the
45


conference, Little Raven lost his Buchanan medal and offered ten horses for its
recovery. Little Raven understood the medal represented the powerful whites'
recognition of his status as an important leader. The medal also cemented his
prominence as a leader among the other bands of the Southern Arapahos. On the
plains, the flash of the peace medal at Indian agents, military officers, or white
settlers might gain his people favorable treatment.
During the deliberations, Little Raven told the white commissioners that
more of their absent tribesmen should be present before any treaty was
negotiated.82 The officials dismissed his concern and stated that the other Indians
could sign later.
The Treaty of Fort Wise. 1861
On February 18,1861, Albert G. Boone and F. B. Culver negotiated the
Fort Wise Treaty. Little Raven joined the four Arapaho and six Cheyenne chiefs
who made their marks on the agreement. What they had been told the treaty
included and what it actually contained were quite different. The chiefs believed
that although they would live on their reservation, they still had the right to hunt
buffalo on the plains. Article One stated:
The chiefs and delegates of said Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes of
Indians do hereby cede and relinquish to the United States all lands
now owned, possessed, or claimed by them, where ever situated,
46


except a tract to be reserved for the use of said tribes.. .The
Arapahos and Cheyennes, being desirous of promoting settled habits
of industry and enterprise among themselves, by abolishing the
tenure in common by which they now hold their lands, and by
assigning limited quantities thereof in severalty to the individual
members of the respective tribes, to be cultivated and improved for
their individual use and benefit...83
Article Two stated that part of the land for each tribe was to be divided into
forty-acre plots and given "to each member of said tribes without distinction of age
or sex," and included whatever possible timber and grassland. It also stipulated
that two different sections of 160 acres would be set aside for farming, one for the
Indian agent and the other for the establishment and support of schools. All other
lands and water were to be owned in common by the tribe occupying the
reservation. And all laws passed by Congress "regulating trade and
commerce.. .shall have full force and effect" over the Indians "and no white person
except as shall be in the employment of the US, would be allowed to reside or go
on any portion of said reservation without written permission..."84
Article Four guaranteed each tribe thirty thousand dollars per year in
annuities for the next fifteen years or a total of four hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. During the first five years the government also promised to spend five
thousand dollars per year on the development of mills, a mechanic shop and
employees to teach the Indians how to run them. At the "discretion of the President
of the United States," the annuities could be discontinued entirely should the
47


Indians fail to make "reasonable and satisfactory" efforts to advance and improve
their position. The president and Congress would decide which advances were
"suitable and proper."85
Overall, the Treaty of Fort Wise contained much of the same legalistic
prose found in other treaties of the period. The government promised Little Raven
protection in return for good behavior. The annuity terms of the Laramie treaty
remained in effect, but other parts of that treaty could be changed "in such manner
and to whatever effect" would "be necessary and expedient" for the best interests of
the Indians involved. A provision allowed the government to build roads on the
reservation where necessary.
Under the terms of the treaty, Little Raven and the other chiefs officially
became reservation Indians and could either abide by the reservation rules or lose
their benefits. The Fort Wise treaty also posed a particular problem in the concept
of land in severalty. Individual land ownership was alien to Little Raven's culture.
They could not sell or lease the land, and officials dictated how their money was to
be spent. The government did not handle the reservation land or money in the
tribes' interest. The promised annuities went unpaid and the goods delivered were
often inferior.
In Colorado territory, the reservation south of the Arkansas River consisted
of nothing but dry, sandy, barren, almost gameless land, so desolate that whites
48


would not consider taking it. Even experienced fanners would have had difficulty
growing crops on the reservation.
Even if their reservation had been managed efficiently, and supported by
government aid, the Indians would have had a difficult time adjusting to the
demands listed in the treaty. The government did not seriously attempt to keep the
treaty's provisions nor did it regulate trade or keep whites out of the reservation.
The Indians remained in a state of limbo, yet the government expected them to live
on their new reservation without any of the promised assistance.
Little Raven did not understand that signing the treaty of Fort Wise
relinquished all the lands between the North Platte and Arkansas River that had
been guaranteed in the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Perhaps he tried to stay in the
government's good graces or hoped a reservation would protect the limited game
that his people depended on. Politically, the Treaty of Fort Wise confirmed his
reputation as a peace chief with the whites, but alienated him from the warring
bands of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos.
However, by April 1861, when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, the
government had more pressing problems than honoring treaty obligations. After
complaining for years about the presence of the cavalry and military forts, Little
Raven witnessed the unique sight of troops moving eastward. Leaving only a token
force to man the frontier forts, some of the Indians began raiding wagon trains,
49


farms, and ranches. The most prominent of the Cheyenne war societies, the Dog
Soldiers, who had refused to abide by the Fort Wise Treaty, increased in popularity
and were joined by young warriors who refused to accept the white man's way of
life.86
On August 30,1861, with over one hundred warriors, Little Raven rode
peacefully past a train of settlers led by Reinaldo Viacon about thirteen miles west
of Fort Lamed, Kansas. However, other Arapahos under Chief Big Mouth could
not resist the vulnerable wagon train. With forty warriors, Big Mouth scattered
their cattle and seized twenty-five oxen, two and one half barrels of whiskey, seven
sacks of flour, two boxes of tobacco, nineteen blankets and four rifles. Captain
Charles Hayden of the Second Infantry dispatched a force of two non-
commissioned officers and twenty-five men to investigate. The soldiers captured
an Arapaho and held him for ransom in exchange for the twenty-five oxen that Big
Mouth stole. After the oxen were recovered, the captain recommended that the
Indians within the Upper Arkansas agency should be kept off the Santa Fe Trail.87
Little Raven not only restrained his band from raiding wagon trains but also
sent messengers to inform the commanding officer at Fort Lyon that a small pox
epidemic had stmck among the Comanches and Kiowas about fifteen miles south
of the Arkansas River. Agent Albert G. Boone advised Little Raven to scatter his
people and hunt buffalo in smaller parties. Boone concluded: "They seem much
50


alarmed and profess to know the danger. My only fear is they [the Arapahos] will
get to Denver City and spread it among the whites."88
Little Ravens band did not participate in the raiding on the plains. Along
with the threat of small pox, he struggled through a prolonged drought. The scarce
buffalo and game reminded the Southern Arapahos about their increasing
dependence upon government food and subsistence. Little Raven could have
simply moved north and joined the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, but hesitated to
associate his people with the violence. Little Ravens interpreter, John Smith,
explained that Little Raven, one of the most friendly chiefs of the Arapaho, whose
friendship cannot be doubted, told me that he was afraid to go in the vicinity of the
Sioux and Cheyennes. He does not want to be among them to share the blame of
their depredations.89
Even though the Arapahos earned the name one who buy or trades they
did not realize even one-fourth the value of their buffalo robes. Agent H.T.
Ketchem explained the problem in an April 4,1864 letter to the Governor of
Colorado, John Evans:
The government is doubtless more desirous to better the condition of
the Indians than to enrich the traders, would it not conduce to their
interests to furnish them such goods as they need...and receive in
payment for their robes and skins at full value, by honest, capable
agents employed for that purpose...If such a thing could happen, it
would be a great savings to the Indians...They are not generally very
51


shrewd traders, and have but little prudence...in the management of
their affairs.90
The Arapahos not only traded poorly, but permitted whiskey to erode their society.
Alcoholism robbed the Arapahos of their buffalo robes and corrupted their
leadership. At Fort Lamed, Agent Ketchem wrote:
They will give the robe off their backs for a bottle of whiskey on the
coldest winter day. Spotted Wolf says those of his band alone have
traded 200 robes this season for whiskey. I saw Little Raven, head
chief of the Arapahos, several times drunk, and was credibly
informed that he and Left Hand could obtain whiskey by the
bottleful any time.. .in Fort Lyon. It would be a blessing to the
Indians, to the garrison, and to the travelling public if all
intoxicating liquor could be excluded from this
country...Dissipation, licentiousness, and venereal diseases prevail
in and around all the military posts that I have visited to an
astonishing extent. Exclude spirituous liquor from the posts
and...there will be no inducement for them to bring in their women
for prostitution.91
The treatment the Arapahos received at the military posts, and the inability of the
government to provide rations probably caused Little Raven to question his
decision of not uniting with the warring bands of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. The
Arapahos who joined the Dog Soldiers on the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers
enjoyed ample supplies of food and other goods from wagon trains that crossed
their territory.
On May 1, 1864, Lieutenant George S. Eayre headed eastward out of
Denver to the Republican River and crossed Kansas on an expedition to punish the
52


raiding Indians. North of Fort Lamed, near the Smoky Hill River, the lieutenant
ran into the Cheyenne Chief, Lean Bear. Upon seeing the approaching troops,
Lean Bear rode out to meet them, and carried a document he had received in
Washington that declared he was a friendly Indian. The Cheyenne chief also wore
a peace medal on his chest. Accompanying him was another Cheyenne named
Star. When the two rode within a short distance of the cavalry column, the soldiers
fired a volley and killed both of them.92
When he heard of the military's actions, Little Raven considered changing
his peace policy. On June 15, 1864, John Notnee, an Arapaho, claimed he heard
Little Raven advising several Indians who were enraged by the governments plan
to construct a road through the northern Powder River Country to make war with
the white man when they had enough guns and ammunition.93 The unnecessary
killing of Lean Bear enraged the Cheyenne nation and escalated a bloody war
against the whites during the summer of 1864. They murdered, plundered, scalped,
and took white prisoners along the wagon trails and frontier settlements.
To fight the Plains Indians the army fielded a force composed of
immigrants and whites looking for a free trip west to the gold mines. Many of
them deserted at the first opportunity. The career soldiers who stayed lived with
boredom, isolation, slow promotion, and primitive living conditions. They were
poorly trained and mounted in comparison to the Plains Indians. When the army
53


mounted small-unit patrols and scouting expeditions, they occasionally
concentrated enough strength to field a formidable offensive column. However,
most army expeditions failed in the harsh land and climate of the Great Plains. The
flawed army strategy of an interlocking network of forts did little except show the
flag.94 The army had only three forts of any consequence on the roads across the
central plains: Fort Riley on the eastern fringe of Indian country, Fort Lyon,
Colorado at its western edge, and Fort Lamed, Kansas, in the center on the Santa
Fe Trail. Fort Lamed hosted an Indian agency because of its central location.
Initially the most important of the three forts, it had excellent defensive features.
The steep banks and tight bend of the Pawnee Fork of the Arkansas River protected
the fort on three sides.95 A great rolling prairie of scanty vegetation surrounded
Fort Lamed. South of the post, the grass grew high in the bottomlands of the
Arkansas River. Along the banks of the stream a few native cottonwoods and box
elders shaded the area, but by 1864 the best timber had been cut for firewood. This
practice always angered the Indians who felt that the trees belonged to them.96
On August 17, 1864, Captain Gray, stationed at Camp Fillmore,
investigated reports of an Indian attack and found the dead bodies of three men
eight miles south of his camp. He found a government wagon and an ambulance
containing some household furniture. Apparently, the Indians had shot one of the
wheel mules in order to stop the ambulance and the other three animals had been
54


stolen. The three men were found shot and scalped. A woman with the group was
missing and her belongings were found strewn around. Apparently, a Southern
Arapaho party led by one of Little Raven's sons committed the murders.97
A month later, on September 6, 1864, Little Raven attended a meeting
between the special agent for the Cheyennes and Arapaho s, Major Edward
Wynkoop, and Bull Bear. Wynkoop tried to negotiate a prisoner exchange with
Bull Bear, a leader of the Dog Soldiers. Bull Bear said that he wanted to live in
good faith with the white man, but the killing of his brother Lean Bear, warranted
revenge. The Dog Soldier refused to accept blame for the past violence. Rather,
he characterized the whites as "coyotes" who could not be trusted to keep the
peace. Bull Bear said his only option was to fight. Bull Bear's speech brought an
excited murmur of talk through the group. Little Raven stated that he had lived for
several years among the whites and would like to shake hands with them, but
doubted peace would last and endorsed Bull Bear's words.98
The Sand Creek Massacre. 1864
In order to stop the war on the plains against white settlers, Governor John
Evans of Colorado Territory recruited the Third Colorado Regiment under the
command of Colonel John M. Chivington, a Methodist minister. Evans chafed
under political pressure from the residents of the territory who resented the
55


annuities that supported the Indians during the winter and enabled them to plunder
the rest of the year. Governor Evans ordered the Cheyennes and Arapahos to return
to their reservation or be treated as "hostiles." Through October and the first weeks
of November, Colonel Chivington bore mounting abuse from the Denver press,
which ridiculed him and the "Bloodless Third" for their inactivity. Finally, on
November 19, 1864, the 900 volunteers of the Third Colorado Regiment departed
for Fort Lyon searching for an Indian target before their one hundred day
enlistment expired."
Meanwhile, the warring bands of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes camped at
the headwaters of the Republican River. The bands that had stayed more or less at
peace under Little Raven, Black Kettle and Left Hand camped just outside Fort
Lyon, where they hoped to receive protection from the post commander. They
realized that if they moved from the fort they ran the risk of being attacked by
troops conducting a winter campaign.100
Starving and suffering from disease, the Southern Arapahos and Cheyennes
waited for annuities. They were lucky if they could field a hunting party to ride out
onto the plains in search of buffalo.101 Little Raven felt the increasing pressure to
feed his people and avoid being blamed for the war to the north. In the meantime,
Major Scott Anthony replaced Wynkoop, who had been criticized for coddling
Indians, as the commander at Fort Lyon. Anthony, though considerably less
56


sympathetic than Wynkoop, was nevertheless moved by the destitute condition of
Little Raven's people. He checked to see if there had been any modification of
General Samuel Curtis's order prohibiting any post commander from allowing
Indians to enter a military installation except as prisoners of war.102 Anthony
issued rations to the Southern Arapahos and ordered them to give up their arms and
all horses and mules which belonged to the government or white citizens. Little
Raven complied and gave up three rifles, one pistol, and about sixty bows, four *
horses, and ten mules. 103
Since Fort Lyon did not have enough rations to feed all the Indians, the
white interpreter John Smith told Black Kettle that he had the assurance of Major
Anthony that the Cheyennes would be perfectly safe at Sand Creek to hunt buffalo.
Black Kettle settled at the Smoky Hill crossing of Sand Creek while Little Raven
moved his Southern Arapahos down the Arkansas River near the mouth of Sand
Creek. Left Hand, who was ill, took eight of his lodges to Sand Creek with Black
Kettle.104
On November 29, 1864, Colonel Chivington attacked Black Kettle's
sleeping camp along Sand Creek. The village was taken completely by surprise.
Running an American flag to the top of his lodge, Black Kettle believed the
soldiers had mistaken them for the warring bands to the north. In an effort to stop
the attack, Left Hand approached the volunteer cavalrymen with his hands out-
57


stretched in a sign of peace. He was shot, and mortally wounded. By the time the
attack ended, over one hundred and sixty Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos were
dead; two thirds included women and children.105
On December 1, Chivington marched southward toward the Arkansas River
where Little Raven's band had remained during the massacre. That night the
soldiers slept in the dry bed of Sand Creek, fifteen miles south of the battlefield and
sent the regiment's wounded and dead to Fort Lyon. The next day the troops
marched all night, traveled forty-two miles and crossed the Kansas border to reach
Little Raven's abandoned campsite.106
On December 4, a stagecoach came up the trail and met Chivington's
expedition and reported an encampment of Indians fifteen miles south. Chivington
continued his pursuit for another twenty-seven miles and found that Little Raven
had slipped away again. A day later, Chivington's scout returned from a twenty-
mile reconnaissance without spotting any Indians. Discouraged, Chivington called
a meeting of his officers and decided to end the pursuit of Little Raven's Southern
Arapahos. On December 7, the weather cold and clear, Chivington broke camp and
headed back to Fort Lyon.107
For political reasons, Chivington and the new government of Colorado
desperately needed a victory over the Indians. Most white settlers felt that the
Indians were a nuisance and needed to be wiped out. However, when Americans in
58


the East learned the full details of the Sand Creek massacre, reformers mobilized
and demanded a more humane policy towards the Indians.
Instead of breaking the siege of Denver, the Sand Creek massacre
intensified the war on the plains. Little Raven and others who escaped
Chivington's attack joined the Dog Soldiers and other warring bands of Arapahos
and Sioux on the Smoky Hills. They spread the story of the brutal slaying at Sand
Creek across the plains. Early in February 1865, while the Army investigated
Chivington's actions in Denver, Little Raven's men joined more than a thousand
warriors who attacked Julesburg in northern Colorado and raided along the Platte
road, killing travelers, burning wagons and taking whatever goods and stock they
could carry. Victory dances and war drums sounded long into the night along the
Republican River, and warriors talked of a "war to the knife" against the white
man.108 The raids along the Platte cut off communications and caused severe food
shortages in Denver and many other communities.
After returning to their camps in the Big Timber region on the Republican
River, the warring bands debated how to avoid the army's offensive columns. Most
of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos from the south joined their Sioux allies
and northern Cheyenne kinsmen in the Powder River country. However, Little
Raven refused to go north and instead moved south to the Arkansas River. Black
Kettle joined him with about eighty lodges, some four hundred people, mostly old
59


men, women and wounded warriors109 Nevertheless, the Dog Soldiers kept fighting
and skillfully eluded the army's cavalry.
The Treaty of the Little Arkansas. 1865
In an effort to end the raiding, another peace commission started
negotiations with Little Raven and other chiefs at the mouth of the Little Arkansas
River, near present day Wichita, Kansas. On October 11,1865, Black Kettle
addressed the commissioners: "...my shame is as big as the earth...I once thought
that I was the only man that persevered to be the friend of the white man, but since
they have come and cleaned out our lodges, horses, and everything else, it is hard
for me to believe the white man anymore..."110
The government assigned General John Sanborn the mission to move the
Southern Arapahos and Cheyennes south of the Arkansas River. He promised
Little Raven a reservation so large that you can subsist by hunting for many
years. During the deliberations, Little Raven resisted leaving the country on the
Arkansas River where his people had buried many of their ancestors.
Commissioner Sanborn persisted, declaring that We have all got to submit to the
tide of emigration and civilization. Little Raven hesitated to make any decisions
until the next spring when all the tribes would meet. Once again, Little Raven
stressed his peoples desire to settle down on the land.. .and plant com. 111
60


Still concerned about the war on the plains, Little Raven emphasized that he
desired peace but if any acts are committed by those of our tribes that are north,
we do not wish to be held responsible.112 Little Raven still remembered the Treaty
of Fort Laramie and Fort Wise and commented:
Tell the President if he treats for our lands he must give good price,
as they are digging gold on our land. We knew it was wrong, but
never troubled the whites, thinking the government would make it
up. The reservation taken at Sand Creek must be paid for.. .we
never received anything for it.113
General Sanborn meekly tried to explain that neither the president nor ourselves
can prevent the white people from going to the mining country.
Little Raven's comments referred to the miners who invaded his country
during the Colorado Gold Rush. They had violated the territory specifically set
aside as Cheyenne and Arapaho lands. After signing two treaties, Little Raven also
remembered that the government had not paid his people any of the promised
annuities.
Nevertheless, on October 14,1865, Little Raven signed the Treaty of the
Little Arkansas. Article One demanded an end to the violence and "any Indian who
broke the peace would be surrendered and punished according to the laws of the
United States."114 In Article Two the Cheyennes and Arapahos abandoned all
claims to their former lands in Colorado.115
61


The Cheyennes and Arapahos were instructed to settle on the new
reservation until "such time as the United States shall have extinguished all claims
of title thereto on the part of other Indians, so that the Indian parties hereto may live
thereon at peace with all other tribes." On their "permanent home" they "would not
go from said country for hunting or other purposes without the consent in writing
of their agent or other authorized person."116
Until the Cheyennes and Arapahos moved to their new reservation they
were free "to reside upon and range at pleasure throughout the unsettled portions of
that country they claim as originally theirs." The Treaty of the Little Arkansas even
had a provision that apologized for the Sand Creek massacre:
The United States being desirous to express its condemnation of,
and.. .repudiate the gross and wanton outrages perpetuated against
certain bands of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, on the twenty-ninth
day of November, A.D. 1864, at Sand Creek, in Colorado Territory,
while the said Indians were at peace...117
To make reparations for this "gross and wanton outrage," the government offered
additional lands to the chiefs and survivors.
Realizing that the number of Southern Cheyenne and Arapahos at the peace
conference constituted a minority, the commissioners made an additional demand
on Little Raven and the other signers. The chiefs promised to "use their utmost
62


endeavor to induce that portion of the respective tribes not now present to unite
with them and accede to the .. .beneficial provisions of this treaty."118
The Treaty of the Little Arkansas was another calamity for Little Raven's
Southern Arapahos. Before they could settle on their new reservation, the land had
to be taken from other tribes. The Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos gave up their
marginal lands in Colorado Territory in exchange for the panhandle region of
Indian Territory. Perhaps worst of all, the Indians needed the written consent of the
agent before leaving the reservation. This provision made them totally dependent
on the government, for they could no longer supplement their meager, often rotting
rations with game. If they had to rely on their agents and government rations, they
would starve most of the time. It soon became obvious that the Treaty of the Little
Arkansas was simply a tool to end the hostilities on the plains.
In the spring of 1866 a large number of the Northern Cheyenne and
Arapahos headed south to visit their relatives and to hunt. When they reached the
Smoky Hills of Kansas, they found only a few young Southern Cheyenne and
Arapahos warriors who had left their bands and fought the whites against the
wishes of Little Raven and other chiefs. Only then did they learn of the new treaty
which surrendered the land in Colorado Territory. Having tasted freedom in the
north, the northern tribes lost respect for Little Raven, Black Kettle and other chiefs
who signed away their traditional lands.119 Since they had not signed the treaty, the
63


northern tribes declared the treaty invalid. Even when Major Wynkoop traveled to
their lodges and attempted to persuade them to accept the Little Arkansas Treaty,
the Cheyenne chiefs curtly told him that they would rather die than be starved to
death by the government. While Major Wynkoop held council with the leaders of
the Dog Soldiers in an attempt to keep the fragile peace, Indian Agent Nathaniel G.
Taylor countered Wynkoop's efforts and convinced his superiors that the only way
to ensure the peace was for the army to wage a campaign of annihilation against the
Dog Soldiers.
That summer, as more Southern Cheyennes heard of the Sioux and
Northern Cheyenne victory in closing the Bozeman Trail in the Powder River
country, many warriors dreamed of forcing the whites out of their hunting grounds
along the front range. Uniting under the Dog Soldier Roman Nose, they attacked
relay stations and stole horses from the Overland Stage Company.120
In January 1867, with his people starving, Little Raven stopped at Fort
Dodge to tell Major Henry Douglas that he was moving south of the Arkansas
River into Kiowa and Comanche territory to hunt buffalo. In his report to district
headquarters, Douglas confirmed the wretched condition of Little Raven's band and
that he did not attempt to stop the chief.121 Little Raven also sent Major Douglas a
message directing that no more wood should be cut on Pawnee Fork and demanded
that the soldiers move out of the area.122
64


Perhaps the victories of the northern tribes encouraged Little Raven to
flaunt the government's rules. He knew that the treaty forbade him from hunting
off the reservation. Specifically, Little Raven did not ask permission to go south of
the Arkansas; he simply announced his decision. Although Little Raven could have
drawn rations from Fort Dodge, he chose to stay out on the plains instead.
After failing to defeat the warring Cheyennes, the government dispatched
the hero of Gettysburg, General Winfield Scott Hancock, to stop the Indian raids.
On April 12,1867 he invited several Cheyenne chiefs to attend a conference at Fort
Lamed. He attempted to persuade them to join Black Kettle's band south of the
Arkansas River. Hancock told the chiefs that they would either obey and move to
the reservation or would be treated as "hostiles." The white men, Hancock told the
Indians, had converged on the plains from both the East and West and nothing
could stop them.123 The chiefs warned Hancock not to move his cavalry near the
combined camp of Sioux and Cheyennes. Since many of the Cheyennes were
survivors of the Chivington massacre, they would run away from any show of
military force.
General Hancock disregarded their advice and accompanied by Lieutenant
Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his column, approached the Cheyenne
camp, and the Indians fled as predicted. Hancock ordered Custer to force them to
return while the general stayed with the infantry near the deserted camp. Custer
65


returned empty handed, but found evidence of Indian attacks, even though his
scouts were unsure that the Cheyennes were guilty. Hancock brushed aside his
subordinate's doubts and ordered the Cheyenne camp and all the Indians'
possessions burned. 124
Two weeks later, at General Hancock's invitation, Little Raven, Cut Nose,
and Big Belly came in for a conference. Little Raven agreed to keep the peace and
surrendered twenty-five mules that his warriors had captured east of Fort Lyon.125
Hancock's actions against a peaceful encampment of Cheyennes warned Little
Raven what could happen to his own people.
Meantime, the Cheyennes retaliated for the burning of their village by
raiding ranches along the Kansas frontier. Hancock precipitated the new fighting
on the plains and Custer wore out his regiment chasing the Oglala Sioux over the
prairies. After another failed expedition against the Indians, Hancock received
orders from Washington to halt all offensive actions in accordance with the new
Peace Policy of President Ulysses S. Grant.126
Pressured by the "Friends of the Indian" and other eastern reformers, the
government tried to establish a "conquest by kindness" policy for the western
Indians. The Peace Policy planned to group the Indians on two major reservations,
one with the northern plains tribes, and a second reservation for Little Raven's
people and the other Indians on the southern plains. For years, reformers and
66


policy makers had called for concentrating the Indians on reservations.
Reservations simplified efforts to civilize the Indians through education,
Christianity, and farming. The Peace Policy hoped to cleanse the Indian Bureau of
corruption and inefficiency. Trusted Indian agents went among the southern plains
tribes to persuade them to assemble in Medicine Lodge Valley, about sixty miles
south of Fort Lamed, Kansas. The chiefs were once again promised gifts and
generous supplies for their people.
The Medicine Lodge Treaty. 1867
In July 1867, Congress established an Indian peace commission for the
purpose of removing the tribes from the Central Plains where they impeded
transportation, communication, and expansion of the railroads. The commission
planned to separate the friendly bands from the warring ones and relocate them in
Indian Territory. 127
When the government officials traveled from Fort Harker to a small
Kansas stream called the Timbered Hill River, nine newspapermen accompanied
the negotiators. In September 1867, Little Raven met Indian Agent Thomas
Murphy at Fort Lamed and furnished him with a guard of warriors who escorted
the party. At Medicine Lodge Creek, Murphy observed:
67


Little Raven protected myself and the few white men with me while
there, vigilantly watching over us both day and night and continually
sending out his warriors as messengers to the hostile Indians for the
purpose of inducing them to abandon the warpath and to come in
and meet the commissioners. And firmly believing that Little Raven
has not been engaged in the recent depredations, nor would have
permitted any of his warriors to go upon the warpath could he have
prevented it. I cannot but feel that the innocent parties have been
1 "JS.
made to suffer for the crimes of others.
While waiting for the council to begin, a great deal of fear had developed
around the camps among both the whites and even the Arapahos that the Cheyenne
Dog Soldiers might attack unexpectedly. Tensions increased even more when Bull
Bear, leader of the Dog Soldiers, came in for a visit one day and said that Roman
Nose threatened to kill Major Wynkoop because of Hancock's attacks during the
129
summer.
On October 27, across Medicine Lodge Creek, five columns of some four
hundred Dog Soldiers appeared. The warriors and their horses wore full battle
regalia. Some of them had crimson blankets, and soldiers' blue coats which had
either been issued to them or taken in a raid. Many wore eagle feather headdresses
ornamented with silver and brass, while their feet were decked with red and blue
bead moccasins. Above their heads they brandished a variety of weapons,
including rifles, pistols, tomahawks, lances, and bows.130 Combined with the fear
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of attack from the Dog Soldiers, the Kaw Indians added to the excitement when
they raided Little Raven's camp on a pony stealing expedition.131
During the treaty negotiations, commissioner John B. Henderson told the
Cheyennes that the treaty prepared for them resembled the one signed by the
Comanches and Kiowas. When the Cheyennes took the floor, Little Robe passed
the honor of speaking first to Little Raven.
The honor of speaking first indicated that Little Raven still had
considerable influence with the Southern Arapahos and Cheyennes. But, instead of
speaking for the Cheyennes and negotiating in the interest of his allies, Little Raven
attempted to secure a separate treaty and reservation for his people in Colorado,
which he still considered his rightful home.132
The reporters did not pay as much attention to Little Raven's words as
they did his appearance. The reporters described the chief in his dotage, as a fat,
tiresome old man.133 Lieutenant Colonel George Custer considered Little Raven
too old to be an active leader.134 Although Little Raven remained the principal
chief among the Southern Arapahos and influential with the Southern Cheyennes,
the whites were partially correct. Little Raven no longer led warriors on raids
against his traditional enemies the Utes and Pawnees. His diplomatic skills and
wisdom were values that went unnoticed by the white men who concentrated on
dealing with the war chiefs.
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All but a few of the articles in the treaty resembled the treaties of Fort
Wise and the Little Arkansas. The Cheyennes and Arapahos could hunt buffalo
only as far as the Arkansas River, and then only with their agent's permission.135 A
new provision declared that all children between the ages of six and sixteen would
attend a government school with a teacher "competent to teach the elementary
branches of an English education." 136 A physician, blacksmith, resident agent, and
other personnel would be maintained at government expense on the reservation for
a period of no less than ten years to help the Indians adjust to their new life.
The Treaty of Medicine Lodge continued the policy of concentrating the
Indians on small, well-defined tracts of land, teaching them to become self-
sufficient farmers and conferring on them the blessings of white Christian
civilization. The policy met both practical and moral objectives: it would clear the
Indians from the travel routes and settled areas while also advancing what one
official called "the great work of regenerating the Indian race." 137
The Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos left the overland routes and army
posts undisturbed for ten months, but Little Raven sent a large war party against the
Kaws and Osages in retaliation for stealing his horses during the Medicine Lodge
negotiations. The intertribal warfare only increased after the Kaws defeated a
Southern Arapaho war party twenty-five miles east of Fort Zarah. These raids
upset the Indian Bureau officials who feared it might spark another Indian war.138
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When the Southern Arapahos were not fighting other tribes, whiskey
continued to be a major problem. Indian agent Thomas Murphy witnessed a
Cheyenne who left Fort Dodge with five gallons of whiskey and got his entire
camp drunk. The Arapaho Chief Big Mouth carried back eighteen bottles and one
keg of whiskey to his camp.139 As long as they had robes for payment, the Indians
could still acquire liquor. Thomas Murphy was not concerned about the health of
the Indians, but the violence that typically followed.
On February 26, 1868 Little Raven and Satank confronted Murphy about a
promise he made the previous fall at the Medicine Lodge Treaty for a small spring
wagon and a set of horse harnesses. Although they had been promised at the
Medicine Lodge Treaty, Thomas took the cost of $190.00 out of the tribes' annuity
allocations.140 Wagons became important for Little Raven to transport rations to
his people. Just as manufactured goods had replaced the native forms of cooking
accessories, Little Raven himself adopted the white man's mode of transporting
large, heavy loads by wagons.
In a council with Little Raven and other chiefs, Murphy warned them that
well armed white settlers wanted an end to the large raiding parties that crossed the
plains. Ironically, the whites resented the Indian trespassers. Murphy specifically
referred to the raids made on the Kaws by Little Raven's warriors. In response to
Murphy's complaints, Little Raven said that, "no more trips would be made by his
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people into the settlements: that their hearts were good toward the whites, and they
wished to remain at peace with them."141 Pleased, Murphy issued the Southern
Arapahos arms and ammunition, which he "hoped they would use for the sole
purpose of securing food for themselves and their families..." He warned the
chiefs not to use the weapons against their "white brethren." Little Raven
reaffirmed his commitment to peace. The Southern Arapahos accepted one
hundred pistols, eighty Lancaster rifles, twelve kegs of powder, one and one half
kegs of lead, and fifteen thousand percussion caps. Later, the Apaches received
similar numbers of supplies.142
Two days after the council a combined party of Sioux, Cheyennes and
Arapahos, numbering over two hundred warriors, and armed with the weapons
issued at the council, left the Indian village to raid settlements in Kansas. Among
the warriors included Little Raven's son.143
Irritated, Thomas Murphy reflected that at the very time that the Indians
made professions of friendship at Fort Lamed and received annuities, they planned
to go on the warpath. He no longer had any confidence in what the tribes said or
promised.144 On August 13, 1868, General William T. Sherman echoed the same
sentiments when he observed that the Indians around Forts Lamed and Dodge
continued to make threatening demands on passing wagon trains. Just the day
before he received a report that three white women were raped on the Little
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Arkansas. The general concluded: "I never expect the Indians to make good
citizens."145
Brevet Brigadier General Alfred Sully, commander of the district of the
Upper Arkansas, invited Little Raven and other Arapaho chiefs to come to Fort
Dodge under a flag of truce to meet with General Philip Sheridan. Sheridan offered
to feed the Indians during the winter if they would surrender and live on the
reservation. Little Raven and the other chiefs agreed to his proposal but did not
146
come in.
On September 6,1868 Sherman wrote the prominent humanitarian crusader,
Samuel F. Tappan, and summed up his impression of the latest violence and the
Indian situation:
You will have observed that.. .nearly all of the Indians to whom we
granted so bountifully began war, the moment their presents were
distributed. This time I know the military did not provoke the war,
and I am also convinced that we cannot accuse the frontier people.
Simultaneously, the Cheyennes attacked the settlements along the
Solomon, Saline and Republican, and the Arapahos the settlements
along the eastern border of Colorado. I have no hope of civilizing
the plains Indians. A few may be rescued from destruction but they
will not as a whole work the soil, and must be simple paupers or
work. Congress may for a few years support them, but sooner or
later will get tired and abandon the effort. 147
Little Raven's refusal to surrender and immediately move to the reservation
was a bold, if not reckless decision. Using government arms, his son and other
Southern Arapaho warriors had been identified as killing settlers and raping
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women. Not only could he be personally held responsible for such acts, his entire
band could be attacked for the actions of a few.
Major Wynkoop, though disturbed by the murders in the Solomon and
Saline valleys, continued to make excuses for the Indians. He thought that the
majority of the Indians were not in favor of the raids, but that the chiefs were
unable to restrain their young men. Superintendent Murphy disagreed with
Wynkoop about the innocence of the Indians and believed that they deserved
punishment. The difference of opinion between Wynkoop and his superior resulted
in Wynkoop's terminal leave of absence from the service.148
In the fall the Indian attacks culminated when a combined force of
Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Sioux attacked Major George A. Forsyth's command of
fifty scouts at Beecher's Island on September 17,1868. During the week long
siege, the Dog Soldier, Roman Nose was killed and the Cheyennes retreated. The
death of Roman Nose only aroused more raiding on the plains.
After a summer of failing to defeat the Indians in a major engagement,
General Sheridan looked ahead to a winter campaign. He knew that the Indian
ponies needed rest after raiding all summer and the tribes would settle down to
recover. Sheridan devised a large-scale pincer movement, and sent one force
eastward from Fort Bascom, New Mexico, and another southeast from Fort Lyon.
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The third and largest contingent, including eleven companies of Custer's Seventh
Cavalry, advanced south from Fort Hays, Kansas.
The Battle of the Washita. 1868
On November 23, 1868, a bitterly cold day, Custer moved out of Camp
Supply with the Seventh Cavalry and a detachment of Osage scouts. The
regimental band played "The Girl I Left Behind Me," but the music hardly consoled
the numbed troopers. The drifting snow covered the cavalry's movement, but also
obliterated all Indian trails. As the temperature rose, mud eventually slowed
Custer's column. To speed up the scouting, Custer sent Major Joel Elliott ahead to
search for the Indian trail. Twelve miles up the Canadian River he discovered the
trail and sent a courier back with the news. Determined not to allow the Indians to
escape, Custer had the remaining troops of the Seventh Cavalry draw one hundred
rounds of ammunition for their carbines and revolvers, a little hardtack and coffee,
and some forage for their horses. The baggage train was left on the South
Canadian River with a guard of eighty cavalrymen. Custer drove his men hard and
overtook Elliott by one thirty on the morning of November 27. The Osage scouts
discovered that Black Kettle's village stood less than a mile to the column's front.
Custer and his officers found the Indians located on the south bank of the Washita
River in heavy timber. Custer divided his troops into four detachments, surrounded
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the village, and ordered his subordinates to attack at dawn.149 In the morning a
single shot rang out from the far side of the village and the Battle of the Washita
began. The regimental musicians played "Garry Owen" as the four columns of
cavalry charged.
Within ten minutes, Custer's troopers seized the village. Most of the heavy
fighting took place with the warriors in the timber and ravines that bordered the
Washita River. The Cheyennes fought desperately to save their families and
attempted to inflict a heavy toll on the cavalrymen. While Custer's troops fought,
Cheyenne Chief Little Rock and two other men tried to lead the women and
children down the Washita toward Little Raven's village, seven miles away.150
Custer and his scouts had not seen Little Raven's village. Major Elliott and about
fifteen troopers overtook the women and children and killed Little Rock. When the
sound of the fighting reached the other villages to the east, large parties of
Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho warriors rode up the river to save Black Kettle's
people. Little Raven's warriors surrounded Elliott and his detachment. They
pinned the cavalrymen down in the tall grass and used ravines for cover and easily
overwhelmed Elliott and his men.151
Custer's position in Black Kettle's village became untenable as increasing
numbers of Indian warriors pressed upon the regiment's seven hundred men. No
men could be spared to search for Major Elliott and his missing detachment. In the
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afternoon Custer feinted a movement of his column toward the lower Indian
villages and reversed his line of march.152 He did not halt his withdrawal for six
hours, granting his men only an hour's rest when recovering the baggage train.
Custer destroyed fifty-one lodges, captured a herd of nearly nine hundred
ponies, and seized lodge skins, arms, food and other camping equipment.153
However, he exaggerated the enemy dead at one hundred and three on the
battlefield.154 Custer made little mention of the Cheyenne women and children
killed during the action. Actually, when the shooting stopped, twenty-nine
Cheyennes lay dead: eleven men, twelve women, and six children.155 During the
cavalry's initial charge, Black Kettle and his wife were killed as they fled toward
the Washita River.156
Major Elliot, Lieutenant Louis Hamilton, and nineteen enlisted men were
killed; three officers and eleven enlisted men were wounded and one, Captain
Albert Bamitz, later died of his wounds. On December 7, Custer recovered the
naked and horribly mutilated bodies of Major Elliott and his men. In their rage, the
Indians had mangled the soldiers' bodies, decapitating some, hacking off arms, feet
and hands, and riddled them with bullets and arrows.157
While recovering the bodies Custer noticed a portion of the stock of a
Lancaster rifle protruding from the side of one of the men. The stock had been
broken off near the barrel and the butt of the rifle, twelve inches in length, had been
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driven into the soldier's side a distance of eight inches. Custer identified the rifles
as the same ones issued to Little Raven's Southern Arapahos.
Custer also discovered that as the tribes fled southward after the battle they
had abandoned thousands of lodge poles, some of which remained standing.
Immense numbers of camp kettles, cooking utensils, coffee-mills, axes and several
hundred buffalo robes were found by Custer's burial party.158
After the Battle of the Washita, Little Raven avoided contact with the white
settlers, warring bands, and the cavalry. During the first week of February 1869,
Custer rode with forty soldiers and employed Little Robe and his friend Yellow
Bear as guides to persuade the Southern Arapahos to move to the reservation near
Fort Sill or Camp Supply. At the west end of the Wichita Mountains Custer found
Little Raven and ordered him to move to the reservation. Little Raven stalled and
explained that his horses were too weak for a long trip, but that he wanted to talk to
Custer. The next day Custer left his rifle and pistol with his men and nervously
entered Little Raven's lodge:
I found Little Raven surrounded by all his principal chiefs, a place
reserved by his side for me. After the usual smoke and the
preliminary moments of silence, which strongly reminded me of the
deep silence which is the prelude to religious services in some of our
churches, Little Raven began a speech, which was mainly a review
of what had been agreed upon the evening before and closed with
the statement that his people were highly pleased to see white men
among them as friends, and that the idea of complying with my
demand in regard to proceeding to our main camp had been
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discussed with great favor by all of his people, who were delighted
with this opportunity of terminating the war.159
On April 3,1869 Little Raven wanted to be separated from the Cheyennes,
Kiowas and all the other raiding Indians. He explained to Colonel Benjamin H.
Grierson at Camp Supply that he did not know the precise location of the new
reservation. He believed that the Medicine Lodge Treaty reservation was located
on the Upper Arkansas between Bent's Fort and the Rocky Mountains. During
their talk the chief persuaded the colonel that he intended to keep the peace and
control his warriors. Little Raven particularly won the colonel's esteem by the
active part he took in voicing his commitment to moving his tribe onto the
reservation. Colonel Grierson believed that Little Raven's performance warranted
that the Southern Arapahos have their own reservation, "without delay."160
At Camp Supply Lieutenant Colonel Anderson D. Nelson arrived and
issued annuity goods to some 1320 Indians representing 257 lodges. The rations,
hauled down from Kansas by wagon caravan, were unloaded into separate piles,
and Little Raven doled out the goods to a huge circle of women and children who
waited patiently for their turn. After the issuance and distribution, Nelson called
Little Raven and the other chiefs for a council.161
Through an interpreter, Nelson told the chiefs they must return to the region
north of the Cimarron River where the Treaty of Medicine Lodge had assigned
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them. Little Raven and the other chiefs resisted to move. They protested that "the
ground was so covered with salt that it looked like snow, and the water in the
streams so brackish that their horses would not drink it."162 They also wanted land
further from the Osage reservation in southeastern Kansas. The Osages, they
complained, raided their camps and stole their horses. They preferred to stay on the
Beaver and Wolf Creeks west of Camp Supply. When pressured to stop raiding the
Utes and Pawnees, Little Raven emphasized that nothing he said during the treaty
negotiations should be construed as a willingness of his people to abandon their
way of life. They still planned on fighting wars against their traditional enemies.163
As the tensions rose, Little Raven, rather than any of the Cheyennes,
assured the success of the talks. Speaking directly to the Cheyennes, he pleaded for
peace. For a long time, Little Raven reminded his friends, the two tribes had lived,
made war, and hunted together. But now they had to settle down on the reservation
and make the best of their opportunities.
During the summer and fall of 1869, the army continued to issue goods
from Camp Supply. In September three thousand Indians received 18, 270 pounds
of bacon and 195, 710 pounds of shelled com, which Little Raven complained was
so bad even his horses refused to eat it. Reflecting on the poor rations, Little Raven
said it "seemed as though the government was ranking them with animals..."164
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On January 10, 1870 Little Raven reported that the Pawnees made a raid
upon his tribe and stole 150 ponies. On that account he could not come in and
draw his rations since many people were without transportation. The Pawnees
were not the only problem for the Southern Arapahos, Nelson wrote," This country
is so infested with thieves and desperadoes that no civilian is allowed to be here
without a written permit from the commanding officer."165
On August 23,1870 with the aid of the interpreter John Smith, Little Raven
wrote a letter to the Commander of the Department of the Missouri, General John
Pope, informing the commander that he was leaving the reservation on an extended
buffalo hunt for food and to replace worn out and leaking lodges. Referring to the
Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, Little Raven said that the promises of General
Sheridan and Hazen had not been fulfilled. The chief claimed that he had upheld
his end of the treaty, to live in peace with the whites and settle on the reservation.
Little Raven pointed out that the treaty permitted his people the freedom to settle
anywhere within the limits of the reservation, but the government severely
restricted their movement. In the interest of the Southern Arapahos, Little Raven
wanted to move seventy miles north of the present agency to a place richer in game.
The move would greatly facilitate matters for both Indians and whites. Little Raven
also pointed out that that the government had failed to provide the "... promised
seed and all manner of agricultural implements to cultivate the soil and white men
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to instruct us." He reassured the general that his people wanted to till the land and
live peacefully as farmers, but without instructions, seeds, and tools, his people
were helpless since they "never had to provide for a living in that manner." Little
Raven closed the letter with the comment, "I hope the great chiefs may listen to my
petition this time..."166
By focusing on the government's failure to provide the farming items, Little
Raven skillfully asked for a new reservation that would be in the interests of not
only his people, but the whites as well. As with Major Dodge, Little Raven did not
ask permission to leave the reservation, but blamed the government for making him
leave for food and shelter.
The government partially answered Little Raven's complaints when he
returned from his extended hunting expedition. Captain Seth Bonney attempted to
erect a shelter to house farm supplies and asked Little Raven if he could hire some
Arapaho men to help cut timber and haul logs. The captain soon learned an
interesting fact about the chiefs attitude, "Indians don't know how to work," Little
Raven told him. "Gets tired too quick." Only the women knew how to work, and
1 f\l
Bonney considered even hiring some of them but decided against it.
On September 2, 1870, Big Jake, a Cheyenne chief, took his band on the
warpath and did not report to the Indian agency as ordered. When Lieutenant
George Arurick arrived with the trains of supplies, Big Jake and his warriors came
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in for rations, but brought no lodges or families. Little Raven complained that his
people had kept the peace but were placed on the same footing with a warring band
that came in to draw rations without their families.168 The presence of women and
children indicated a sign of peaceful intentions.
Tensions increased three weeks later when a white guard knocked down an
Indian who tried to steal some wood. Two or three other Arapahos intervened in
the fight and were also beaten by the white man. When Little Raven learned of the
incident, he agreed that the white watchman took the correct action. Tempers
briefly subsided until some Cheyennes returning from the warpath ridiculed the
Indian about allowing a white man to hit him. Enraged, the Indian strung his bow
and started off to kill the watchman. The matter was eventually settled without
bloodshed by the intervention of Little Raven and the reservation superintendent.169
On January 7, 1871 Little Raven wrote again to the commissioner of his
desire to move seventy miles north of Camp Supply. He again complained that he
had not been furnished with any farm supplies. The commissioner responded with
a bold he that farmers, millers, lawyers, engineers, physicians, blacksmiths, with
many other employees and their families had worked at building mills, warehouses,
plowing grounds and fencing property for the Indians.170
When not complaining about the government's broken promises, Little
Raven continued to camp off the reservation with about one hundred lodges,
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comprising nearly two thirds of the tribe, on the Cimarron River. He also
continued to criticize other leaders who led war parties off the reservation.
Whether raiding parties or peaceful Arapahos, the sudden, unexpected appearance
of Indians excited widespread alarm among the settlers who demanded an
immediate dispatch of troops for protection.171
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CHAPTER 5
LITTLE RAVEN VISITS THE EAST 1871
Little Raven was invited to Washington D.C. in the summer of 1871 with
the Arapaho chiefs, Powder Face, Bird Chief and the Cheyenne chiefs Little Robe
and Stone Calf. The single representative of the Wichita nation was Chief Buffalo
Good. By this time in his life Little Raven was a large, heavy man. In his advanced
years it was difficult for him to travel. The Arapaho chief who spent much of his
life on horseback could no longer ride across the plains.172
At the start of the trip, much of the Great Plains remained as unsettled and
open as Little Raven had remembered. However, when the party traveled east of
St. Louis, the buildings and houses of the white man dotted the landscape, the New
York Times observed that "their wonder at what they saw constantly increased."173
In the nation's capital, the newspapermen reported, "the chiefs had
abandoned their savage dress and appeared in dark coats, vests, and pantaloons,
except Little Raven, who although he wore a coat and vest, had not put on pants,
but wore the buckskin leggings of the Indian." The government's objective for the
chiefs visit was two fold: To let the Indians see for themselves the vast power of
the United States and the futility of going to war and to impress them with the
sincerity of the government in fulfilling their treaty promises. The government
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considered the three tribes, "wild and warlike." All the chiefs had come to discuss
changes to their reservation boundaries.174
Commissioner Ely S. Parker began the talks by expressing through the
Arapaho interpreter his pleasure that Little Raven and the other chiefs had accepted
his invitation to visit. Parker reminded the chiefs that it had been four years since
they had signed the Medicine Lodge Treaty. He bragged that it had been written by
some of the best officers in the army.
Parker reminded the chiefs that the goal of the Medicine Lodge Treaty was
to establish a permanent peace between the Indians and the United States. He
complained that the government agreed to put up agency buildings, and schools but
the Indians refused to occupy the reservation land set aside in the treaty. In
Parker's view, the government had accommodated the Indians by permitting them
to camp along the north fork of the Canadian River. Additionally, when some of
the Indians refused to move onto the reservation the government still issued them
rations. To counter charges of corruption, the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent the
Indians new agents, Quakers, who were considered "universally...truthful men,
whose tongues are not forked."175 Brinton Darlington, the new agent, informed
Parker that the Indians desired peace. However, he cited other sources that
declared the Indians wanted to go on the warpath and continue to steal horses and
other property from white settlers. These words are not consistent with the
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promises made in the treaty. The commissioner declared that the Indians had no
reason to make war, since the government fed and clothed them. Parker also
reminded them that the promised annuities from the Medicine Lodge Treaty would
expire in six years. In the time remaining they should try to raise their own food as
farmers. They could survive by hunting for only a few more years.176
When the commissioner ended his speech, a few moments of silence
followed and Little Raven, without rising, said in a rather low voice, that upon his
arrival he was kindly received and honored by the invitation. His people were
"anxious to have a dividing line between the white and Indian blood."177 He
reminded the government officials that soon after the Treaty of Fort Laramie was
signed in 1851, gold was discovered in the mountains and "brought the white man
in their country."178 Soon afterwards the railroads drove them from their homes.
Little Raven wondered when the whites would stop moving the Indians. He
claimed the Indians, "do not know what country they own."179 Since the
government had benefited by the gold taken from Arapaho lands, he wanted to
know if the government planned to reimburse his people. Little Raven concluded
his remarks by reminding Parker that the Southern Arapahos looked to him for
advice and the chief planned to "speak his feelings."180
When Little Raven concluded, an invitation was extended to the Cheyennes
to speak, but the chief declined since Little Raven had thoroughly spoken for the
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Cheyennes as well as the Arapahos.181 The commissioners observed that Little
Raven resented the building of railroads and army posts in his territory. They also
noted that Little Raven's comments resembled Red Cloud's remarks from the
previous year.182 The Arapaho chief explained that peace existed on the plains
before the army posts were stationed among the tribes. Little Raven also requested,
as did Red Cloud, to trade for ammunition in small quantities for hunting.
Interior Secretary Columbus Delano then made a short speech to the
delegation and told them that the United States desired peace and friendship with
the tribes and the Indians needed to learn the "habits of civilization." He admitted
that the government "cannot stop this clearing of land and building of cities and
railroads all over the country. The Great Spirit had decreed it and it must go on."
The chiefs received the customary peace medallions and promises that the
administration would give full consideration to their complaints.
On May 23, 1871 Little Raven visited President Ulysses S. Grant who
asked about raiding on the Texas border. The interpreter John Smith explained for
the chiefs that mainly young Kiowas caused the trouble. After visiting with the
president, Little Raven and the chiefs marveled at the elevator in the Treasury
building.183
On the first day of June they visited Central Park in New York City and
Little Raven commented: "My eyes saw more than they could carry."184 Little
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Raven and the chiefs stood at New York harbor where they watched thousands of
immigrants arriving. The image served as a reminder that more room would be
needed out West.
Little Raven's Speech in New York City
Little Raven was scheduled to speak in New York City at the Cooper
Institute. Among the leading citizens on the platform were William E. Dodge, Peter
Cooper, Henry Burgh, B. Tatham, E. Cromwell, the secretary of the commission,
William G. Hunt, Chancellor Crosby and Professor Martin of the university.
Chancellor Crosby opened the ceremonies with a prayer.
By eight p.m. the large hall was completely filled by an anxious audience
waiting to hear what the famous chiefs had to say. The platform Little Raven spoke
from was decorated with national flags, and streamers of red, white and blue hung
from the ceiling. Standing behind a desk, his long black hair neatly braided, Little
Raven summarized the history of the last two centuries from the Arapaho
perspective. As he uttered each sentence in measured cadence, his interpreter
quickly translated the guttural Arapaho language into English. Little Raven began
by explaining how he did not hesitate a moment in coming to visit the Great
Father in Washington and hoped that President Grant would right the wrongs
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suffered by myself and my people. Then he started into a long narrative of
Arapaho history:
Long ago the Arapahos had a fine country of their own. The white
man came to see them and the Indians gave him buffalo meat and a
horse to ride on and told him the country was big enough for the
white man and the Arapahos too. After a while the white men found
gold in our country. They took the gold and pushed the Indian from
his home. I thought Washington would make it right. I am an old
man now. I have been waiting many years for Washington to give
us our rights. The government sent agents and soldiers out there to
us and both have driven us from our lands. We do not want to fight.
The white man has taken away everything.. .1 think the Great Spirit
is looking at all that is said here, and for that reason I am talking the
truth. I want my people to five like the white people, and have the
same chance. We want to travel in the same road as the white man.
We want to have his rifle, his powder, and his ball to hunt with.185
Little Raven's speech was "delivered in the earnest, impetuous manner
which usually characterizes the orations of the American aborigines when repeating
the tale of their wrongs... His gestures are singular; they indulge but little in the
wide-swinging motions of civilized orators, confining themselves mostly to quick,
nervous jerks of the hands near the breast"186
William Dodge observed that, "their behavior shows that the one fact ever
uppermost in their minds, that they are passing away, like snow in springtime,
before the face of the all-conquering white race..." 187
In Boston, Little Raven and the chiefs took an early morning walk, admired
the trees, and listed to the singing of the birds in the park across the St. James
90


River. Little Raven said it reminded him of the banks of the Wichita, with its
groves and mocking birds.188
For their tour of the city, Commissioner Tobes loaded the chiefs in three
open carriages and the delegation enjoyed a drive through the suburbs. Little Raven
commented that he thought the white mans houses surpassed the Indians' buffalo
tents. He believed it would be a good thing to go to school and learn trades if it
would bring them (the Arapaho) such pleasant homes to live in.189
They stopped at an icehouse on Jamaica Pond and studied how the white
men froze water. They also learned at the public works how the whites made water
flow into their washbowls at the hotel. Walking through the Harvard campus,
Chief Little Robe speculated that he would send his son to the university for an
education. At Harvard the chiefs enjoyed George Catlin's prints of Indian history.
They also showed interest in Audubon's birds.190
On their way back to the hotel, they delegation stopped for a few minutes to
meet the governor and pay their respects. Governor Claflin welcomed the chiefs to
Massachusetts and said that the "policy of kindness" to the Indians would always
have his heartiest support. Little Raven thanked him for his reception and "the
great kindness by all the people of the east..." He promised to "carry it all back to
his people and tell them to live at peace with the whites."191
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In a reception at Tremont Temple, sponsored by the Massachusetts Indian
Commissioner, four thousand people packed the hall to listen to the words of the
traveling chiefs. Little Raven and the chiefs sat on the front of the platform in full
view of the audience who greeted them with loud and continuous cheers. After the
applause had subsided, Governor Claflin briefly announced the object of the
reception and called upon the crowd to join in singing "My Country, 'tis of thee."
Once again, Little Raven spoke first. He reassured the audience that he had
listened when General Sheridan told the Southern Arapahos to fight no more.
Little Raven emphasized that he had never fought with the white man and that he
wanted to have peace with the white man and be let alone.192 Departing from
speaking of the Great Spirit, Little Raven said,
I believe God is going to pity the Indians...Once the Arapahos had a
fine country in the west, but the white man has driven us from there.
I hope some day the white man will do justice to the Arapahos.
There are a great many chiefs listening to what I say tonight and I
only ask for justice. I am growing old, and I may die, but my
children will live, and I hope justice will be done to my children if
not to myself. God gave this country to the Indian and gold sent the
white man here, but I dont think God sent the white man to do
injustice to the Indian. When I get home I shall talk to my young
men, to any of them that are disposed to do wrong, and tell them
to.. .behave themselves. 193
After the visit to Boston, the chiefs toured Philadelphia and received
several horses as gifts from the local politicians. Though the plan had been to
return via St. Louis, another change of itinerary diverted the group by railroad to
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Chicago. On June 9, the guests of honor met the Peace Commission in Farwell
Hall. The chiefs greeted a crowd of twelve hundred people. Senator James B.
Doolitte and other governmental figures made speeches, and Little Raven
humorously commented that since the chiefs had been given horses in Philadelphia
they were pleased they would not have to walk home. Afterwards, the band played
"Yankee Doodle," as the audience passed before the Indians and interpreters on
display.
Little Raven's comments to the whites reflected a conciliatory tone. He
learned quickly to speak of God instead of the Great Spirit to the easterners. His
speeches concentrated on the themes of human rights and justice, concepts which
the whites understood, but were alien to the Arapaho culture where social relations
depended on tribal strength, not the democratic, social compact. Although Little
Raven promised to keep his people at peace and wanted repayment for the lands
seized in Colorado, he never expressed any desire to become a farmer. Even when
Commissioner Parker reminded him to become self-sufficient by raising crops,
Little Raven never brought up his lack of farming implements to the officials in
Washington or in his speeches in New York and Boston.
In Little Raven's absence, Chief Big Mouth temporarily assumed the tribal
leadership. He impressed the Indian agent who proclaimed that Big Mouth's
"unswerving fidelity merits proper and beneficial recognition."194 Big Mouth
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