The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939


Famous Indian Chiefs


THE Spokanes, when they were not off on a buffalo-hunt or camping here and there to store up for winter certain roots which they eat, as squirrels store up beechnuts, lived along the banks of the Spokane River in Washington State. This river, with many falls and rapids, flows through great forests west to the Columbia. It is a beautiful land of wooded hills and fertile valleys, and the Indians clung to it with great fondness.

There was an old bridge across the Spokane, and as I rode to Fort Colville, escorted by some cavalry, we saw an open field covered with Indian lodges just to our right as we came to the bridge. There were ten or twelve lodges and one hundred and twenty Indians. Many Indians came out to meet us on the road, and I called to one of them in English: "What Indians are these?" He replied: "A band of Spokanes." The leader of this band was Lot.

Long ago, when Lot was a small boy, Mr. Eeles, a good teacher, went to live among the Spokanes, just as in 1840 the famous Dr. Marcus Whitman went to teach the savage Cayuses. The Indians called this teacher Father Eeles, and, although he died long ago, they still speak of him with affection, and white people name roads and hamlets for him. Father Eeles loved the little Indian boy who would be a chief some day, and he baptized him and called him Lot.

Now Lot had grown to be a fine, tall Indian
 chief, over six feet in his heelless moccasins, and 
but for his braided hair and the blanket over his
 shoulders you would have taken him for an old 
hunter. He spoke very little English, and was 
very modest, but Mr. Campbell, the Indian agent,
 brought Lot to me at once, saying as he did so: "Lot is a splendid Indian. He has learned our ways and has always tried to live as Father Eeles taught him." I took a fancy to Lot immediately, and asked him why his band were here, and what they were doing, and he told me that one of his Indian girls was to become the wife of a "squaw-man," and that the band had come to see Mr. Campbell marry them.

Now, a white man who marries an Indian woman is called by every one a squaw-man. Lot asked if I would stay for the wedding, and I gladly accepted his invitation. The bride was a pretty Indian girl, scarcely more than fourteen years old, and she came out of one of the lodges with some Indian women and her parents, and brothers and sisters. The squaw-man, Mr. Walker, was about forty years old, and a rather rough-looking man in shabby clothes. He came across the bridge with some fine-looking Indian braves, and I could not help wondering why the young Indian girl had not chosen one of them for her husband. But perhaps she thought it was grander to live in a house and be Mrs. Walker. At any rate, Mr. Campbell had them hold hands while he married them by the white man's ceremony.

After the wedding we went on to Fort Colville, and the next time I saw Lot he asked me to come with him to a meeting of his band. Spokane Williams, one of his band, had taken land like a white man and built a house. To be sure, it was a small house with one door and no windows, but he was proud of it. There was a platform at one end where we sat, and Mr. Campbell was there, too. All the people sat on the hard earth floor, men and women, children, and papooses
packed in like sardines. Then the Indians stood up and told what they had done that they were sorry for. One big fellow said that he had stolen four horses; but afterward he was very sad and took them back to the white man they belonged to, and asked his forgiveness; so the white man said: "All right, John," and then he was happy again. A woman said she had told an untruth, but afterward she was so miserable she had to go and ask to be forgiven. After a while an old Indian woman got up and talked for a while, but Lot stopped her and told her to sit down. I asked Mr. Campbell what they were saying, and he told me she had been finding fault with her neighbors, but the chief said: "You may tell us the wrong things you yourself have done, but you mustn't tell us the bad things your neighbors have been doing." Lot was very careful to make the people of his band do what was right.

Now, Spokane Garry was the head chief of all Spokane Indians, and he asked me to meet him at an Indian council. Garry was a small, egotistical, grumbling old man, not at all like Lot. He spoke English very loud and very fast, and was hard to understand. What he wanted me to know was that the Spokanes had helped the white settlers much more than the Nez Perces Indians had, and he thought the great Father at Washington ought to treat them as well, and give them a reservation as good as the Nez Perces had.

I told him I wished his Indians would all build houses and take up land like white men. Spokane Williams of Lot's band had done so, and was doing well. But Garry stopped me and said that white men's ways were not Indians' ways. Indians liked to go from place to place and take their lodges with them. If they lived in houses they must stop in one place. I sent his request to Washington, but he died before there was any reply, and Lot became a leader and guide to all these people. I often saw Lot, and we had long talks about the Indians. He moved his people to a prairie land where there was good water and plenty of trees, and here I visited him and felt as safe among these wild people as I do in my own home. But Lot always said, as Garry did, that Indians could not live like white men. He told me that if he could keep them together the old men and women would work while the young men could hunt partridges, wild turkey, and deer, but if they tried to live as white men no one would work. Every time I saw Lot he talked in this way till I came to believe it was so, and when President Hayes and General Sherman came to Oregon I told them what Lot had said to me, and asked the President to give these Indians some land for their own. General Sherman agreed with me that this would be the best thing for everybody, and the President signed a paper ordering enough land to be set aside for all the Spokane people. So Lot had his wish.

Some months afterward, when the President sent me orders to leave Washington Territory and go to West Point, New York, Lot in his far-off reservation heard that I was going. He mounted his pony and with some of his braves rode three hundred miles to beg me to stay. He arrived in Portland, Oregon, just as I was going on board the ocean steamer, anchored in the Willamette River, which was to take me to San Francisco. Lot was too excited to speak much English, but he found his way to my state-room and, big giant that he was, took me in his arms as if I were a small boy, saying, "No, no! you not go! You stay here and we have peace!"

Of course I could not stay, and after a while Lot understood that where the President sent me I must go. But we parted as if we were indeed brothers, and this noble Indian went back to his tribe to teach them what was best in life and continue his good work for his people.


FAR away in Wyoming lived the Sioux Indians, a fierce and warlike tribe. They called themselves Dakotas; but their enemies said that when they fought they did everything in a mean, hidden way so it was hard to know what to expect, and they called them Sioux, which means snake-like-ones. To this tribe belonged a young brave who wanted very much to become a chief. His father was a fierce warrior and had taught him how to fight, but he was not satisfied to follow the leaders of his tribe, for he wanted to lead other Indians himself. When this young man was only eighteen years old he had already learned to use the bow, could ride Indian ponies and swim deep rivers, and was a great buffalo-hunter; besides, he often danced in war dances with older braves. In some way he managed to get a rifle which fired several times without reloading, and after that he began to feel of much more importance than other young Indians.

At first the young braves were angry with him, but he soon showed them that he was a skilful warrior, and before long many young Indians chose him for their leader. Now he could wear an eagle feather in his war bonnet, and was a real chief.

At this time Uncle Sam had promised to give each Indian a good blanket, and they were glad to get them. The blankets were all bright red, and when this young Indian and his followers,
each wearing a red blanket, rode rapidly past, some one said, "See the Red Cloud," and so far as I know was never after given any other name.

The Sioux Indians have a wonderful festival which they call the sun dance. At this time all the braves try to show how much pain they can [illustration - An attack on a wagon-train by Red Cloud's Sioux warriors] bear without flinching, and some people say it makes them tender-hearted. Certainly "Red Cloud" always could bear more than any other warrior, and yet his heart was fierce and war-like. In time the Indians came to fear him, and little by little he was chosen war chief of all the wild Dakotas and Sioux. He hated the white people, and when other Indians tried to make peace Red Cloud always said: "No; war, war!" Perhaps he knew that just as soon as there was peace he would no longer be a chief; at any rate, he would not listen to any plan to stop fighting.

Fort Phil Kearney in Wyoming was in the middle of the Indians' country. One day word came to the major there that a party of soldiers who had gone to get firewood had been attacked, and some were killed, the rest in great danger. The major at once sent out a rescue party under Captain Fetterman, but Red Cloud was waiting with two thousand warriors, and not one white man escaped.

Nobody could say now that Red Cloud was not a great leader, and even Uncle Sam, however much he feared him, had to confess that he was "Chief of all the living Sioux Indians." All the Sioux chiefs whose fathers had been chiefs before them were willing to give some Indian lands to the white people and live on a reservation, but
Red Cloud said: "No, no; I want war," and the young warriors followed him in spite of the chiefs. He had many battles and simply would not stop fighting.

At last, in 1874, the Indians came to one of Uncle Sam's army posts for a "big talk." The result [illustration - Red Cloud.] was that the Indians agreed to give up the land they had fought for, and went to live on what was called "Red Cloud Reservation." But still peace did not come. They were always ready to break out, and every once in a while houses were burned, stages waylaid, and people killed. It was of no use to treat the tribe kindly so long as Red Cloud wanted war.

At last, after many years, the war chief began to feel that he could not win his fight, so very sadly he buried his tomahawk and signed what he called "a peace paper." But he did not really love his white brothers, and when Uncle Sam wanted Indian scouts to help him fight in 1876, Red Cloud was angry, and sent some of his warriors to waylay the soldiers and Indian scouts. Then Uncle Sam said that Red Cloud could not expect to be a chief if he did such things, for the officers found that he was always planning to make trouble; and they put Spotted Tail, a chief who was frank and honest, in Red Cloud's place. But what good did that do when the young Indians loved Red Cloud and did what he said? And he kept them from working with their hands, and said braves must only hunt and fight, and he would not try to keep peace or to help Spotted Tail control the young braves.

Then at last, when Red Cloud was a very old man, more than eighty years old, he was sick for the first time in his life. He had to stay in his lodge and be taken care of, for he was too weak to move. Now he began to notice how kind every one was to him when he could do nothing for himself, and his heart was softened. When he was able to be up again and to go out into the woods, he was very happy, and began to be sorry for people who were not strong and well, though until he was ill himself, he had despised them.

He saw how Uncle Sam was trying to take care of everybody in this big country of ours, and he said, "Indians must take land like white men, they must work with a plow and hoe, and they must read books and study." Then there was peace in the north land, for the fiercest of all our Indian warriors up to that time had really surrendered at last.