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In the winter of 1878, I was living at the head of John Day’s river with a lady by the name of Courly. On the 21st of April I had some visitors from the Malheur Agency.
They were my own people. There were three of them, and they said they had come to see their sister. They had had a hard time to get over the mountains. There was a great deal of snow at one place on the summit.
“You see, dear sister,” they said, “don’t we look like men who have lived a long time without eating?” “Yes,” I said, “you look poorly indeed. You had better come in and have something to eat, so that you can talk better.” The good lady got them something to eat. Bread and meat tasted very good indeed. It put one in mind of old times when meat and bread were plenty. One of the men said,—
“We have come to see if you can help us in some way. We know that you are always ready to help your people. We will tell you so that you can judge for yourself. Our agent, Reinhard, has been very unkind to us since you left us. He has not given us anything to eat; he is not issuing rations to us as our father Parrish used to do, and our poor children are crying to us for food, and we are powerless to help our little ones. Some two months ago the agent bought a good many beef cattle, but the cattle were only three days at the agent’s when they ran away, and cannot be found anywhere in the country. So we are really starving over there, and we don’t know what to do. Nor do we get any clothing, as we used to do long ago. They are shooting our ponies down, too, when they break down the fences. The interpreter and the mail carrier go and get everything they want to eat. But poor we! You know, Sarah, there is nothing to be gathered this time of year, so we are at loss to know what will become of us. Oh, dear sister Sadie, go with us to Camp Harney and see the officers there; see if they can help us in some way, or go to Washington in. our behalf.”
After they had told me their story, I said to them that I was very sorry for them, as I had nothing to do with. Then they asked me what I meant by saying that.
I said, “In the first place I have no money to go to Washington, but I would be most happy to do all I could for you. In the second place, you all know how Agent Reinhard discharged me for reporting him to the officers at Camp Harney. I will do all I can, but that is very little.”
So they went back to the Malheur Agency on the 23d of April, and I staid with Mrs. Courly all along. Then they came back again on the 29th of May, the same men and three others, making six in all. They were very glad to see me, for they said they were afraid I had gone away. They had come back to tell me again about Agent Reinhard’s doings. He had driven them away from the agency; and their people were all down the river, about twenty-five miles away from it.
“They are there trying to catch salmon to live upon, as they had nothing else to eat, and we can catch enough for all that are there. There are with us about fifteen families of Bannocks at the fishery. They came from Fort Hall. It is Bannock Jack’s band. They have brought us very sad news from there. They say that all their ponies have been taken from them, and all their guns too, for something two of their men had done. They got drunk and went and shot two white men. One of the Indians had a sister out digging some roots, and these white men went to the women who were digging, and caught this poor girl, and used her shamefully. The other women ran away and left this girl to the mercy of those white men, and it was on her account that her brother went and shot them. They are the cause of all our trouble, and caused us all to lose our horses and everything we had, and we all left there thinking your good agent was with you yet. We have come to make us a home with you, but we see that your new agent is very bad indeed, for not giving you anything to live on. He knows you have not got anything and can get nothing, unless you steal it somehow.”
This is what the Bannocks told my people, and they brought it to me in St. John Day’s valley, and asked me to go with them. I told them I could not go just then, but I would go about the last of the month.
They said, “We ourselves have lost some of our horses, and we would like to have you write us a letter that we can show to some of the whites who live round here. Maybe they could tell us something about it. But we think the Columbia River Indians have stolen them, or the Umatilla Indians, we don’t know which, for a party of both of them were at the agency.”
Very late in the fall my people came again while I was living with Mrs. Courly, and once more they asked me to talk for them. I then told them I would do what I could. “If it was in my power I would be too happy to do so for you, but I am powerless, being a woman, and yet you come to me for help. You have your interpreter; why does not he talk for you? He is the man for you to go to.” Then they said to me,—
“Sarah, we know that Jarry is in with the agent, and it is no use for us to ask him or the mail-carrier, who have everything they want and enough to eat, and Reinhard does not care whether we get anything or not. So we came to you, for you are the only one that is always ready to talk for us. We know our sister can write on paper to our good father in Washington if she will.”
I told them I would come over as soon as I could get over the mountains with my wagon, as I had a nice little wagon of my own. Then they said good-bye and went away.
On the first of June two gentlemen called on me from Canyon City. They said they had heard down there that I was going over to the agency soon. I told them it was true.
“We heard that you have a team of your own, and we have come to ask you if you would take us over with you, and from there we can go over to Malheur City.”
One of the men said, “I have a daughter, and there will be three of us who would like to go with you if you will take us. We will pay you well. How much will you charge us to go with you?”
I told them I did not know. I could not tell just then. I then asked the gentleman who said he had a daughter to bring her to see me, and I would then tell him. So on the same day, he and his little daughter called on me, and he introduced her as Rosey Morton. She was only twelve years old and very pretty. I then told him I would take them to Malheur City for twenty dollars. He said, “I will give it to you,” and I told them to be ready on the morning of the fourth of June. They came. We started that afternoon and went on to the Summit that night; started early again the next morning and got to the agency about six o’clock in the evening. I took my passengers to the agent’s house and left them there, and went to where the interpreter lived. It was about two miles and a half further. As soon as I got there my cousin, the interpreter, sent for Oytes and Egan, as they were down at the fishery. I heard Jarry say to the men he was sending,
“Tell them that Sarah is here. If they can come tonight, well and good. If not, tell them to be sure to come to-morrow. Tell the Bannocks to come, too.” The interpreter did not tell me many things. He only said, “A great many of the Bannocks are here with us now, and I don’t know what they are going to do here. They will tell you all about themselves.”
It was some time in the night when they came. I heard Jarry, the interpreter, say to Egan,—
“Did you bring any salmon or anything to eat? Sarah went to bed without anything to eat. We have not anything at all down here.”
“We have not caught any salmon for ten days,” Egan said, “and, therefore we had nothing to bring. What does that praying agent mean by not giving us our rations? What does he say about giving rations, anyhow; or, what does he say about giving us some of the wheat which we raised last year?” ”Well, Egan, he did not say anything, when I told him what you and Oytes said about the wheat. I was there yesterday to see if I could buy some flour of him, but he won’t sell me any. He told me to tell you and Oytes that he has written to Washington about the wheat, and just as soon as the order comes he would send to your people.”
“Well, what has Washington to do with the wheat, I’d like to know?”
“Well, Egan, that is what he told me to tell you and Oytes.”
Then I heard Egan say, “Is Sarah asleep? We had better talk to her now for fear Reinhard will find out she is here, and send her away, as he did before.”
So my cousin came and told me that the chiefs Egan and Oytes wanted to have a talk with me. I did not dare to say no, so I got up and went to the council-tent. As I went in, Chief Egan introduced me to the Bannocks. He told them I was their former interpreter at the agency, and that I was their teacher also.
“She has done everything in her power for us,” he said, “and our praying agent discharged her for no other cause than that Oytes and I took her to Camp Harney to report him. Therefore you need not be afraid to talk to her. She is our friend. Tell her all your troubles. I know she will help you.”
Egan stopped talking and then Bannock Jack went on and said,—
“You say our great chieftain’s daughter is good, and you say she can talk on paper, too, and therefore I will ask her if she heard what the papers are saying about our troubles at Fort Hall?”
When this question was put to me I told them I had been living quite a way from Canyon City, and had not seen the papers, and could not tell them anything about it.”
“Well,” said Bannock Jack, “you can talk on paper.”
I said “Yes, I could.” Then he said, “Will you be so kind as to write down all I will tell you?”
Then I sent for some paper and a pencil to write it down as he asked me to. He went on and told me the very same thing that my people had already told me when they came to see me at St. John Day’s Valley, except this: Bannock Jack said the white people had told their chiefs to go and get the two men who had killed the two white men. They said they must get two Indian men within ten days. If they did not they would all suffer for it. When this was told us our chiefs sent our men to find them, and it took some little time to do so, and when they did find them they were bringing them in. One more day would have brought them to Fort Hall. But some of the friends of the two men came and met them, and said that all of their people were in prison, and “oh, everything was taken from them, their guns and their ponies, and they were guarded by a great many soldiers, and it is said they are all going to be killed.”
“And what is the use,” they said, “for us to go with these men? We had better keep away from them.” Well, it was these men’s friends who went on the war-path, and this was the beginning of the Bannock war. Then Bannock Jack asked me if I had it all written down. I said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Will you be so kind as to send it to Washington and ask our Great Father in Washington to help us get back our guns and our ponies. They were not given us by our Good Father in Washington. If they had been we would not say a word. They were bought by our own hard work. We think it very hard for a whole tribe to lose everything and to be all killed beside, and for what they did not give us time to do, and as if we had refused to get the men.”
The second chief, Egan, got up again to talk. He began by saying, “My dear mother,”—for this is the way our people address any one who is their superior. If a woman, it is their mother; if a man, it is their father. So Egan began in this way. When he got up to talk to me, he said,—
“When our good father, Sam Parrish, was here, oh, then we were happy. Our children were not crying for anything to eat, and causing our hearts to ache for them. We all had everything we wanted, we had plenty of clothes, and were all doing well. And you, our dear mother, told us the truth. You told us that Sam was going away, and that there was a Christian agent to be sent here in his place; but you said you knew he would not do for us like our father Parrish. Oh, it was too true! Here we are all starving under this Christian man. He has not made any issues of clothing since he came here. After he discharged you, and you were gone, he called for a council, and all went to hear what he had to say. He told us that if we did not like the way he did, all we had to do was to leave the place, that he did not care, and he also said, “If my interpreter does not do as I want him to, he can go too. The government is not going to fool with you. Now if you want to work, the government will pay you one dollar a day.” I, chief of the Snake River Piutes, stopped the agent by saying, ‘I want to talk a little.’ I commenced by saying, ‘You are a good man. You talk with our Great Father up in the Spirit-land. You look up to the sky, and make us think you are a good Christian, and we want you to tell us the truth, not lies. We know nothing. We don’t read, and therefore we don’t know what to think. You, who are greater than anybody, say that this is government land, not land for us; and you say we must work for government, and government will pay us one dollar a day for our work. Yes, we will work for the government for money, for we love money just as well as you do,—you good Christian men who have come here. We were told by our good agent, Sam Parrish, that this land was ours for all to work upon and make us homes here. He also told us the government had set it apart for us Indians, and government would help us all if we would help ourselves, and that we must always be ready to go to work at whatever work he put us to, and that everything we raised on the place was ours, and the annuities that were sent here were given to us by our good father Parrish. He gave us everything our hearts could wish for. He also told me to tell all my people who had no homes to come here and go to work like white men. The white folk have to work very hard and we must do the same. Our good agent never had any trouble with us, because we would do everything we could to please him, and he did the same by us. He gave us our annuities without saying ‘You must do this or that, or you leave here.’ No: he treated us as if were his children, and we returned his kindness by doing everything he set us to do. He was with us two years, and we were all happy. He did not shoot our ponies because the ponies broke the fences, but he would say, ‘Your horses have broken into your grain, look out for them’; and then we would run and get them out and mend the fences. He did not do like you, good Christian man, by saying, ‘Here, my men, go and shoot those Indians’ horses! They are in our grain.’ Our father Parrish told us all to be good and never take any stray horses that came on our agency; nor did he want us to go and get stray horses. Have you done so? No: you and your men have done everything that is bad. You have taken up every horse that came along here, and you have them in your stable, and you are working them. And another thing, your men are doing what Parrish told us not to do, that is gambling. You and your men have brought a book amongst us that has big chiefs’ pictures and their wives’ pictures on the papers, and another picture which you call Jack, and another something like it.
“And with these your men come to our camps, and gamble with your interpreter and your mail-carrier, every time you pay them off. This is what your blacksmith Johnson is doing; and your school-teacher, Frank Johnson, instead of teaching my people’s children, does more gambling than teaching. What you pay to your interpreter and mail-carrier, the two Johnsons win back again with the book that you brought here. So we are at a loss to know which of you are right: whether Sam Parrish told us lies or you, or our chieftain’s daughter, Sarah Winnemucca, about the land being ours; and you who talk with our Great Father in the Spirit-land three times a day, have come here and told us the land is not ours.’ This is what I said to the agent after you left us, and now you have come and found me almost starved.
“Now one and all of you, my men, give our mother what little money you have. Let her go and talk for us. Let her go right on to Washington, and have a talk with our Great Father in Washington.”
Then they all asked me if I would go if they would give me the money to go with. I told them I would only be too happy to do all I could in their behalf, if they wanted me to. So they went to work and got together and every one gave what they could, and all Egan got for me was twenty-nine dollars and twenty-five cents. This was got for me by Egan, the chief of the Snake River Piutes. This was indeed very little to start with. But as I had promised, I thought I would go to Elko, Nevada, with my horses and wagon and sell them there, and go to Washington and see what I could do for them. So our council ended on the 7th of June, 1878. And Mr. Morton asked me again if I would take him and his little daughter to Silver City, Idaho. I told him yes, if he would pay fifty dollars for the three of them, and pay one half of it down, which he did. So we started on the morning of the 8th of June. We journeyed on for three days, and heard nothing about an Indian war. But we saw houses standing all along the road without anybody living in them; and we talked about it, and did not know what it meant. On the twelfth we met a man on the summit, just before getting to a place called Fort Lyon, who told us there was the greatest Indian war that ever was known. He said the Bannock Indians were just killing everything that came in their way, and he told us to hurry on to a place called Stone House. That was the first I heard that the Bannocks were on the war-path. So we hurried on to the place. We got to the stage-road, and as we were going up the road we met three men coming down. They told us that the stage-driver had been killed. There had been no stage running for three days. He said there had been fighting going on at South Mountains, and a great many were killed, and some Piute Indians were killed too. I said,—
“Are they on the war-path, too?”
They said, “No, they were with white men who went out to fight the Bannocks, and the Bannocks had whipped them. Everybody is at the storehouse with their families.” He told the not to go any farther than there, for they would surely kill us if they came across us.
“They want nothing better than to kill Chief Winnemucca’s daughter.”
So these men went on down the road and we went on as fast as we could, and drove up to the storehouse just at eleven o’clock. They ran out to my wagon. They all had their guns and one of the men asked me who I was and where I was going. I said I was Sarah Winnemucca, and I was going to Elko, Nevada. As I told him who I was he held out his hand and said,—
“I am Captain Hill, and I want you to stop here, for you are in great danger; just drive in there.” I did so. I told Mr. Morton to take care of the team, and I took the little girl and went into the house. Then Captain Hill took me into the parlor and asked me if I knew anything about the outbreak of the Bannocks. I told him I did not know anything about it till yesterday, when a man met me at the Summit, beyond Camp Lyon, who told me. He then asked me if I knew Captain Bernard. I told him I did. “He will be here to-night,” he said, “or to-morrow sure, with his command.” He asked me who the man was who was with me. I told him I did not know much about him, but he and his little daughter were going to Silver City. All this time I little thought of the talk that was going on about me, until about twenty scouts arrived and with them a Piute Indian. Then the captain of the scouts came to me and asked me to talk English with him, not Indian. So I asked him who he was. He said, “Me name Piute Joe.”
“What is the matter?” said I.
“Me no see,” he said, “where you all going—me hope no sauce—” I said, “Captain, what is the use of my talking to you? If you are afraid of me there is a white woman who can talk my language well, You can call her and she can tell you if I say anything wrong.”
The captain said, “Where is she?”
“There she is.”
So the lady’s husband brought her forward. Then he said,
“The Bannocks are all out fighting. They are killing everything and everybody, Indians and whites, and I and two more of my people went with these men out to South Mountain to fight them, and we came on to Buffalo Horn’s camp and had a fight with them, and the scouts ran away and left him to the mercy of Bannocks. I saw that I could not get away when they were all mustered on me, so I jumped off my horse and placed my horse between me and them, and laid my gun over the saddle, and fired at Buffalo Horn as he came galloping up, ahead of his men. He fell from his horse, so his men turned and fled when they saw their chief fall to the ground, and I jumped on my horse again and came to Silver City as fast as I could. I tell you, my dear sister, my captain was surprised when he saw me coming, for he had left me to be killed by the Bannocks. The two other Indians were wounded, and I am wounded also.”
Just then Captain Bernard came along on his way down to Sheep Ranch, with his one company. All the soldiers looked at me as if I was some fearful beast, when Captain Bernard came to talk to me after he had seen the two captains. Captain Bernard said to me,—
“Sarah, these citizens say that you have a good deal of ammunition in your wagon.”
Oh, can any one imagine my feelings when he said this to me? My heart almost bounded into my mouth, I said,
“Captain, they must know or they would not say so. Go and see for yourself, captain, and if you find anything in my wagon besides a knife and fork and a pair of scissors I will give you my head for your football. How can I be taking guns and ammunition to my people when I am going right away from them?”
I told Captain Bernard everything,—why I was there, and that I had started to go to Washington for my people, as they wanted me to do.
I once more said to him, “Go to my wagon and see.” “No, Sarah, I believe what you tell me is true.” Then I told him what Piute Joe had told me about his killing Buffalo Horn out at South Mountain.
“Now, captain, you do me a great favor by believing me. If I can be of any use to the army, I am at your service, and I will go with it till the war is over.”
He said, “Well, Sarah, I will telegraph to Gen. O. O. Howard. He is at Fort Boise, and I will see what he says about it. Do you know the country pretty well?”
I told him I did.
“Well, Sarah, I will send for you from the Sheep Ranch. You will come if I send, will you?”
I said, “I will come if the citizens don’t kill me.”
“Yes, Sarah, I would like to have you go as my guard, for I can get no Indian to go with me for love or money.”
“Yes, captain, I will go and do all I can for the government, if Gen. Howard wants me.”
Then Captain Bernard said good-bye and went away with his company. I staid at the place all night, and the citizens were mad because the captain did not search my wagon for the ammunition, and they put a guard on my wagon that night. I cried and told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves. So passed the night quietly. I got up in the morning, had my breakfast, and looked after my horses. I went to the captain and said, “Please come to my wagon with all of your men and women. I want to show you all how much ammunition I have in it.”
Captain Hill asked me to forgive him for saying such a thing about me to the army officer. “I know your father is a friend to the whites. If I can do anything for you I will be most happy to do it. If you want to go to the command I will give you a horse any minute you want to go.”
Just then there came four Indians and one white man. I ran to meet them. I knew them all. I asked where they came from. They said,—
“We were sent by the commanding officer from Carnp McDermitt with a dispatch to the chief of the soldiers.”
“Which way did you come?”
“We came by Camp Three Forks of Owyhee River.” They had to come that way because there was no travelling on the stage road since the driver was killed. The telegraph wire was cut, so there was no communication between Sheep Ranch and Camp McDermitt.
I then said to the. captain, “I want to go with these men to the command.”
“Yes, Sarah, I can let you have a horse and a saddle, too.”
Then I told my people I would go with them. Then George, one of the men, said,
“Oh, Sarah, I am so glad you are going with us, for we are all afraid that the white people will kill us if we go alone, for just about here we met some men, and they would have killed us anyhow, only this white man saved us.”
I ran to my wagon to get ready. I told Morton and his little girl that I was to leave them, and the little girl began to cry. Her father talked to me and said,
“Sarah, don’t leave Rosey, for she has come to love you.” I told him I had to work for my people.
“Now, Sarah, as I have never talked to you before, will you be my wife? We will go to Silver City and get married right away.”
I said to him, “You honor me too much by offering marriage to me, Mr. Morton. I thank you very much for your kind offer, but I cannot marry a man that I don’t love. You and your daughter can go down to-morrow; I shall be at the Sheep Ranch, and there I will wait for you.”
My horse was ready and I bade him good-by. This was on the 12th of June, 1878.
We rode full gallop most of the time. We had thirty miles to go to the command. Just as we got in sight of the camp at Sheep Ranch, we saw a man coming. He did not see us until he got pretty close to us. When he saw us, he stopped and looked at us. We were riding along slowly, and the white man that was with us was ahead of us so that he could see there was a white man with us, but he turned round and ran as fast as he could, and the white man who was with us called to him just as loud as he could. He ran on and turned to shoot. Our white man took off his hat to show him we were not his enemies, but he got worse, and then I said, “Let us run after him, for he knows we are not Bannocks, for Bannock women don’t ride side-ways nor do they wear riding-dresses.” So we put after him just as hard as we could, the white man and I riding side by side, halloing to him just as an Indian would do when he is after his enemy. I tell you we very soon made him stop his foolishness. When Captain Bernard saw me coming with four Indians, he and other officers came to meet me. His first question was, “What is the matter with the Indians?” Without saying a word, I gave him the letter they had given me from Camp McDermitt, which explained all without my saying a word. Bernard told the men to take the Indians to their camp and give them something to eat, as it was eight o’clock, and he took me to his own tent. I was treated with most high respect by the captain and his officers. After supper he took me up to the hotel and I staid there all night. The captain wanted me to help him get the Indians to go with a dispatch to Camp Harney, or to the Malheur Agency, and find out the whereabouts of the hostile Bannocks. He said if they would go they would be well paid. I told them, word for word, what Captain Bernard had told me to say to them. Then they said,—
“Sarah, we will do anything we can for the officers and you; we will go with dispatches anywhere but to the hostile Bannocks; we cannot go to them, for, Sarah, you don’t know what a danger that is. Sarah, your brother Natchez was killed, or is dead, for the same morning on which we were to start, three white men said so. Natchez and they made their escape from the hostile Bannocks and the Bannocks pursued them, and Natchez’ horse gave out. And all your folks were crying the day we left Camp McDermitt. Dear sister, it is not safe to go to them. Of course we know only what the white men told us. Oh, we do hope it is not so. If Natchez is killed by the Bannocks, oh, it will be too bad indeed.”
Oh, when they told me this sad news about my dear brother, my heart was dead within me. A thousand thoughts passed through my mind. I said to myself, “If my brother was killed by the Bannocks and we do go and be killed by them too!” Then I told Captain Bernard the Indian men would not go for love or money. I told the captain I would go, if I had to go alone, and he would give me a good horse. He said,—
“Sarah, you cannot go, can you?”
“Yes, I will go if there is a horse to carry me.”
“Sarah, if you are in earnest, I will send a telegram to General Howard and see what he says about it.”
On the morning of June 13th I got up very early and went down to the camp and had my breakfast, and then I called the Indians, and asked George to accompany me to Malheur Agency or to the whereabouts of the hostile Bannocks.
“Are you playing with me, Sarah, or do you think I would let you go alone? No, no, I will go with you,— John and I will go.”
“Well, we will go as soon as the telegram comes from General Howard. George, we will go, no matter what comes of it. There is nothing that will stop me.”
Just as I got these words out of my mouth, Captain Bernard called me, and I went to him.
The saddest day hath gleams of light,
The darkest wave hath bright foam ‘neath it,
And twinkle; o’er the cloudiest night
Some solitary star to cheer it.
“Now, Sarah,” he said, “if you will go to your father, tell him and his people that they shall be taken care of and be fed. Get all the well-disposed of your people to come near the troops, where they can be safe. Now, Sarah, if you can succeed, your reward shall be five hundred dollars. Don’t forget to tell them that all who behave well shall be properly fed.”
I said to the captain, “I came through the Malheur Agency on the 6th of the month and there is nothing for them to eat there.”
He said, “Tell them all to come to the troops.”
Then I asked him to write me a letter to take with me in case that my horses should give out and I should come to a ranch where I could get some horses. He wrote,
“To all good citizens in the country:—Sarah Winnemucca, with two of her people, goes with a dispatch to her father. If her horses should give out, help her all you can and oblige
With this letter I started down the crossing of Owyhee River, about fifteen miles from the Sheep Ranch, at about a quarter of a mile from the place where the stage-driver was killed, and when we got there the citizen-scouts were all asleep. If we had been hostile Bannocks we could have killed every one of them. Some of these scouts were getting from fifteen to twenty-five dollars a day, and this is the way the citizen-scouts earned their money during an Indian war. They go off a little way from the troops and lie down and come back and report that there are Indians within half a mile from the troops. We went into the house and waked them up. I said to them, “Is this the way you all find the hostiles? We could have killed every one of you if we had been they. I want a fresh horse if you have one, as I don’t think one of our horses will stand the trip, as we are going to the Malheur Agency or to the hostile Bannocks wherever they are. We are sent by General O. O. Howard, and here is a letter which Captain Bernard gave me.”
One of them read it and said, “All right, Sarah, we will give you the best horse we have here.” Then they gave us our dinner and we started on our work. We had not gone but about a mile beyond the crossing at Owyhee River when we struck the hostiles’ trail. We followed it down the river as much as fifteen miles, and then we calve to where they had camped, and where they had been weeping, and where they had cut their hair. So we knew that it was hereabout that Buffalo Horn had been killed, for they had been tearing up clothes, cutting off hair and breaking up beads there. Here they left the river and struck off toward Barren Valley. They had to go up a hill and here I found the poor stage-driver’s whip, which I took with me. We rode very hard all day long—did not stop to rest all that day. The country was very rocky and no water. We had travelled about fifty miles that day. Now it was getting dark, but we rode on. It was very difficult for us to travel fast, for our horses almost fell over sometimes. I said,—
“Boys, let us stop for the night, for our horses will surely fall over us and kill us, and then the hostile Bannocks will not have the pleasure of killing us.” Here my men laughed at me, so we stopped for the night and ate our hard bread without any water. Then I gave my orders by saying,—
“John, you stand guard, George and I will sleep a little, and then wake him and let him stand guard the rest of the night, and we must start just as soon as we can see to travel.” So I lay down to have a little sleep, using my saddle for a pillow. I did not sleep, as my horse kept pulling me as I had tied him to my arm. I heard John come and say to George, “It is daylight.” I jumped up and said, “We will go; I am almost dead for water.” We started on the full jump across Barren Valley, toward Mr. G. B. Crawley’s ranch. As we came nearer and nearer, I said, “I can’t see the house.” So we rode on until I saw it was burnt down, and the men said, “Yes, and we see the smoke yet.” Yes, it was still burning. We saw a fresh track here and there. I saw by the look of everything that it was set on fire the morning of the thirteenth of June. George said to me, “Sarah, let us not stop here, for they must be close by.”
I saw that they were afraid. I said to them, “It is of no use to be afraid; we have come to see them and see them we must, and if they kill us we have to die and that is all about it, and now we must have something to eat. George, you go and look out while John and I make some coffee, and when it is ready we will call you.” John said, “Sarah, let us kill some of the chickens.” I said, “No, John, we will not, for they do not belong to us.”
So we made our coffee as quickly as we could. We made it in one of the tin cans that had been burnt, and called George, who came down, and we all ate our breakfast as fast as we could, and I said to my boys, “What do you two think?, Had we better go to the Malheur agency, or follow up the trail, which looks as if all the Indians were going towards Stein’s mountains. You are men, you can decide better than I can.”
“Now, Sarah, you know this country better than we do, and you know what to do, and if we say go this way or that way you would blame us if anything should happen, and another thing we have come with you and are at your command. Whatever you say we will follow you.”
“Well, since you have left it all to me, we will follow up the fresh trail that goes towards Stein’s mountains. I think it is our people going to Camp McDermitt.” It was now about six o’clock in the morning of the fourteenth of June. So we started again and rode as fast as our horses could travel. We had about sixty miles to go to find some white people. We travelled on and found a clock on their trail at a place called Juniper Lake, and we all knew it was the hostile Bannocks we were following. The next thing we found was a fiddle and I took it along with me. About noon I saw something coming down the mountain. “Oh,” said I, “oh, look there! What is it?” ”Oh, it is mountain sheep.” We galloped up towards them. They came close to us and John shot and killed one. We took some of the meat and there I lost my fiddle, and it is there to this day, as I never went back to find it.
As we rode on about five miles from Juniper Lake, we saw some one upon the mountains, as if they were running, so we waved our handkerchiefs at them. There were two of them. As we came nearer to them I said to George, “Call to them.” He did so. I saw them rise to their feet. I waved my handkerchief at them again and one of them called out, “Who are you?” I said, “Your sister, Sarah.” It was Lee Winnemucca, my brother, who had called out. So they jumped on their horses, and came to us, and the minute he rode up he jumped from his horse and took me in his arms and said, “Oh, dear sister, you have come to save us, for we are all prisoners of the Bannocks. They have treated our father most shamefully. They have taken from us what few guns we had, and our blankets, and our horses. They have done this because they outnumber us, and we are all up in the mountains with them Oh, sister, have you brought us some good news? Have you come for us? Oh, dear sister, here I am standing and talking to you, knowing the great danger you are in by coming here, and these men, too. The Bannocks are out in the mountains, looking out. Take off your hat and your dress and upbraid your hair, and put this blanket round you, so if they should come down they would not know who it is. Here is some paint. Paint your face quick. Here, men, hide your guns and take off your clothes and make yourselves look as well as you can.”
All this was done as quickly as possible, and we were all dressed like the hostile Bannocks. I asked,—
“Where is our father?”
“We are all up over that mountain. We are but six miles from here.”
“I must go to him. I have a message for him and for all our people, too.”
“Oh, no, dear sister, you will be killed if you go there, for our brother Natchez has made his escape three days ago. They were going to kill him because he had saved the lives of three white men. Oh, dear sister, let me pray you not to go, for they will surely kill you, for they have said they will kill every one that comes with messages from the white people, for Indians who come with messages are no friends of ours, they say every night.”
“But, dear brother, they will not know me.”
“Yes, Oytes will know you, for he is their chief now, since Buffalo Horn is killed.”
“Dear brother, I am sorry to tell you that I must go to my father, for I have come with a message from General O. O. Howard, I must save my father and his people if I lose my life in trying to do it, and my father’s too. That is all right. I have come for you all. Now let us go.”
The mountain we had to go over was very rocky and steep, almost perpendicular. Sometimes it was very hard for us to climb up on our hands and knees. But we got up at last, and looked down into the hostile encampment. Oh, such a sight my eyes met! It was a beautiful sight. About three hundred and twenty-seven lodges, and about four hundred and fifty warriors were down Little Valley catching horses, and some more were killing beef. The place looked as if it was all alive with hostile Bannocks. I began to feel a little afraid. I looked down upon them, and I said,—
“Brother, is our father’s lodge inside the line? We must leave our horses here and go on foot. I can run down the mountain very fast.”
Brother said, “If you are discovered, how will you get out?”
“Oh, well, our horses are almost given out anyway; so, dear brother, we must trust to good luck, and it is not so very far. Let us go quick and be back, for I have no time to lose.”
So we ran all the way down the mountain. Before I went into my father’s lodge, I sent brother in to tell him I was coming. He did so, and I heard him whistle, and I then said to the men, “We will go in.” Oh, how glad my father was to see me! He took me in his arms and said,—
“Oh, my dear little girl, and what is it? Have you come to save me yet? My little child is in great danger. Oh, our Great Father in the Spirit-land, look down on us and save us!” This was repeated by every one in the tent.
Every one in the lodge whispered, “Oh, Sadie, you have come to save us!”
I said, “Yes, I have come to save you all if you will do as I wish you to and be quiet about it. Whisper it among yourselves. Get ready to-night, for there is no time to lose, for the soldiers are close by. I have come from them with this word: ‘Leave the hostile Bannocks and come to the troops. You shall be properly fed by the troops.’ Are you all here? I mean all the Malheur Reservation Indians.”
“Yes, all are here, and Oytes is the chief of them.”
“Father, you tell the women to make believe they are gathering wood for the night, and while they are doing that they can get away.” And while I was yet talking, I saw the women go out, one by one, with ropes in their hands, until we were left alone,—that is, I was left alone with eight men: my father, and my brother Lee, and my cousins, George Winnemucca, Joe Winnemucca, and James Winnemucca, and the two men that were with me.
“Now, father, let us go, as it is getting dark.”
Then father said, “Now, dear son, go and get as many horses as you can get, and drive them down as fast as you can. We shall wait for you at Juniper Lake.”
My brother Lee jumped up, rope in hand, and went out of the tent, and then my father gave orders to his nephews, and we four started out, leaving father’s lodge all lonely. It was like a dream. I could not get along at all. I almost fell down at every step, my father dragging me along. Oh, how my heart jumped when I heard a noise close by. It was a horse running towards us. We had to lie down close to the ground. It came close to us and stopped. Oh, how my heart beat! I thought whoever it was would hear my heart beat. It stood a little while and some one whistled.
“Yes,” the whistle said, “where is father?”
It was dear little Mattie, my sister-in-law. She had waited for her husband in the woods, and he came out. She went with him and he sent her to me with a horse. Oh, how thankful I was to Mattie for the horse! So my father helped me on to the horse. We went on faster and got to where we had left our horses, and found them all right.
“George,” I said, “take off my saddle and put it on this horse, the horse my brother has sent me, and you take my horse. It is better than ours.”
The men led the horses down the mountain, while Mattie and I ran down hand-in-hand. We could run down the mountain faster than horses could. When we got down to the Juniper Lake, Lee was there all ready waiting for us, also the women. Lee also had had the women cook the mountain-sheep meat we had left there for me, for I assure my readers that I did not know what hunger was all that time,—I had forgotten all about eating. I said,—
“Come, women, take some in your hands and get on your horses, and eat while you are travelling, for we have many miles before us to-night. Tie your children to your backs. If they should sleep so, they will not fall off, for we must travel all night.”
Lee came up to me and said, “Sarah, I am going back to get Jarry Lang,”—that was our cousin, agent Reinhard’s interpreter. “He is a close prisoner. I will go and see if I can get him.”
I said, “Lee, if you go, try and get all you can.” I turned round and said “Are you all ready?”
“Yes.” My father gave the order by saying, “Ride two by two, keep close together. Men, march your children and your wives. Six men keep back, for fear we will be followed.”
So father and Mattie and my two men and myself led at the head of my people. We marched for some six hours. Mattie and I saw a track, and father called out “Halt!” And the men came forward and lighted a light. It had been a herd of cattle. We marched all night long. Just at daybreak, we got to a place called Summit Springs.
I said, “Father, we will stop here and wait for Lee, as we promised we would.” So we unsaddled our horses, and I lay down to have a little sleep, having had no sleep for two nights. No sooner did I lie down and fall asleep, than my father called me and said,—
“Eat something.” (They had cooked some of the sheep meat.) “You cannot sleep until your brother comes.”
I tell you I did eat, for indeed I was really starved. When I got through, I asked if the men were out watching. Just as father said “Yes,” came a warning alarm. Everybody jumped for their horses. Mattie and I ran and got our horses, jumped on their bare backs, and went to meet the man who brought the warning. I said, “What is the matter?”
“We are followed by the Bannocks.” His horse was almost falling from under him.
I said, “Jump on behind me.” He did so. We galloped up to the camp. “Oh, father, we are followed.”
“Yes,” said the man behind me, “we are followed. Egan and his whole band is overtaken and are taken back.
“I looked back and saw Lee running, and they firing at him. I think he is killed. Oytes is at the head of this. I heard him say to the Bannocks, ‘Go quickly, bring Sarah’s head and her father’s too. I will show Sarah who I am. Away with you, men, and overtake them.’” This is the news that came to us the morning of the 15th of June.
My father said, “If my son is killed, I will go back to them and be killed too. If we are to be killed off for what the white people have done to them, of course we cannot help ourselves.”
I said, “Father, it is no time to talk nonsense now. Be quick, let us go; for my part, my life is very dear to me, though I would lose it in trying to save yours, dear father.”
My stepmother was crying, so was poor little Mattie, Lee’s wife.
“Come, father, give me your orders, as I am going back to the troops. What shall I tell General Howard, as I am going to where he is this very day, if the horse can carry me?”
“Tell him to send his soldiers to protect me and my people.”
With this message I left my father on the morning of the 15th of June. Poor little Mattie cried out to me, “Oh, dear sister, let me go with you. If my poor husband is killed, why need I stay?” I said, “Come on!” Away we started over the hills and valleys. We had to go about seventy-five miles through the country. No water. We sang and prayed to our Great Father in the Spirit-land, as my people call God. About one o’clock we got to the crossing of a creek called Muddy Creek. We got off our horses and had a drink of water, and tied our horses till they got cooled off while we gathered some white currants to eat, for that is all we found. Now we watered our horses and found a narrow place to jump them across, and off again towards our soldiers as fast as our horses could carry us. We got to the crossing of Owyhee River at three o’clock; stopped twenty minutes to eat some hard bread and coffee while they saddled fresh horses for us. We jumped on our horses again, and I tell you we made our time count going fifteen miles to the Sheep Ranch. We whipped our horses every step of the way till we were met by the officers. Captain Bernard helped us off. I saw one of the officers look at his watch; it was just 5.30 p.m. I told the General everything,—how I got my people away, how we were discovered and followed by the Bannocks. Oytes, one of the Snake River Piutes, a leading chief, had overtaken Egan, a sub-chief, and his band, and driven them back. “Maybe my brother Lee was killed. My father is on his way here, and wants you to send him some soldiers for protection.” When I said this, the officers looked at each other, and so did the soldiers and also the volunteer scouts, just as much as to say,—“You are lying to us.”
I saw Lieut. Pitcher wink at Lieut. Wood. The General asked me how many Indians I thought there were in all. I told him that my brother Lee thought there were about seven hundred in all,—men, women, and children. Then the General called the Captain of Volunteers, Mr. Robbins, and ordered him to take all his men and go and bring Chief Winnemucca to the troops. I called Piute Joe, who had killed Buffalo Horn, and told him in a few words which way to go to meet my father.
This was the hardest work I ever did for the government in all my life,—the whole round trip, from 10 o’clock June 13 up to June 15, arriving back at 5.30 p.m., having been in the saddle night and day; distance, about two hundred and twenty-three miles. Yes, I went for the government when the officers could not get an Indian man or a white man to go for love or money. I, only an Indian woman, went and saved my father and his people.
“Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.”
The next morning was Sunday. The General called me, and said, “I want you to go with me as my interpreter and guide.”
I said, “Can I go with Captain Bernard’s company?” He said, “Do so. I want you and Mattie with the headquarters.” I said, “Which is the headquarters?” He said, “We will go to Camp Lyon. The headquarters will be habitually with the right column.” The General’s staff in the field consisted of Major Edwin C. Mason, 21st Infantry, Acting Assistant Inspector General; Captain Lawrence S. Babbitt, Ordnance Department Engineer and Ordnance Officer; Assistant Surgeon General, Perkins A. Fitzgerald, U. S. A., Chief Medical Officer in the field; First Lieut. Ebenezer W. Stone, 21st Infantry, Chief Commissary of Subsistence in the field; First Lieut. Fred. H. G. Ecstein, 21st Infantry, R. I. M., Chief Quartermaster in the field; First Lieut. Melville C. Wilkinson, 3d Infantry, Aide-de-Camp; Second Lieut. Charles E. S. Wood, 21st Infantry, Aide-de-Camp, Assistant Adjutant General in the field. With these officers, Mattie and I started for Camp Lyon, and I was as mad as could be because I wanted to go right after the hostile Bannocks. Mattie and I had to ride in a wagon going to Camp Lyon. We met three or four companies of cavalry half way. Some of the soldiers cried out, “Oh, I see they have Sarah Winnemucca a prisoner.” Mattie and I laughed at this. We got to Camp Lyon about three o’clock. It was Sunday. Captain Lawrence S. Babbitt and Lieut. C. Wilkinson came down from Silver City, Idaho. Later, we had prayers and singing in the evening, as they were all Christians but Captain S. Babbitt and the soldiers by the name of Moffatt and Musenheimer and Goodwin, and Mattie,— four. White men, educated, not Christians; men that are almost born with the Bible in hand. What! not Christians? Yes, that is just what I mean. Poor General! he had some hard words with a citizen who owned a stage, because he wanted thirty-five dollars a day to take us to Reinhard’s crossing of Malheur River. I stood by them when they were talking, and I could hold in no longer.
“That is the way with you citizens. You call on the soldiers for protection and you all want to make thousands of dollars out of it. I know if my people had a herd of a thousand horses they would let you have them all for nothing.” The General looked at me so funny, and said, “Yes, Sarah, your people have good hearts, better ones than these white dogs have.” The man would not give in, so they had to give him thirty-five dollars and pay all expenses besides.
So we left Camp Lyon. The second night we slept at Henderson’s Ranch, near Keeney’s ferry, where Lieutenant Ecstein, field quartermaster, joined us, and we went the next clay to Reinhard’s Crossing, just in time to meet Stuart’s column which had already reached that point a few hours before us, and had been kept under arms ready to move. The weather for the poor soldiers and for us had been hot and dry, and the roads very dusty. The country of our route was characterized by the usual alkali and sage brush, much of it bare and mountainous. At the stone house at Reinhard’s Crossing were gathered a number of families from the country around. Here I met an enemy, whom I had met about eleven days before, to whom I had given something to eat when he was almost starved. Then he paid it back to me by telling General Howard that he saw me at the Malheur Agency, and that I was the one that started my people on the war-path. General I loward brought him to me and told me what he had said about me. I told the General where I had met him. It was about forty miles this side of Malheur Agency. He and another man came to my camp almost starved, and I gave them their supper and breakfast. “I know the other man will not say that of me,” I said. I was crying when he was talking. Then he came forward and said, “Oh, Sarah, I did not mean it, forgive me, Sarah.” I said right out, “You brute.” He turned out afterwards to be the best friend I had. We staid there all night, the 18th of dune. A citizen came in and reported Indians close by. The General asked me what I thought about it. I told him I did not think there were any Indians within ten hundred miles of us. On the morning of the 19th we marched up toward Malheur City about twenty-five miles and camped. General Howard asked me if I would be afraid to go with a dispatch to Camp Harney. Camp Harney had not been heard from for some time. A story having the appearance of truth was brought to us that Captain M’Gregor’s company had had a disastrous engagement, and had lost the most of their horses. The news also reached us that the hostiles had abandoned the Stein mountains and gone to Harney Valley, and it was probable that the left column of Captain Bernard’s company had pushed after them.
Gen. O. O. Howard
(not in original book)
“Do you think you would want an escort?”
I said, “No, Mattie and I will go alone, for no white man can keep up with us. We can go alone quicker than with soldiers.”
But Lieutenant Wilkinson said he would go with us, for they could not let us go alone, as there were bad white men who might harm us, and he would take two soldiers besides.
“Supposing we were to meet the hostiles, and they were to kill me, what would you do?”
Poor Mattie was the first to speak. “Sister and I will throw ourselves on you and they should kill us first, then you.”
This made the officers laugh.
So on the 20th, Sister and I started for Camp Harney with Lieutenant Wilkinson, Aide-de-Camp, Corporal Moffatt and Private Musenheimer. After we had travelled about twenty miles, Sister Mattie’s horse gave out, and Lieutenant Wilkinson took a stage-horse for her. At twelve o’clock we stopped for something to eat, for it was the last place we should see or where we should find anything until we got to Camp Harney, a hundred miles farther. Here I met another enemy of mine who was unlooked for. We three went in when dinner was ready, and the two soldiers had their lunch outside. We sat down, and the woman came in with coffee. She looked at me, and then said,—
“Well, I never thought I should feed you again. I hope they will not let you off this time.”
She then turned to Lieutenant Wilkinson, and said, “Why do you take so much trouble in taking her to Camp Harney? Why don’t you take her and tie one part of her to a horse, and the other part of her to another horse, and let them go? I would see the horses pull her to pieces with good grace.”
All this time Lieutenant Wilkinson tried to stop her. saying, “You don’t know what you are talking about. This is Sarah Winnemucca.”
She replied. “I don’t care. Rope is too good to hang her with.”
Lieutenant Wilkinson said to me, “Never mind her. She is crazy.” But I could not eat anything.
Dear reader, this is the kind of white women that are in the West. They are always ready to condemn me.
After dinner, Lieutenant Wilkinson brought me another horse.
“Now,” I said, “it is about sixty miles to the Agency.” We went past there just a little after dark for fear some of the Bannocks were hiding there somewhere. We rode on as fast as we could, took a great many short cuts which helped us along greatly, and stopped to rest for half an hour. We stood guard while Lieutenant Wilkinson slept a little while, called him up at the appointed time, and went on without stopping again. As we passed the Agency, everything was dark and still, as if every living thing was dead, and there was no living thing left. This is the way it felt as we passed. We travelled on until our Lieutenant gave out. He would get off his horse and walk awhile. We travelled all night long, got to Camp Harney at ten o’clock on the following day. Oh, how tired I was! Mattie and I went to bed without anything to eat. In the evening Major Downey’s wife called on me to see if I wanted anything. She found me very poorly off for dress, and went and got one of her own dresses, for which I was very thankful. The next day was Sunday. Lieutenant Wilkinson was a minister. He was going to preach to the soldiers at ten o’clock, but a courier came riding very fast, and reported Bernard’s engagement. Bernard had attacked the hostiles the morning before, Sunday at nine o’clock a.m., surprised and charged their camp, formed and recharged. The enemy rallied. Bernard asked for reinforcements, pressed every man with the utmost speed to his and the enemy’s position on Silvery Creek, near Camp Curry, forty-five miles from Harney. Bernard reported only one soldier killed at the time the messenger left him. He had four companies of cavalry, his own, Whipple’s, McGregor’s, and Perry’s under Bomus.
This is the report we brought to General O. O. Howard at eleven o’clock on Sunday night, distance about forty-five miles back on the way we had come Saturday night. I was asked to go back that same night, but I was so tired I could not. So Lieutenant Wilkinson was ordered back. Very early the next morning, Lieutenant Wilkinson and Lieutenant Wood, his Aide-de-Camp, left us with Major Mason and Major Babbitt to stop with the troops. We travelled all day without stopping, got to where sister and I had hidden our rations when on our way to meet the troops. They were hard bread and canned baked beans. On the outside it said, “Boston baked beans.” It was about three o’clock in the afternoon and all the officers were very hungry.
We dined as well as we could. Each man gave one dollar. Just think of it. It only cost one dollar a plate for beans baked in Boston. We got into Camp Harney very late that night. It took us three clays to overtake the troops. The same night we got there an Indian woman was taken prisoner. They brought her to our tent. I asked her about everything. She did not want to tell me at first. Sister Mattie said, “If you do not tell us we will see why—you had better tell us.” She was a Bannock woman. Then she was afraid and told us everything. She said her people were going right to Umatilla Reservation, and as the Umatilla Indians had told Oytes they would help them to fight the white people, this was why they were going there. She said Oytes had taken her nephew’s place as chief over the Bannocks. She cried, and said her nephew Buffalo Horn was killed at South Mountain. I told General Howard what she said. The next morning she was taken to Camp Harney, as she was blind, and the troops were ordered to go and have a fight with Bannocks about fifteen miles above us. The volunteer scouts kept coming to report. They said the Bannocks were waiting to fight there. General Howard asked me what I thought about it. All I said was, “General, if you find any Indians within two hundred miles of here you may say Sarah is telling lies.” “Then you think these scouts are not telling the truth, do you?”
“That is what I mean.”
So we pushed on ahead of the troops for a while, and sister and I saw something on a high hill above us and ahead of us. It looked as if there were a great many there. We knew what it was but we did not say anything for we wanted to see what they would do. At last the bugle sounded “Halt!” Sister said, “Now we will have some fun.” We just laughed, for we knew what was coming. The captain of the volunteer scouts rode up to General Howard and said,—
“General, don’t you see them on that hill, yonder?” The General said, “I see something, but I don’t see them moving.”
“I do—they are there to fight us. They have a good place up there.”
Then General Howard called me and I went up to him. All the officers were there together. He said, “Sarah, what have you got to say now? The Indians seem to be there.”
“I have the same thing to say as before. I see nothing but rocks put there to deceive you.”
The officers took out their field-glasses and looked up and said, “Sarah, it surely looks like people there.”
I said, “Well, I can’t say any more. Do as you think best.”
One of them gave me a field-glass and told me to look. I said, “I will show you that there are no Indians there. I will go up there.”
So I started to go, when General Howard called me back and said, “I don’t want you to get killed. I will send the troops up.”
They found everything just as I had told them.
How they did laugh that evening when we camped for the night. It is a way by which we Indians do deceive the white people by piling rocks on each other and putting round ones on the top to make them look like men. In this way we get time to get away from our enemy.
In the morning we took up the trail in good earnest. At the dawn of the 28th we were at the end of the wagon-road in the direction where the Bannocks were moving. Yet rough and impassable as the way appears it was necessary, with the means of transportation then existing, to move the wagons across this mountain region. Just think—we were going to overtake them with wagons and well-mounted on fresh horses every day, and we with our wagons only. We might as well say an Indian will overtake white men in building railroads.
On the morning of the 28th of June we were riding on. At six a. m. a rough wagon trail was all the road. We arrived in camp at eight p. m. Bernard goes some miles further. He sends back word of Indian pony tracks just ahead, and that they turned back suddenly. Sister and I again said, “Not so.” We were again on the way. The 29th of June was very cold, snowing all day. We went on ahead of the troops. At this place we came to a large camp. From fifteen hundred to two thousand Indians had been there, and there I found they had left a scalp behind them. It was the first scalp I had seen in my life, for my people never scalped any one. The Bannocks had left it there. We waited there until the troops came up. I ran to the General and showed him what I had found. All the officers gathered round to look at it. They all said it was a real scalp. Colonel Bernard said, “Sarah, you have done more than any of us. You have rescued your father and your people, captured the stage-driver’s whip, and now you have captured a scalp from the Bannocks.” General Howard said,— “Yes, Sarah, you must keep them.” All this time Mattie was looking round. She called to me. I ran to her and left my scalp and when I went back to get it some one had taken it, for which I was very glad. We camped here and the cavalry went on ahead of us. General Howard ordered Colonel Bernard to go in hot pursuit of the Bannocks and overtake them if he could, but he only went a little way and camped. The cavalry pursued through the deep cañon of the south park of the John Day River. Wagons cross a mountain range gradually working to the highest ridge. Oh, such a time as we did have! On July 1, great difficulty was encountered in getting the wagon train into the deep valley of the South Fork, the hill being five miles in descent and so steep as to cause constant sliding of the wagons. It took from two o’clock p. m. until after ten o’clock at night to worry the train down this hill into the camp. The cavalry was four days ahead of us. On July 2, we proceeded down South Fork about thirty miles to Stewart’s Ranch, on Murderer’s Creek, and saw evidences of a skirmish between volunteers and Indians. Here sister and I went on ahead, and came to where the bodies of two men were buried by our advanced scouts. On the third of July the infantry went into camp in John Day valley, near the mouth of South Fork. The wagon train was replaced by pack-mules that came to us from Canyon City. July 4, General Howard with his staff and sister and I pushed on to the advance and came up with the McGregors, and came on with them to Fox Valley. While we were marching along in the hot sun, some one came running his horse toward us, just as if he was running for his dear life. He said, “Oh, somebody shot at me. They are after me.” General Howard asked him if they were Indians. He said, “I don’t know, but I think they are white men.”
“No wonder; you look just like an Indian, and they take you for such and shoot at you. Take your feathers off your horse.”
U.S. Army and friendly Paiutes fighting during the Bannock War.
From O. O. Howard My Life & Experiences Among Our Hostile Indians
(not in original book)
I again asked the general if I might go to the front line, to hear what Oytes was saying, and he said, “Go, Sarah.” I put the whip to my horse, and away I went to where the Gatling gun was placed. I jumped off my horse and stood alongside of it, but Oytes did not speak again. Then General Howard rode up and took his stand at the Gatling gun. This battle lasted from 8 a. m., to 12:30 p. m. Where do you think the citizen volunteer scouts were during the fight? The citizens, who are always for exterminating my people (with their mouths only), had all fallen to the rear, picking up horses and other things which were left on the battle-field, and after the battle was over they rode up to where we were and asked where were the Indians. Gen. Howard said,
“Go look for them.”
Sometimes I laugh when I think of this battle. It was very exciting in one way, and the soldiers made a splendid chase, and deserved credit for it; but where was the killing? I sometimes think it was more play than anything else. If a white settler showed himself he was sure to get a hit from an Indian; but I don’t believe they ever tried to hit a soldier,—they liked them too well,—and it certainly was remarkable that with all these splendid firearms, and the Gatling gun, and General Howard working at it, and the air full of bullets, and the ground strewn with cartridges, not an Indian fell that day. One scout came running in to General Howard, and said an Indian was lying in a stream at the bottom of a deep cañon, tied to the tail of a horse, and dead.
General Howard always sent sister and me to look after the Indians when he heard any were killed; and he sent us down that steep cañon that day to see if we knew the dead Indian; but we found nothing, though we went two miles along the stream. It was a false report, just such an one as citizen-scouts give. They take good care not to go too near Indians, and the officers know well enough what they are good for. If they wanted to find enemies, they would not send them to reconnoitre. They know very well that they would shirk any such duty, Have not the Indians good reason to like soldiers? There were no Custers among the officers in Nevada. If the Indians were protected, as they call it, instead of the whites, there would be no Indian wars. Is there not good reason for wishing the army to have the care of the Indians, instead of the Indian Commissioner and his men? The army has no temptation to make money out of them, and the Indians understand law and discipline as the army has them; but there is no law with agents. The few good ones cannot do good enough to make it worth while to keep up that system. A good agent is sure to lose his place very soon, there are so many bad ones longing for it.
We camped here for the night. Here the poor soldier who was wounded so badly was brought to us, and Mattie and I watched over him. I asked him if I could do anything for him; but he shook his head. Later in the evening General Howard came with a book and read, and prayed with him. There was no one with him during the night. Sister and I went to see him once; but at four o’clock in the morning he cried out for some one to come to him. We went to him, poor fellow, and I asked him again if I could say or do anything for him. He looked at me, but could not speak, and died in a few minutes. He was buried at the same place, under a beautiful pine tree. Late in the fall he was taken up by the Odd Fellows and carried to Walla-Walla, Washington Territory.
On the morning of the twentieth of July we struck the Indian rear guard in the cañon of the north fork of the John Day River. This cañon is about one thousand and two hundred feet deep; and as the walls are nearly perpendicular, our command actually slid down the trail that we were following into the stream, which rushed clown the bed of the cañon, and we had to climb up the opposite side, leading our horses, the ascent being so steep that several of our pack animals fell over backwards into the stream and were lost, while trying to follow the puzzling zig-zags of the trail. The Indians that constituted their rear guard numbered about forty. They had fortified themselves near the brow of the hill, on the trail, so as to command it for several hundred feet below their line of work. The scouts, numbering about eight, were a short distance ahead of us, who were in the advance guard. The Indians, who were in ambush, permitted them to get almost up to their line, when the accidental discharge of a carbine in the advance guard, caused them to believe that they were discovered, and they at once fired upon the scouts, killing H. H. Froman, a courier, who was with the advance, and severely wounding a scout, John Campbell. The advance guard was Company E, 1st Cavalry, under Capt. W. H. Winters. At the sound of the firing, he deployed his company, dismounted, and took a strong position, which was re-enforced by sending forward Company H, under Lieutenant Parnell, and Company L, under Lieutenant Shelton, and they extended the line to the right by pushing Company G, under Captain Bernard and Lieutenant Pitcher, up the side of the cañon to a projecting point which commanded and protected the trail and the bench of land upon which we had corralled our stock. As soon as this formation was completed, which occupied us about an hour and a half, and was made under fire of the enemy, the line moved forward, and the crest of the precipitous hill, or, more properly speaking, bluff, was reached, not soon enough however to give us a chance at the foe, who had mounted and fled.
At this fight, a little girl-baby was found by a sergeant, who picked it up. He said it was lying on its little face. He carried it to the officers, and Captain M’Gregor was the first who gave it something to eat. It was ginger-snaps, sugar and water. They also took two Indian women. One of them I knew. She had returned during the night, looking for her lost children, and the other was a Bannock woman. I asked the woman I knew if she would be so kind as to look out and care for the baby for me. She said she would, and General Howard ordered some condensed milk for me, so that the woman might feed it, and I told her how to fix it. General Howard also told me to take good care of its little shirt and all its beads, and if they should ever surrender, we could find its mother. We had the little baby three months.
Now we went on as quickly as possible to form a junction with all the troops, at what is called Burnt River Meadows. There were only eight companies of soldiers. We went in hot pursuit of the Indians, crossed the Blue Mountains range by very steep and difficult trails, and descended through the Granite Creek Valley.
We camped here. All the troops were out of rations. We were waiting for the return of the commissary from Baker City, when we met at Burnt River Meadows. Sanford divided his rations with all, after which the command took up the Indian trail and moved on rapidly on Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday morning we met with Mr. Parrish. We had stopped to rest the cattle at Little Creek. He came right up to me and held out both his hands, saying,—
“Oh, Sarah, little did I think when I left you all, it would come to this! Oh, it is too bad! I can’t believe it!”
The tears were running down his cheeks, and Mattie and I could not stop our tears. This is the only time and the last that I have seen him since he left us. He rode with us a while, but at last said good-by to us, and went back to Granite City. We went on and camped for the night. About four o’clock a citizen rode up. It was Reinhard’s blacksmith, A. L. Johnson. He sold some horses here, which once belonged to my people. They were bought by Mr. Parrish while he was with us. After he sold them he stayed with the troops a long time. On Friday we went to the vicinity of Ironsides Mountain. Here we camped at the crossing of Canyon City and Malheur City Wagon Road. That night General Howard asked me if I would go to the agency to ascertain if some of the flying Indians had not put in an appearance there, about twenty miles down the cañon. So very early next morning, sister and I started with eight Indian scouts and Lieutenant Wilkinson. We got to the agency about eleven o’clock; not a sign of anybody had been there since June. We staid there all night, and next morning we went back the other way,— that is, on the east side of the mountain called Castle Rock, and back to our place of starting. Oh, what a hard ride we had that day! To my sorrow we found the troops had left the same day. We had gone the day before and thought no one was left behind, and I said to Lieutenant Wilkinson,—
“I am so tired! Can Mattie and I stop a little and rest?”
“Oh, Sarah, I am afraid something might happen to you.”
I said I did not think I could go any farther. “Well, then, Sarah, I would not stay long, will you?”
We had not been there but a little while when three men rode up. One of them said, “Come, boys, here are the girls, and the lieutenant is not with them.”
At this I said to sister, “Quick, get on your horse,” and off we went without stopping. They called out to each other, saying, “Catch them, boys, let us have a good time.”
Over the rocks and down the hill we went without stopping, and got to the agency at six o’clock. As soon as I rode up the General knew something was the matter. I told him all, and the men were discharged right there and then. This was the second visit of the troops to the Malheur Agency, July 27. We found still a little flour, and the gardens comparatively undisturbed. It was very hard to see the poor, weary and hungry troops; and the next day Captain Miller with his company of the 4th Artillery reached us by the shortest road, from Bucher City, with plenty of rations. At this time the General told me to send one of the women to her people and tell them to come in and be peaceful. If they would lay down their arms and be good, they could have their reservation back to live upon all their lives, and then they could be well fed by the government. This is what General Howard told me to say to the woman. I did as I was told, and I said more than he did. I said, “Tell them I, their mother, say come back to their homes again. I will stand by them and see that they are not sent away to the Indian Territory.” With this word the woman went away.
Oh, I saw the most fearful thing during that summer’s campaign. Poor Egan, who was not for war, was most shamefully murdered by the Umatilla Indians. He was cut in pieces by them, and his head taken to the officers, and Dr. Fitzgerald boiled it to get the skull to keep. A man by the name of Rattlesnake Jack scalped an old Indian who was lost, because he was almost blind, and his wife was blind too. He was leading his wife the best he could through the woods. At last they came to the road. They had gone but a little way when the man rode up to them, and the poor woman could only hear her husband’s groans as the man was cutting him to pieces. At last his groans died away. She felt so thankful that she could not see! She said every minute she cried out to her Spirit Father that he might kill her right away, and not let her person be outraged, for she would rather die a hundred deaths than be outraged by a white man. At last she heard his footsteps coming towards her, “and I knelt down,” she said, “and held my head down for the blow, for my heart was already dead within me. Instead of giving me a blow on my head he put his foot on the back of my neck, and brought my head down to the ground. I felt him take hold of my hair and the top of my head, and felt his knife cutting off my scalp. Then the blood ran down my hands and face, for I had my two hands over my face. He kicked at me, and stamped my head to the ground, and then I heard him go away. Oh, if he had only killed me, but he left me to starve and to die a slow death. I was left in this way for a long time, and lay just where I was left. It must have been some days, for my mouth and throat were dry, and I was dying. To my great joy I heard some noise—I thought so, but was not quite sure—but I heard it again more plainly. It sounded like a wagon coming. Yes, it was a wagon. Oh, I was so glad, it was the white people, and that they would kill me. ‘Oh, come quick and kill me!’—then I heard them talking very softly. It was a white woman and her children. Oh, if she would be like the wife of our agent, Parrish’s brother, who used to come and give me sugar and coffee because I was blind (that was our white lily). I heard them come nearer and nearer until they drove up close to where I was lying. I tried to get up but could not. I tried to speak but I could not. I wanted to say, ‘Kill me quick.’ I heard the woman make a noise as if she was crying. Some one came and raised me up. Of course I did not know whether it was a woman or a man. They tried to make me stand up but I could not. ‘Oh, my good Spirit Father, speak to their hearts that they may kill me. I want to go where my husband has gone. For many years he has taken care of me. I don’t want to live.’ This was my thought when some one came and put a cup to my lips. I quickly swallowed some, thinking it might be poison, but it was only water. The first swallow almost killed me. Then they gave me more, then a little while after more, then they took me up and put me in the wagon and took me away. It was a long time before they stopped, and then I was taken out of the wagon. Then food was given into my hands which I did not care to eat, but the good woman kept putting something into my mouth. Afterward she went away, and when she came again I held out my hands to feel of her dress, and for the first time I cried out, saying, ‘Oh, my sister, who are you? Sarah Winnemucca? Have you come to save my life? Oh, dear sister, I don’t want to live—don’t try to save me.’ I said all these things thinking it was you. When she did not answer me, then I knew it was not you. Whoever that woman was she took good care of me for a long time. She would often wash my head, and when I got well again I thought of my poor husband. Oh, I can hear him now!”
This is what the poor blind woman told me after the war was over, and she is still living at the Yakima Reservation, where I saw her last. Her husband had always taken such beautiful care of her.
On the night that Egan was murdered I saw it all in my sleep. I had a vision, and I was screaming in my sleep when Mattie waked me and asked what was the matter. I told her that Egan was murdered, and I saw it all, saw his head cut off, and saw him cut in pieces. This is true. Many of my family have seen things in their dreams that were really happening.
On the 27th of July Mattie and I left General O. O. Howard and went with General Forsythe. We left Malheur Agency, and we left my baby, as they called it, with the rest of the prisoners. General Forsythe and myself were ordered to go throughout the whole country and pick up small parties of hostiles. General Howard said all captives would be held as prisoners of war, subject to the orders of the department commander. So we marched from the Malheur Agency to Stein’s Mountains. We marched along the north fork of Malheur, at noon crossed the big Malheur River, travelled along its banks about five miles and camped. No sign of my people. We took up our march again the next day, went about thirty miles, and on the next day about forty miles, for there was no water any nearer. Some of the poor soldiers had to leave their horses, which gave out, and walked in the hot, burning sun. My heart used to ache for the poor soldiers. The next day we camped at the very place where my brother Lee met me and threw a blanket over me to hide me from the Bannocks, at Juniper Lake, Stein’s Mountains. On the fifth day we camped east of Stein’s Mountains. A good many of the soldiers went on foot. After leaving this camp, we had to go across a desert of forty-five miles without water. I told General Forsythe how far we should have to go without water, but I said, “About six miles ahead of us is a man who has a farm, that has a great many horses and cattle on it. If he is there maybe you can buy some horses for your men, or maybe he will let you have a wagon.”
The General gave orders to his men that they must change about with their horses.
I also told him, “If there is nobody living there Mattie and I will go on ahead about twenty miles. There used to be a spring there, and if it is not dried up maybe there would be enough for the men to drink, but not for the horses. We would put up a white flag at the spring and go on. It will be at the left. If the spring is dry we will not put up any flag.”
We got up to the man’s place and he was not at home, but thanks be to God, the good man, when he came, gave General Forsythe two wagons and barrels to take water in, so we were all right.
About two o’clock, my sister’s horse gave out. It could not walk at all, so we took the saddle off and left him. Sister would have to walk and then I would walk a while. In this way the march was kept up all day, till we camped at a place called “Old Camp C. F. Smith.” All that time there were no fresh signs of my people, and the citizens living along the road reported that no Indians had been seen by them for ten or twelve days. We had travelled from the Malheur Agency one hundred and forty-four miles. The first night we camped there sister Mattie and I saw a signal-fire of distress and loneliness, and for help also. All the officers came to me and asked me the meaning of it. I told them it was the signal-fire of one Indian. They asked me how I knew. I said, “I am an Indian woman and understand all kinds of signal-fires.”
“Well, what do you think? Shall all the companies go over there and send out scouting-parties to find out the fact that the signal-fires were built by only one Indian?” I said. “Just as you think best.”
They went off by themselves and had a long talk. By-and-by General Forsythe came to me and said, “Sarah, are you in earnest in telling me there is only one Indian there?”
I said, “General Forsythe, if what I have told you is not true, I have never told a truth in all my life, and I want you to go over there and hunt the mountain over and over, and if you find more than one Indian there you can say Sarah has deceived you.”
He said, “Well, Sarah, I will send some citizen-scouts to-morrow.”
The scouts were sent the next clay, and they were gone two days, and came back and reported the signal-fire made by one Indian on foot. They said they could not find him.
Some citizen who came said there were some of my people at his house, so the General sent me up there to get them to go after the one Indian. I got four of them to come and see the General. He told them to go and get the man; he would give them ten dollars each if they brought him. They were willing to go if he would give them horses. They went, and on the second day they brought him. I knew him. He was one of the best Indian men Mr. Parrish had to work for him.
Fresh horses were got here from citizens, and everybody was ready to go on. Later I said to Mattie, “I think I had better go and see father and my brothers at Camp McDermitt. You can stay with General Forsythe and come on with him to-morrow. If you say so, I will go tonight and get there some time during the night. Will you let me, Mattie?” She said, “Why, dear sister, you can go, I am not afraid; and another thing, my brother will be here in a little while, and, therefore I will not be alone.” We had sent for her brother to come to us.
It was seventy miles to Camp McDermitt. I said to the General,—
“I want to go to Camp McDermitt, to see my father and brothers, and Mattie will stay with you. I will meet you at Antelope Springs.”
General Forsythe said, “Can Mattie talk English well enough to talk to me?”
I said, “Yes.”
“Well, you will want some one to go with you, to see that no harm comes to you.”
I said, “No, General, I can go alone. It will be night.”
“No, Sarah, I must send some one with you. I will send Lieutenant Pitcher and two soldiers.” I said, “Very well, but I had as soon go alone as not.”
So everything was made ready for my going. About four o’clock, nine of my people came. Among them was Mattie’s brother. We were both made happy by it. At six o’clock we were ready for our journey. I kissed my sister and away I went. Oh, what riding we did all night long. We did not stop to rest all night long, nor did the lieutenant stop our horses from trotting from the time we started, and about four o’clock the next morning he stopped and said to the men, “Fix my saddle.” I said, “Lieutenant, can I go on?” He said, “Yes.” Oh, what a relief it was to gallop my horse! At last I stopped and looked back, but could not see them coming. I would not wait for them, and got to Camp McDermitt just at daybreak. I saw a great many encampments there,—yes, as many as six hundred camps. I rode up to one camp and said, “Here, you are sleeping too much; get up.”
One of the women jumped up and said, “Who is it? What is it?”
“Where is my brother’s camp? Where is Natchez?” “Ah, here, next to us.”
I rode up to the camp. “Halloo! Get up. The enemy is at hand!”
My brother jumped up and said, “Oh, my sister!” He helped me off my horse and said to his wife, “Jump up, wife, and make a fire, sister is so cold.” I had nothing on but my dress. A blanket was put around me. Fire was soon made, and I sat down to warm myself.
Brother stood up and said, “My children, I hope none of you have forgotten your duty to your Spirit-Father in your sleep. I hope you have passed the beautiful night in peaceful sleep, and are all ready to do his work during the day. I am sorry to say there is no report yet from the young men, saying that we are all safe; no one to say there is no enemy here; none of them have come and said, ‘I have done my duty.’ I am afraid, my young men, you are not doing your duty; for I have here in my camp a warrior who has just arrived. Come, one and all, and see for yourselves.”
My poor papa was the first one who came up. He ran up and took me in his arms and said, “Oh, my poor child! I thought I never would see you, for the papers said you were killed by the Bannocks. We have all mourned for you, my child. Oh, when I heard you, my darling, who saved my life for a little while longer, had gone first, I thought my heart would break!”
I put my face down on his bosom.
He said, “Look up, dear; let me see if it is really my child.”
I looked up. The tears were running down his cheeks. I looked round, and I saw tears in everyone’s eyes. I told them everything: who was killed, what their names were, and how many prisoners we had, about our baby, and the four women, and the poor blind woman, who was scalped, and about poor Egan, who was cut to pieces. I told them about Oytes, too; and they all said they hoped when the soldiers caught Oytes, they would hang him. “If they don’t, we shall kill him ourselves,” they said, “for he is to blame for all.”
It was Oytes who first carried some of my people over to the Bannocks.
I told them the soldiers did not kill Egan, but the Umatilla Indians, who made General O. O. Howard believe they were friendly to the whites, and at the same time they were helping the Bannocks, because they are more civilized and know the value of money. They would go out nights for them, and lay out plans for them, and made them believe they were their best friends, and then U-ma-pine, who was acting as chief, and the Umatillas, that were with the Bannocks, got word that the white people offered a reward of one thousand dollars to any one who would bring Egan, alive or dead. This is why U-ma-pine, the Umatilla Indian, killed poor Egan, and I said, “He is with us.”
“What, with you?”
“I mean with the troops, and there are three more besides him.”
After I was through talking, Leggins, my cousin’s, husband, got up and said,—
“My brothers, I think we ought to go and kill him. We have never done them any harm, and have always been kind to them when they came on our reservation. We have given them presents, yes, more than they ever gave us. Oh, my brother Winnemucca, and you, my dear Natchez, you are great friends to our soldier-fathers. You and your sister can demand of them to give him up to us.”
Here I jumped up and said, “I have not told you all. At the time they took Egan, they also took a great many women prisoners, and most of them are young girls.” I sat down. My brother Natchez got up and said,—
“My children, this is a very sad thing indeed, and if we should go and kill this U-ma-pine, I am afraid we will never get back our women and girls. I want you all to listen well to what I am going to say of what I think it is best for us to do. We will go and have a talk with them right before General Forsythe’s whole command, and say to them, ‘Friends, we have come to talk to you. Now tell us what our sub-chief, Egan, has done to you that you should kill him, and have him cooked in the way you did. Was he good to eat? Oh, my dear friends, some of you will suffer the same as Egan did at your hands. If we had made war with you, and had taken prisoners in battle, we would not say anything; but you helped the thing along, and for four years you have come on the Malheur Reservation, and told Egan and Oytes to make war against the whites. You have called them fools for staying on the reservation to starve; and another thing you have helped the Bannocks to fight the soldiers. You are nothing but cowards; nothing but barking coyotes; you are neither persons nor men. We were never your enemies, for we have let you come to our country and always welcomed you. We have never been to your country. Now we cease to be friends, and after the soldiers quit fighting with the Bannocks and with Oytes’ men, we will make war with you for the wrong you have done us, if you do not return our women and girls whom you have taken as prisoners. As soon as the war with the Bannocks is over, we want you Umatillas to bring us our women and children. We will then show you what fighting is. My friends, it must be a beautiful sensation to cut a man or a woman to pieces, and then skin their heads and fasten them on a pole, and dance round them as if you were indeed very happy. Do you know there is not money enough in the world to make me go and fight a people who have not done me any harm? You have done this year after year against your own people. Are you never going to stop? You and the Snake-headed Indians, who are called the Wascoe Indians, and the Columbia River Indians and the Nez Pérces, are about alike: you are always ready to take up your arms against your own people. And what do you gain by it? You neither get praised by the so-called government, nor do you get anything more than we do. No: you are as poor as we are, we, who have never taken our own brother’s scalp and fastened it on a pole and danced round it to show our white brothers how brave we are.
“My friends, here I stand before you, an old man, the snow has fallen upon me and it has left its mark, and my hair is white. My hands are clean from the shameful work you have done to Egan.
“Why, friends, our great soldier-fathers, General Howard and General McDowell, have asked me to furnish them twenty-five of my men as scouts for them. General Howard and General McDowell are my best soldier-fathers; yet they could not give me money enough to take up arms against any tribe of Indians.
“Now, my dear children, I will go with my sister, and I will say all to the Umatillas that I have said to you, right before General Forsythe and all the officers. I think it is right and just, and I also think it is the only way we can get back our women and girls.”
This is what my brother Natchez said to his men; and one and all of them said they were always ready to hear our chief, and to do what he says.
Brother then said, “How many want to go with me?”
They answered, “We will all go.”
Brother said, “I am afraid the soldiers will think we have come to fight them, if they see so many of us coming; therefore I think about thirty of us will be enough to go.”
While the talk was going on, Lieutenant Pitcher came and said,—
“Sarah, we will be ready to go back this afternoon at one o’clock.”
“All right, lieutenant,” I said.
Then I said, “Lieutenant, this is my father Winnemucca, and this is my brother Natchez; and father and brother and thirty men are going with us to see the Umatillas who are with you.”
The lieutenant said, “Very well, they can go with us.”
I had had no sleep yet. In those days I never knew what it was to be tired or sleepy.
My father then got up and spoke, saying, “I am ashamed to have to speak to you, my children. I am ashamed for you, not for myself. Where is one among you who can get up and say, ‘I have been in battle, and have seen soldiers and my people fight and fall. Oh! for shame I for shame to you, young men, who ought to have come with this news to me! I am much pained because my dear daughter has come with the fearful things which have happened in the war. Oh, yes! my child’s name is so far beyond yours; none of you can ever come up to hers. Her name is everywhere and every one praises her. Oh! how thankful I feel that it is my own child who has saved so many lives, not only mine, but a great many, both whites and her own people. Now hereafter we will look on her as our chieftain, for none of us are worthy of being chief but her, and all I can say to you is to send her to the wars and you stay and do women’s work, and talk as women do.
“Now we will go and see the man-eaters. I have never shot anything in all my life but what is good to eat. In my way of thinking and in my father’s way of thinking, no man ought to kill anything unless it is good to eat. We were obliged to fight our white brothers at one time. It was only five months after my poor father’s death. If he had lived it might not have happened. I have promised to be a friend to white people, and I have done just as I said, although they have killed my people here and there. I have not unburied my bow and arrows yet, and I hope, my children, that you will keep our promise to the end of the world, and then it will be well with us. Now we must get something to eat before we go. You have all heard what your chief has said. There is one among you who did not go out to help defend his people. He is tall and strong, but he is a coward. Put a woman’s dress upon him, and give him woman’s work to do. Let him dig roots, and prepare food, and make moccasins, and all the rest of his life let him wear women’s clothing, and not go among the men.”
My dear readers, such is the respect my people have for their chiefs, that that man still wears a woman’s dress, and does women’s work, and will continue to do so all his life. My people, and I think no Indian people, feel the same respect for a made chief. Sometimes chiefs are chosen by others and set over a tribe. There is no respect felt for such chiefs. That breaks up the family life that is the best thing for Indians. I do not like to think of my people separated from each other. Their love for their chief holds them together, and helps them to do right. A tribe is a large family. If a chief appoints sub-chiefs to help him take care of his people, they are respected unless they do wrong; but as I said before, no man can be a leader among Indians who is not a good man. His band may break away from him at any time if he does not do as his great chief does.
My father went on to say, “Some of the young men can go now and get our horses, and then we will go to see the scouts.”
We got ready and started to go to a place called Antelope Springs, where we met the troops. All the officers were glad to see my father and brothers and all my people. Rations were issued to them. I told General Forsythe what my people came for and he was glad.
After they had had their supper, all the officers were called, and the Umatillas also. They all came but one and that was U-ma-pine. General Forsythe asked them where U-ma-pine was. They said they did not know. “Well, we want him here,” the General said, “go and get him. These chiefs want to talk to you all.”
One of them went but soon came back and said he could not find him. He was afraid and staid in the hills that night, and my brother had to talk to the others. I have already told you, my readers, what he meant to say to them. The officers all cheered my brother after the talk was over. They told him that U-ma-pine and his people would suffer yet for what they had done. “General Howard,” they said, “is not going to let them off as easily as they think. We will see that they turn all the prisoners over to us, after the Bannocks all surrender.”
My people staid all night with us. The next morning, very early, we were ready to go on. But Mr. U-ma-pine could not be found anywhere. My people went along with us some ten miles to get a sight of the brave man who killed Egan. At last they gave it up and said good-bye to me, and went back to Camp McDermitt. Here my brother Lee said, “Sister, can I go with you and my wife?”
I said, “You can if you wish to.”
We travelled about forty miles that day on account of no water. A good many of the soldiers’ horses gave out. We camped here at a place called, “The Three Forks of the Owyhee River.” The cañon is very deep; on the right hand side of the river are very high mountains.
My brother told me a very funny story about the soldiers’ doings at this place. “A few years ago we were on that hill yonder. The soldiers were on that steep mountain side. We then called out to them. They stopped, and they were so frightened that they shot at us across, and one and all of us called out to them again.”
Here my brother laughed so that I thought he would never stop. At last he said, “Dear sister, they had a cannon on a mule, and they shot at us before they took it off the mule’s back, and the poor mule fell down the steep mountain.”
Here we all laughed. Brother said, “Some of our people said if the soldiers were going to shoot mules at them they had better go away, and they travelled all night without stopping. They only said that to make fun.”
After travelling three days we got to Silver City. We went to Tinker’s Mill, on Tinker’s Creek, and camped for the night.
General Forsythe received instructions to divide his command,—Sanford to accomplish what had been given the whole, and Bernard to deviate southward and gather up the Indians who might be lurking in the neighborhood of Duck Valley, South Mountain, and the region on to McDermitt, General Forsythe himself to go at once to Boise City to take command of the troops to the south and east of Boise City. I was ordered to go with Captain Bernard and Captain Winter’s company to Duck Valley, to gather up my people, and Brother Lee, with his wife, to go with some of our people who were there. They were told to go with them to Camp McDermitt, Nevada, and two days after we left Silver City we went to Duck Valley, and found some of my people there. They were very glad to see me. I told them that the order was that all our people were to go to Camp McDermitt. The captain told me to tell them that they must go, because the citizens might mistake them for Bannocks, and would kill them. He told me to say that the citizens were very angry with the soldiers because they would not kill all the Indians they could find. “We don’t want,” he said, “to kill good Indians, but we want to be your friends, and we don’t want to see the citizens kill you. That is why I want you to go where the soldiers can look out for you all.” Among these was the father of Piute Joe, who killed Buffalo Horn at South Mountain. He said to me,
“Tell our soldier-father that we want to go, but are afraid to. If he will send some of the soldiers with us we will only be too glad to go, or give us a paper and then the citizens won’t kill us.”
I told Captain Bernard what Piute Joe’s father had said, and he gave him a letter and he said, “We will go to-morrow.” The next day we went back the same way we came, and camped at a place called Trout Spring.
The officers caught a great many trout that afternoon. We staid all night at that place. That evening the captain said to me,—
“Sarah, would you like to take a letter to Silver City for me? The companies will not go that way. We will cut across the country from here if you will go. You can get upon the stage and go to Boise City and leave your horse there. You will get there before we shall.”
I said “Yes, I will go.” The distance was fifty miles, so I started at seven o’clock in the morning. I said to myself, “I will see how fast I can ride, and at what time I will get there.”
I did not meet any one on the way. I rode into Silver City at two o’clock in the afternoon, and the next morning I was in the stage on my way to Boise City, Idaho, and went to see General Forsythe. He found me a place to stop at, and sent me to see the prisoners at Fort Boise. I went, but they would not speak to me. They were Shoshones. I went in first to see the men. While I was talking with the men, one of the women came in and said in Shoshone, “Don’t tell her anything. She will tell the soldiers what you say.” One of the men said, “I wonder who she is.”
“I will tell you who I am if you will ask me; if you will tell me why you are here, maybe I can help you.” I waited to see if they would say anything. I again said,—
“Will you tell me where you were when the soldiers took you?” They would not speak yet. “Your soldier-father sent me here to ask you what you want to do,” but they would not say anything to me.
I went and told General Forsythe that his prisoners would not speak to me. I staid in Boise City ten days. I was then told to go with Captain McGregor and Sanford’s command, two companies of cavalry, going the way of Baker City, and then to Camp Harney, Oregon, where I expected to see a great many of my people, and Bannocks too, for it was reported that the old woman whom I had sent away to my people to tell them to come back to the Malheur Agency was there. After travelling six days in that burning sun we arrived at Canyon City, and camped about three miles down the river. I thought to myself I will go and see Mrs. Parrish, for she was living at Canyon City. I saw all the officers going up, and I wished to go too and see my clearest friends. I rode into the city, and saw a negress that I knew who used to cook for a woman by the name of Moore. She ran up to me and said, “Oh, Sarah, I am afraid some one will do you harm. There is a woman living here who swears that the first Indian she sees she will shoot, because she had her husband killed during the war.”
Just then a man came up to me and gave me a letter. I did not stop to read it, but ran with it to the officers who were right across the street from where I was. I gave it to Captain McGregor. “Come,” said he, “go to the camp as fast as your horse can carry you.” We ran across to get our horses. I got upon mine and rode down to the camp as if I was riding for dear life. I did not know why Captain McGregor sent me for till he came down from the city. He then told me it was the sheriff who wanted to arrest me as a witness against Oytes.
I did not see my dear friend, Mrs. Parrish (the white lily) that time. We went on to Camp Harney and got there two days afterwards, and found all the Bannocks and the Snake River Piutes there. After we got rested I sent for the baby that was found on the battle-field. I went to every camp with the child, but could not find its mother. The next day I got its little yellow shirt and its beads, as General Howard had told me to keep them, so the little one’s mother might find her child by its clothes and beads. I did as I was told by him, and again Mattie and I went to find its mother. At last we came to a camp where there was a young woman. I saw at once they were in deep mourning, and I knew them too. I said,—
“John Westler, I have here a little girl baby that was found on the battle-field, and if I can I want to find her father and mother. It may be a Bannock child.”
The father of the little child got up and looked at the baby. He cried out, “Oh my baby, my child, my lost little girl!” Its mother got up also and came. They wept with joy. They said everything that was beautiful to Mattie and me for saving their little child. They told me most fearful things that happened the same day that the child was lost. They said there was a little baby that was crushed against the trees, as the soldiers fought them through the thick timber. They said they were running for their dear lives through the timber for miles and miles. The timber was very dense; so much so, that it was impossible to travel with pack-animals, except by packing them on top, and not on the side as my people usually pack them. In that timber these children were crushed, and this little one was thrown from its basket and left on the road in the hurry and confusion.
All my people and the officers called this little baby my baby, and they named it Sarah.
Everything went on aright until October, when an order came from Washington, saving that all the Indians that belonged to the Malheur Agency should be gathered together at Camp Harney, and be ready to go to the Malheur Reservation for the winter. So I was told to go to Camp McDermitt and bring all my people to Camp Harney. Company A was first to go with me. So everything was got ready, and we started for Camp McDermitt. It took six days. At last we arrived at the camp. I told my people what the Big Father in Washington said. Some of my people said, “We know there is something wrong. We don’t like to go.” But the officers told them there was nothing to fear. They would be sent to the Malheur Agency.
My people asked me over and over again. I told them I did not know any more than they did, therefore I could not say. At last I said, “What need have you to be afraid? You have not done anything. All the officers know that you have acted for the whites. General Howard knows all about you. None of you have fought the whites. You have all done your duty to the whites during the campaign.”
After talking with them so long, my brother Natchez told them to go. He said to them, “Our soldier-fathers will see that you are all right. They say you are to go back to the Malheur Agency.” Then Leggins said, “Reinhard is there yet. We ought not to go there while he is there, for we shall die with hunger. We all know how we suffered while we were there.”
Leggins said to me, “You, our mother, must talk to the soldier-fathers, and have them send him away before we go back to the reservation. Tell them before we leave here that if we go there we will starve, and then have another trouble.”
I told the commanding-officer what my people said about Reinhard. Then the commanding-officer, Captain Wagener, got angry and said,—
“I don’t want so much talk; if you don’t go peacefully, I shall have to make you go. If we had not got orders from Washington, we would not say so. We are just like yourselves: we are ordered and we have to do our work. To-morrow you must all get ready to go.”
My poor people were in great trouble. They talked all night, and then at last said, “We will go.” Early the next morning, the horses were ready, and we were all ready to start. You should see how my people love each other. Old and young were crying at parting with each other. Brother Natchez went with us for two days. We got to Camp C. F. Smith. Here my brother left us to go back. In six days more we arrived at Camp Harney, and Leggins told the officers he and his people did not want to camp with the Bannocks, and the rest of the wards.
Before we left Camp McDermitt, this man Leggins was appointed chief over them all by my brother and father. The commanding-officer, Major Cochrane, told Leggins he could camp wherever he liked. At this I was very glad. So was he. The major is very humane,—a very kind officer.
After we were at Camp Harney two weeks, my people were told to come to the commissary, and soldiers’ clothing would be issued to them,
After they got their clothes they looked so nice! But my heart ached for the women and children, for there was no clothing for them. There were no calicoes to be issued to them. But it could not be helped. It was not as if they had it and would not issue it to them, as all the agents do. My people knew this, and they had nothing to say, All this time we were so happy. Leggins would often say or ask me, “When are we to go to the agency?” I said, “I have not heard anything about it.”
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