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Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883) by Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins


CHAPTER V.
RESERVATION OF PYRAMID AND MUDDY LAKES.

This reservation, given in 1860, was at first sixty miles long and fifteen wide. The line is where the railroad now crosses the river, and it takes in two beautiful lakes, one called Pyramid Lake, and the one on the eastern side, Muddy Lake. No white people lived there at the time it was given us. We Piutes have always lived on the river, because out of those two lakes we caught beautiful mountain trout, weighing from two to twenty-five pounds each, which would give us a good income if we had it all, as at first. Since the railroad ran through in 1867, the white people have taken all the best part of the reservation from us, and one of the lakes also.

The first work that my people did on the reservation was to dig a ditch, to put up a grist-mill and saw-mill. Commencing where the railroad now crosses at Wadsworth, they dug about a mile; but the saw-mill and grist-mill were never seen or heard of by my people, though the printed report in the United States statutes, which my husband found lately in the Boston Athenaeum, says twenty-five thousand dollars was appropriated to build them. Where did it go? The report says these mills were sold for the benefit of the Indians who were to be paid in lumber for houses, but no stick of lumber have they ever received. My people do not own any timber land now. The white people are using the ditch which my people made to irrigate their land. This is the way we are treated by our white brothers. Is it that the government is cheated by its own agents who make these reports?

James Warren Nye, Nevada Territorial Governor, 1861-1864
Governor James Nye
(not in original book)
(Nevada State Archives)
In 1864-5 there was a governor by the name of Nye. There were no whites living on the reservation at that time, and there was not any agent as yet. My people were living there and fishing, as they had always done. Some white men came down from Virginia City to fish. My people went up to Carson City to tell Governor Nye that some white men were fishing on their reservation. He sent down some soldiers to drive them away. Mr. Nye is the only governor who ever helped my people,—I mean that protected them when they called on him in this way.

In 1865 we had another trouble with our white brothers. It was early in the spring, and we were then living at Dayton, Nevada, when a company of soldiers came through the place and stopped and spoke to some of my people, and said, “You have been stealing cattle from the white people at Harney Lake.” They said also that they would kill everything that came in their way, men, women, and children. The captain’s name was Wells. The place where they were going to is about three hundred miles away. The days after they left were very sad hours, indeed. Oh, dear readers, these soldiers had gone only sixty miles away to Muddy Lake, where my people were then living and fishing, and doing nothing to any one. The soldiers rode up to their encampment and fired into it, and killed almost all the people that were there. Oh, it is a fearful thing to tell, but it must be told. Yes, it must be told by me. It was all old men, women and children that were killed; for my father had all the young men with him, at the sink of Carson on a hunting excursion, or they would have been killed too. After the soldiers had killed all but some little children and babies still tied up in their baskets, the soldiers took them also, and set the camp on fire and threw them into the flames to see them burn alive. I had one baby brother killed there. My sister jumped on father’s best horse and ran away. As she ran, the soldiers ran after her; but, thanks be to the Good Father in the Spirit-land, my dear sister got away. This almost killed my poor papa. Yet my people kept peaceful.

That same summer another of my men was killed on the reservation. His name was Truckee John. He was an uncle of mine, and was killed by a man named Flamens, who claimed to have had a brother killed in the war of 1860, but of course that had nothing to do with my uncle. About two weeks after this, two white men were killed over at Walker Lake by some of my people, and of course soldiers were sent for from California, and a great many companies came. They went after my people all over Nevada. Reports were made everywhere throughout the whole country by the white settlers, that the red devils were killing their cattle, and by this lying of the white settlers the trail began which is marked by the blood of my people from hill to hill and from valley to valley. The soldiers followed after my people in this way for one year, and the Queen’s River Piutes were brought into Fort Churchill, Nevada, and in that campaign poor General McDermit was killed. These reports were only made by those white settlers so that they could sell their grain, which they could not get rid of in any other way. The only way the cattle-men and farmers get to make money is to start an Indian war, so that the troops may come and buy their beef, cattle, horses, and grain. The settlers get fat by it.

During this time my poor mother and sister died, and we were left all alone, with only father. The two Indians were taken who had killed the two white men over at Walker Lake. It was said they killed those two white men because the soldiers had killed their fathers at Muddy Lake, but they had no right to say so. They had no proof.

Natchez Winnemucca, Sarah's brother
Natchez Winnemucca,
Sarah’s brother
(not in original book)
I will tell you the doings of the agents in that agency. The first six who came I did not know. In 1866, after my poor mother and sister Mary died, I came down from Virginia City to live with my brother Natchez, while there were some white men living on the agency. They had a great many cattle on the reservation at the time. My people did not know how to work as yet. The agent was living there, and had a store of dry goods which he sold to my people. I staid with my brother all winter, and got along very poorly, for we had nothing to eat half of the time. Sometimes we would go to the agent’s house and he would get my sister-in law to wash some clothes, and then he would give us some flour to take home.

In the month of May the agent sold an Indian man some powder. He crossed the river, when he was met by one of the agent’s men, who shot him dead on the spot, because he had the powder. My brother and I did not know what to do. All our people were wild with excitement. Brother and I thought he did wrong to sell the powder to one of our men, knowing it was against the law. Our people said they would go and kill him.

Brother said to me, “What shall we do?” I said, “We will go and tell them all to go away this very night.” So we put saddles on our horses, and away we went to tell the agent what our people had said. The river was very high; when crossing it my horse fell down in the river, and I got very wet. Brother jumped off his horse, and helped me on again. We went up to the house, and I said to him,— “Mr. Newgent, go away, quick! My people are coming here to kill all of you, and tell all who are on the river to go too, for they will surely come and kill them all.” He said, “I am not afraid of them,—they will be glad to stop before they do anything. We have a good many guns.” He called to his men, saying, “Get your guns ready; we will show the damned red devils how to fight.” Brother said again to him, “We would like to have you go; please do not get us into any more trouble.” He told my brother and me to go away. We did so. As soon as we got to our home, my brother got all his people together, and told them to get ten young men and go and watch the crossing of the river, and if any one tried to cross, to catch him. “If there is more than one kill them if you can; by so doing we will save ourselves, for you know if we allowed our people to kill the white men we should all be killed here. It is better that we should kill some of our own men than to be all killed here.”

About midnight my brother called his people together again. They all came running. Brother said to them, “I had a dream, and it is true that our people who were coming to kill the agent and his men are not going to kill them, but they are going to the Deep Wells, and the deed is already done.” The place he spoke of is about thirty miles from the place where we were then, near Virginia City, Nevada. He said, “I see only one dead; one is not dead, but he will die. I see a great many horses taken by them. It is only a dream, but nevertheless, it is true. Get your horses; we will go after them. We must do it or we will all be in trouble.”

So brother took thirty of his men to go and head them off, if they could. After he went away, I heard one of the men say, “I wonder if what our chief said is true!” Just then some one was seen coming. He gave an alarm of danger at hand. Every one jumped to their guns. I jumped on a horse, barebacked, to go and meet him, and my men did likewise. When we met him my first word was, “What is it?” He said, “We shall all die this very day.” “Why?” said I. “Oh, somebody has killed a white man and another is almost dead.” “Where are they?” said I. “At the Deep Wells.” One of the men said, “Did you see them?” He said, “Yes, and that is not all; our agent has gone to get soldiers to come and kill us all.” I said, “Where did you see him?” ”Half way to the soldiers.”

Just then we heard another alarm. We all turned our heads towards the noise. We saw another of our men coming as if he was running for his dear life. We all ran to meet him. He too said, “We shall all be killed.” He told the same thing about one dead man and one almost dead. So we returned to the camp again.

The sub-chief sent out spies to watch and come in to tell us in time to meet our enemies. In this way passed the day. Newgent, our agent, had left his house at daybreak to go to the fort to see some of the officers there. He rode up to the house, got off his horse, and went in to tell them about the trouble he had on the agency. A fearful thing met his eyes. One man was really dead, and the other almost dead. He asked what was the matter. The man answered, “Three Indians came here last night and shot us, and they thought they had killed both of us. They have taken all our things away, and they swore at us in good English language that the agent had their brother killed.” Poor man, he did not know that he was talking to the very devil that had made all the trouble. Very late that evening, two of our men came as before. They brought me a letter; these were the words:—

Miss Sarah Winnemucca,—Your agent tells us very bad things about your people’s killing two of our men. I want you and your brother Natchez to meet me at your place to-night. I want to talk to you and your brother.

Signed,     Captain Jerome,

Company M, 8th Cavalry.”

It took me some time to read it, as I was very poor, indeed, at reading writing; and I assure you, my dear readers, I am not much better now. After reading it four or more times, I knew what it said. I did not know what to do, as brother had not returned. I had no ink to write with. My people all gathered round me waiting for me to tell them something. I did not say anything. They could not wait any longer. They asked me what the paper said. I said, “The soldiers are coming; the officer wants me and my brother to see them at our place.” At that time, brother and I had a place on the reservation.

They said, “Oh, it is too bad that he went off this morning; you and he might be the means of saving us. Can you speak to them on paper?”

I said, “I have nothing to write with. I have no ink. I have no pen.”

They said, “Oh, take a stick,—take anything. Until you talk on that paper we will not believe you can talk on paper.”

I said, “Make me a stick with a sharp point, and bring me some fish’s blood.” They did as I told them, and then I wrote, saying,—

Hon. Sir,—My brother is not here. I am looking for him every minute. We will go as soon as he comes in. If he comes to-night, we will come some time during the night.

Yours,    

S. W.”

I sent the same man back with the letter. He had not been gone long when my brother came in with his men. Everybody ran to him and told him his dream had come true. Some of the men who were with brother said, “We knew it was true before we got here. We saw the horses’ tracks, so it is nothing strange to us.” Then I told him that the agent had a company of soldiers waiting for him and me at our place. Brother asked when Newgent went for them. “Early in the morning,” I guessed, “and your dream, dear brother, was true. Mr. Coffman and his man are killed.” “Oh, sister, do not fool with your brother.”

I said, “Indeed, indeed, it is so.” Everybody cried out, “It is every word of it true.”

“Get us fresh horses,” said he, “and we will go and see them. Wife, get me something to eat before I go. I want twenty men to go with me and my sister. Dear sister, did you send them word that we would come as soon as I came home?” “Yes brother.” We were soon on the road to see the soldiers. We went like the wind, never stopping until we got there. The officer met us. I told him everything from the first beginning of the trouble. I told him that the agent sold some powder to an Indian, and that his own men had killed the Indian. I told him how brother and I went to him and asked him and his men to go away, as we had heard that our people were going to kill him. I told him that he talked bad to brother and me, because we went to tell him of it. I told this to the officer right before the agent. The agent did not have anything to say, and then the officer asked my brother what he knew about it, and if he had seen anything during that day. He asked:

“How many head of horses do you think they have?”

“I don’t know—a good many.” “Well, how many do you think?” “Maybe sixty, or more.”

I think the officer did not speak to the agent while we were there. We did not stay long, because I was afraid of the soldiers, although the officer asked us to stop all night. I said, “Brother, we will go back.” The officer said, “We will come down to-morrow, and have another talk with your sister.” So off we went.

Many of our people did not sleep that night. Brother called all his people together at one place. He told them the soldiers were their friends, and not to be afraid of them, because if they had come to fight with them they would have brought more with them. He told our people there were only a few. So we watched for their coming the next morning. At last they came, and camped alongside of brother’s camp. The first thing he did was to tell us not to be afraid. If we wanted protection the officer would send for his company to come down from Carochel [Editor’s note: Fort Churchill, Nevada —dea]. We said our people were very much afraid of the soldiers. He asked us what we had to eat. We told him we had nothing just then, but we hoped the fish would soon run up the river, so that we might catch some. He saw that we had nothing at all. He said he would go up to the Fort and tell the commanding officer about us. So he took two men with him, and left the rest with us. Two days afterwards a soldier came in and told brother that the captain had three wagons of provisions for him and his people. Oh, how glad we were, for we were very poorly off for want of something to eat. That was the first provision I had ever seen issued to my people! The agent came to the officer, and said, “If you want to issue beef to the Indians, I have some cattle I can sell you.” The officer told him “to be off.” Five days after, five soldiers came down from the Fort with a letter for the captain. After he read the letter, he called brother and me to him, and said:—

“I have got a letter from the commanding officer at the Fort, asking me if your father is here with you.” Brother told him he had not been with us for a long time. I was crying, and I told him father had not been in since the soldiers killed my little brother. I told him that he sent word to us some six months ago that he had gone to live in the mountains, and to die there. I was crying all the while I was talking to him. My people were frightened; they did not know what I was saying. Our men gathered all round us. They asked brother what was the matter. He told them what the officer said to me.

“Sarah, don’t cry, you and your brother shall go with me, and we will get your father here. If he will come in he will be cared for by the officers of the army. The commanding officer says you are to go with me to Camp McDermitt, and you can get your father and all your people to come into the army post, where you can be fed. Now, if you will go, we will ‘start by the first of July. Brother asked me what I thought about it. “Dear brother,” I said, “I will do whatever you say. If you say so, we will go and get our father if we can. We can try it.” Brother told all to his people. Some said:—

“Maybe they will kill him. You and your sister know what liars the white people are, and if you go and get him and he is killed by the soldiers, his blood will be on you.” Brother said:—

“I believe what the officers say, and if father comes in they will take good care of us.” They said, “Well, it is your father, and you two know best what to do. If anything happens to him, you will have no one to blame but yourselves.” Brother said, “What has my father done to the white people that they should harm him? Because white people are bad that is no reason why the soldiers should be bad, too.”

(Brother and my people always say “the white people,” just as if the soldiers were not white, too.) So we told the captain that we would go with him.

Now, dear readers, this is the way all the Indian agents get rich. The first thing they do is to start a store; the next thing is to take in cattle men, and cattle men pay the agent one dollar a head. In this way they get rich very soon, so that they can have their gold-headed canes, with their names engraved on them, The one I am now speaking of is only a sub-agent. He told me the head agent was living in Carson City, and he paid him fifteen hundred dollars a year for the use of the reservation. Yet, he has fine horses and cattle and sheep, and is very rich. The sub-agent was a minister; his name was Balcom. He did not stay very long, because a man named Batemann hired some Indians to go and scare him away from the reservation, that he might take his place. The leader of these Indians was named Dave. He was interpreter at the Pyramid Lake Reservation. So Batemann got the minister away, and then he got rich in the same way.

While Batemann was agent, I was asked to act as interpreter to the Shoshones by a man called Captain Dodge, agent for the Shoshone Indians. He was going to issue clothing to them at a place called Battle Mountain. My brother Natchez went all about to summon the people there. I told Colonel Dodge all about our agent at Pyramid Lake Reservation. He said he would go to see him, which he did. It took three days for the people to come up. Oh, such an issue! It was enough to make a doll laugh. A family numbering eight persons got two blankets, three shirts, no dress-goods. Some got a fishhook and line; some got one and a half yards of flannel, blue and red; the largest issue was to families that camped together, numbering twenty-three persons: four blankets, three pieces of red flannel, and some of blue, three shirts, three hooks and lines, two kettles. It was the saddest affair I ever saw. There were ready-made clothes of all kinds, hats, shoes, and shawls, and farming utensils of all kinds. Bales upon bales of clothing were sent away to Salt Lake City. After the issue, the things were all to be put into one place. Holy songs were offered up to the Great Spirit Father. The things were blessed before they were to be worn, and all the young men put the blankets round them and danced. In the morning some of the men went round with only one leg dressed in flannel, which made all the white people laugh. At this issue our agent, Mr. Batemann, gave the Shoshones one ton of flour before this new agent, which made me very angry, and I talked to him before Colonel Dodge. I said, “You come up here to show off before this man. Go and bring some flour to my people on Humboldt River, who are starving, the people over whom you are agent. For shame that you who talk three times a day to the Great Father in Spirit-land should act so to my people.” This man called himself a Christian, too.

Then came another agent by the name of Spencer. He was a better one than we had ever had. He issued some blankets to some old men and women and blind people, and gave brother some pieces of land to work upon. He then gave my people wagons,—about ten altogether; and he had his daughter brought as a teacher, at the rate of fifty dollars a month. But he soon died, and then came our present agent. He was not married at the time, but he very soon learned that there was money to be made, so he went back and got married. Of course he put his wife in as teacher. Mr. MacMasters, for that is his name, has his own method of making my people divide the produce. If they raise five sacks of grain, they give one sack for the Big Father in Washington; if they have only three sacks, they still have to send one. Every fourth load of hay goes to the Big Father at Washington, yet he does not give my people the seed. The head-farmer, who is called Mush-rush, never shows my people how to work. This is why they said, “Why does the Big Father want us to pay him when he does not give us the seed? We have to pay for the seed ourselves.” Both the agent and farmer told my people they would have to pay it or the Big Father would take away their wagons. So my people talked it over and said, “We will pay it.” Later they got up a paper, which the agent and the farmer wanted my people to sign. The sub-chief would not put his hand to the pen. He said to the agent,—

“I have been working for so many years, and I have never received anything as yet. You say it is supplies you are sending me and my people; but I am sick and tired of lies, and I won’t sign any paper.” Of course our agent, Mr. MacMasters, told him to leave the reservation. His wagon was taken from him. At this my people sent me down to San Francisco to tell the commanding officer. I did so. I gave Gen. McDowell a full account of the doings, and he reported him to the authorities. The following spring my poor brother Natchez went to the agent and asked him to help him to a plough, and to give him a set of harness. He told my brother to go away. “You and your sister,” he said, “talk about me all the time. I don’t want you and your sister here.” At this my poor brother got angry and said to him, “This is my reservation, not yours. I am going to stay here just as long as I like. My poor father and I never got so much as an old rag from any agent that ever came here.” At this our minister got angry, and telegraphed to the soldiers to come and take brother and carry him to the Acotrass Islands [Editor’s note: Alcatraz Island, California—dea]. He wrote a letter, saying all my people wanted him to send my brother away where they could never see him any more. After he had written it, he called up all the head men of our people, and told them he had written to their father in Washington for good clothing for them, and wished them to sign the paper. Of course, they did not know any better; they put their names to the paper, and signed their chief away! So the soldiers came and took brother to San Francisco, Cal. Brother was only there a little while when two white men whose lives he had saved went and took him out and sent him home, and wrote to our minister agent. Of course I knew not what was in the letter.

Dear reader, I must tell a little more about my poor people, and what we suffer at the hands of our white brothers. Since the war of 1860 there have been one hundred and three (103) of my people murdered, and our reservations taken from us; and yet we, who are called blood-seeking savages, are keeping our promises to the government. Oh, my dear good Christian people, how long are you going to stand by and see us suffer at your hands? Oh, dear friends, you are wrong when you say it will take two or three generations to civilize my people. No! I say it will not take that long if you will only take interest in teaching us; and, on the other hand, we shall never be civilized in the way you wish us to be if you keep on sending us such agents as have been sent to us year after year, who do nothing but fill their pockets, and the pockets of their wives and sisters, who are always put in as teachers, and paid from fifty to sixty dollars per month, and yet they do not teach. The farmer is generally his cousin, his pay is nine hundred dollars ($900) a year, and his brother is a clerk. I do not know his name. The blacksmith and carpenter have from five hundred to eleven hundred dollars per year. I got this from their own statements. I saw a discharged agent while I was on my way here, who told me all the agents had to pay so much to the Secretary of the Interior, who had to make up what he paid to the agents. This I know to be a true confession, or the Secretary of the Interior and all the government officers would see into the doings of these Christian agents. Year after year they have been told of their wrong-doings by different tribes of Indians. Yet it goes on, just the same as if they did not know it.

When I went to Carson City in 1870, to see about my people’s affairs, I was sent by the officials from one to another. At last we went to San Francisco to see General Schofield, and he sent me back to see Senator Jones. So brother and I went to where he was living in Gold Hill. I told him how my people were treated by the agents. He said, “I will see to it.” He then put into my hands twenty dollars, which I took gratefully, for we were always poor, and brother and I went away. I have never seen or heard from him since.

Camp McDermit  (Nevada Historical Society)
Camp McDermit
(Nevada Historical Society)
(not in original book)
I can give you one example to show how easily the Indians are influenced by those they respect and believe in. In 1868 many of my people were at Camp C. F. Smith, taking care of themselves, but under many difficulties, and very destitute. There was no game in that region of any kind, except now and then a hare. They had no land to cultivate, but were living upon anything they could do or gather. Some citizens wrote to Col. McElroy, who was at that time commanding officer at Camp McDermitt, that the Indians were starving, and they were afraid there might be some outbreak, or depredations, and asking him to have them taken to his post. I was interpreter at Camp McDermitt at that time. Five hundred of my people, men, women and children, were already there. There were four hundred at Camp C. F. Smith. Col. McElroy asked me how many companies of soldiers it would take to escort them. I told him none; that he and I could escort them, or my brother Lee and I. He could not believe me at first; but I told him I knew my people, and he and I, with one servant, went for them.

I went into council with my people. My brother Lee, who was there, and I sat up all night talking with them, and telling them what we wished them to do. We Indians never try to rule our people without explaining everything to them. When they understand and consent, we have no more trouble.

Some of the interpreters are very ignorant, and don’t understand English enough to know all that is said. This often makes trouble. Then I am sorry to say these Indian interpreters, who are often half-breeds, easily get corrupted, and can be hired by the agents to do or say anything. I know this, for some of them are my relatives. My people are very reasonable and want to understand everything, and be sure that there is fair play.

For one thing, they said they had so many children they would find it hard to carry them sixty-five miles. Did I think Col. McElroy would let them have some wagons? I said I would ask him. He said “yes; “and he furnished fifteen wagons, which transported the women and children comfortably in two days, and the men had their horses. The recruits who were watching the buildings at Camp C. F. Smith (for there was not a large force there) furnished rations for the two days, and Col. McElroy was to replenish them from Camp McDermitt.

There were now nine hundred in all at Camp McDermitt. Every head of a family was furnished with a good tent of the requisite size for his family, such tents as are used by the soldiers; and every morning, at five o’clock, rations for the day were issued. A pound and a half of meat was given to every grown person, and good bread,—for they actually baked good bread for them,—and once a month coffee, rice, sugar, salt, pepper, and beans were issued. Each woman came to me every day with her basket, and her number on a tag, fastened to a leather thong tied round her neck, and told the size of her family and took what she needed from me; and everything was recorded, for that is the way things are done in soldiers’ camps. Every one had enough. My father was with us at that time. He told my people in council one day that he thought it was an imposition to be living entirely on the soldier-fathers, when we could do something to support ourselves. He wanted them to go on hunting excursions in the summer, and bring in dried venison, rabbits, and what other game they could find; and the women to go out and gather grass-seed, and dig roots and do what they could toward the supplies of the next winter. I told Col. McElroy what my father had said to his people, and he told them to go to the sutler’s store and get what ammunition they wanted and bring him the record of it, and he would see that it was paid for. My father knew that the army gave this support for the Indians as prisoners out of its own supplies. My people had enough, I said; they had more than enough, and by being prudent about their rations they could save and sell enough to get calicoes and other necessary things for the women and children; for these things are not found in army supplies. It is this generosity and this kind care and order and discipline that make me like the care of the army for my people.

Col. McElroy belonged to Company M, Eighth Cavalry. He had my people in charge three years, and was then ordered to New Mexico; but before he could go, he died in San Francisco. He was the first officer I ever worked for as interpreter.

Can you wonder, dear readers, that I like to have my people taken care of by the army? It is said that I am working in the interest of the army, and as if they wanted all this care. It is not so; but they know more about the Indians than any citizens do, and are always friendly. Nobody really knows Indians who cheat them and treat them badly. They may be very peace-loving people, but that would make saints sin. They are the most sociable people in the world in their own camps; but they are shut up to white people, because they are so often wronged by them.

I remained at Camp McDermitt after Col. McElroy’s death. They thought it best to buy a large herd of cattle for beef for the soldiers and my people, and for a time they hired some of the Indians for herdsmen; but this proved too expensive, and they were discharged from that service, which was given to some soldiers. One night the whole herd was stolen and driven off. ‘The greatest search was made for them, but all in vain. It seemed as if they had vanished. But at last, the commanding officer thought the Indians, who knew how to track a trail, would do better at such business than white men, who do not know how to find a trail of anything. My brother Lee was staying with me then, and he and five other men undertook to find the cattle. They were gone five days, and at the end of the time came back and said they were found. They had traced them to a deep caņon, and they were driven by one single man. One man had stolen and driven away all those cattle. My people had come back to get soldiers to go with them to capture him. So he was arrested, and brought back to the post with all the cattle. It was truly comical to think of it. I was very glad my people were successful, for it would surely have been believed that some Indians, if not mine, had driven those cattle off.

Lewis H. Hopkins, last husband of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins and ne’er-do-well
Lewis H. Hopkins, last husband of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins and ne’er-do-well
(not in original book)
The last time sister and I were on a visit to our people at our old home, just before I was married, we stopped with a white lady named Nichols, at Wadsworth, Nevada, on Pyramid Lake Reservation, the head-farmer named Mushrush, and the sub-agent at Walker River Reservation in Nevada. Some one tried to break through our bedroom door, and my sister cried out to them, saying, “Get away from that door or I will shoot!” At my sister’s words they went away. The name of the sub-agent is Louis Veviers, who has been with my people about eight years. All my people call him dog, because there is nothing too bad for him to say to them. After I was married, I went to let my people see my husband. While we were there we staid with my brother Tom. On New Year’s evening we heard a great noise coming towards the house. They were trying to make a noise like my people who had just lost a son, and were crying. They were mocking them as they came on. There were four men,— the doctor, the carpenter, the blacksmith, and one of their friends. My brother’s wife gave them some pine-nuts. By-and-by one of them gave my husband a bottle of fire-water, and asked him to pass it round. My husband replied, “Pass it round yourselves.” They said, “Give some to your brother-in-law.” My husband said, “Give it to him yourself.” This is the kind of people, dear reader, that the government sends to teach us at Pyramid Lake Reservation.

My people wanted to cut the hay, but they were not allowed to sell it until within five years. My cousin, Captain Bill, and his brother, had borrowed some seed by promising to divide the wheat after harvest, which they did; and then the farmer, who never showed them how to sow their grain, came to Bill, and said, “You must pay me for the use of the government land.” “What for?” said Bill “Well, that’s what the Big Father in Washington says.” Then Bill said, “Take it all.” After Mr. Mushrush took his unjust share, my poor cousin had only three sacks left for himself. Our present agent made my people give every third sack of grain, and the same of everything else. Every third load of hay is given. My people asked why, as he had not given them seed for planting, nor did the farmer help them. They did not see why they should pay so much, but the agent told them that was the order from Washington. They refused to pay it. The agent told them they must pay it or he would take their wagons away. They went home to talk it over that night. However, Jim, the sub-chief, told his people that the white men had been stealing from them for a long time, “and now I am going to steal from them this very night. I am going to have my family hide away half of my grain. I have sixty sacks of wheat and twenty-six of potatoes. As for the hay-cart I don’t care. What do you think of me for talking so to you? I see I can’t keep up with the white people. They think it right to steal all they can while they are with us. And I am going to do another thing; I am going to quit signing any paper, for I don’t know what I have been signing all these twenty-two years.” My cousin Captain Bill, and his brother, said, “We will keep all our grain, and if he wants the wagon he can take it.” Then all the rest of the men said, “We will do the same as our chief, and what is left he can have.” Some of them said, “We have only a little, and what shall we do?” The next morning they went to the agent’s house to see if he had changed his mind, but he told them that was the law. Bill told him that he might go and get his wagon. “I bought my seed and paid my own money for it, and you did not help me.” The agent replied, “If you won’t do what the government orders, you must leave the reservation.” Jim, the sub-chief, said, “You may take all I have, leave my people theirs, and I will go away into the mountains, and there I will live and die.” But the agent would not hear to it, and they all had to pay their share. My brother Torn said, “If we don’t pay it we shall have to leave the reservation.”

The agent thought it necessary to make a show of some kind, and this is the way he did it. There are unprincipled men in all tribes, as I suppose there are among all people, and the agent found one for his work. He is known as “Captain Dave.” His Indian name is Numana. The plan made and carried out was this: Captain Dave was furnished with money, and appointed captain of police, a useless office, for Indians could not arrest either an Indian or a white man. They really were nothing but private servants to the agent. But this was promised to Captain Dave, provided he and six others would go to San Francisco, and do what the agent wanted them to do.

They were furnished with a drawing of a bridge that had been built, and told to go to the newspaper offices in San Francisco, and say beautiful things of the agent and his men. Every reasonable person will see by reading this paper, which was published in a newspaper, that the most intelligent Indian could not have given such a description of a bridge without he had been furnished with a memorandum of it:—

“Captain Dave and the Reservation.—Numana, better known as Captain Dave, one of the leading men of the Piute nation, called on us yesterday, and showed us several papers, among which was a letter of recommendation from Governor Kinkead, and an appointment from the Indian Commissioner as captain of the Indian police at Pyramid Reservation. Dave is a very intelligent Indian, and gave us the following facts connected with the Piutes and their doings: He and his body-guard of six Piutes have just returned from a trip to San Francisco, where they spent the holidays pleasantly. He had in his possession a very good cut of the bridge at the reservation and its dimensions, which are, length one hundred and sixty-five feet, width twenty feet, height fifteen feet above low-water mark. A flume crossing the river on the bridge which carries the water from their irrigating ditch on the east side of the river to the other measures as follows: length twelve hundred feet, width six feet, height above ground on trestle eight to fifteen feet. He showed us by a rough sketch the course of the river at the reservation, the position of the dam, and the route of the ditch, which is not finished as yet. The darn is so constructed as to allow a channel (whereby the fish can run up) about ten feet wide and three or four feet deep. From the head of the ditch to the bridge is about one and a quarter miles, from the bridge to the Reservation House, about two miles. The ditch, when completed, will measure four miles and will irrigate a large area of land. The Indians are not working now, but are devoting their time to fishing. Agent McMasters is well-liked by the Indians, and he has a system of dealing with them which they fully understand and appreciate. Mrs. McMasters has charge of the school, and teaches some thirty Indian children, many of them being apt scholars, and all seeming to like to attend school.

“Mr. Mushrush, the farmer, is giving perfect satisfaction, showing the Indians how to work, and does n’t simply order, but takes a hand himself, which Dave says pleases them.

“They intend to farm on a larger scale next year than at any time before. Mr. McMasters’ method in dividing the produce is stated by Captain Dave to be in this way. The Indian raises five sacks of grain, he retains four, and gives the government one. If he has four loads of hay he gives one of them to the government. This is given by the Indians to help feed the government stock, which is kept at work hauling stone, lumber, wood, etc., etc. Dave is very desirous of having the Piutes in, all parts of Nevada notified to come to the reservation, and help build it up. He claims that in one year’s time they will have room and work for them, and they can come there and build a home. He is also very anxious that the whiskey traffic among them be stopped, and to that end asks that the officers in every town will see that a drunken Indian be punished as severely as possibly. This, he claims, is a terrible curse among them, and is gaining ground.”

No newspaper in San Francisco would publish this statement, and they were obliged to have it done in Reno, Nevada, in a paper the civilized world knows nothing of. I will only speak now of the character of “Captain Dave.” I said Mr. Batemann hired an Indian to frighten Mr. Balcom away. That Indian was this very “Captain Dave.” I have known him many years, and have always been ashamed of him as a Piute. Twenty years ago I knew him to blow a young girl’s brains out because she refused to marry him, and his behavior ever since has been in keeping with that. It is no secret among my people that he exposes his wife to bad white men for money. He is not a “leading man.” No man can be a leading man among Indians, unless he is honorable and brave. Dave is neither. On the contrary, he has no character whatever, and could always be hired to do a wicked thing. He is my own cousin.

Mr. Mushrush, the farmer spoken of in the printed article, does all his farming in the bar-room at Wadsworth. We have a store at this agency kept by Mr. Eugene Griswold. He is the man who always gets the beef contracts. It may be in another man’s name sometimes, but it is all the same. It has always been a mystery to me what this beef contract is for. If they mean it for a license to sell beef, why don’t they say so? I defy them to find a man, woman, or child outside their ring who has ever received a pound of meat of any kind from them. I have a brother who lives on the agency, and he has never got an ounce of meat that he has not paid for. The contractors, Griswold, McMasters, etc., really keep a butcher’s shop, but call it a beef contract. Those that have money can come up and buy. Those that have none stand back and cry, often with hunger.

All this refers to the Pyramid Lake Agency. The contractors call it the “Nevada Agency.”

Brother and I started for Camp McDermitt, Nevada, at the time set, along with company M, First Cavalry. It took us twenty-eight days to reach Camp McDermitt. Nothing happened during our journey. We reached the camp late in the evening. Brother and I did not see anybody until the next day. After we had something to eat in the morning the commanding officer, Major Seward, sent for us to come to his office. We did so. He was a very nice man. He said to brother, “Are you tired?” Brother said, “Not much. I guess my sister is.” He said to me, “You find it pretty hard travelling, don’t you.” I answered, “It is pretty hard, it is so very warm.” He said to my brother Natchez, “Do you think you can find your father, or don’t you think you can get him and his people to come to this place? I would like to have him come, so he can be taken care of. He is too old to be out in this bad country. If Gen. Crook should find him and his people, he might make him some trouble. The white settlers are talking very badly through the whole country, and they have sent for Gen. Crook to come and kill all the Indians that are not on some reservation. I am afraid to have your father out there. Natchez, if you can bring him in, I will feed him and his people, and will give them clothes, such as the soldiers wear. I will be his friend and fight for him if he and his people are good.” I said, “Colonel, my good papa has never done anything unkind to the white people yet, and the soldiers came to Muddy Lake and killed a great many of our people there without our doing any bad thing to them. They killed my little brother. This is what drove my poor papa away; we have not seen him for two years.” Brother then said, “Yes, colonel, it is too bad the way the white people say all the time that Indians are bad, and that they have bad hearts, and that their hearts are very black. Colonel, if you will give me your heart and hand, I will go and try to get my father to come to you.” “Yes, Natchez, I will do everything I have told you. I will send one company of cavalry with you. Your sister can stay here, and talk for those that are already here. She shall be my interpreter, and I will pay her sixty-five dollars per month, and I will pay you five dollars a day while you are away.”

Brother said, “Colonel, I don’t want to have any soldiers go with me. I will go all alone, because my people will think I have brought soldiers to fight them. For fear they will think so, I will go alone. I will find my father sooner by going alone; for I will make the son’s signal-fire as I go along, and my father will know it is I who is coming to see him (the signal-fires are like so many telegraphs of many kinds and orders), and he will come to meet me. And colonel, you will take good care of my sister. See that no soldiers talk to her, and colonel, I want you to give me a paper to tell the white people I meet who I am, so they will not kill me. You know, colonel, the white men like to kill us Indians.”

The colonel said, “All right, Natchez, I will give you a paper.”

So the talk ended. My brother was to go in the morning. The colonel said, “We will go now and see the prisoners. I have twenty-five Queen’s River Piutes here already.” As we walked along he said,—

“They are very good Indians. They are always ready to do whatever I tell them to do that is in the line of work. You will see that I have given them such clothes as I give my soldiers, but the women and children I can’t do much for, because the government does not give me anything for them. But we will see what can be done for them after your father comes in, and when your sister gets rested, she may be able to do something for them.” We got to the camp at last. They all ran out of their tents to see us. The men ran to brother, saying, “My brother, oh, my brother!” They threw their arms round him, calling him many endearing words. Then they would throw their robes down on the ground for him to sit upon. They had not said a word to me until my brother told them I was his sister. Then they held out their hands to me, saying, “Our sister, we are glad to see you too. Oh, how kind of you to come and see us so far away.” Then the women came to me crying, and said the same, “Our sister, we are glad to see you. Oh, how kind of you to come and see us so fat away.” It is the way we savages do when we meet each other; we cry with joy and gladness. We ‘told the officer to go,—we would come back soon. We would be ready at seven o’clock. Our people said many beautiful things about their black-clothes fathers. They should have said blue-clothes. They said, “We are getting plenty to eat, and we men get nice clothes to wear, and we do very little work for the clothes. All the work we do is only child’s play. We would do more if they would only ask us to. We are as happy as we can be.” Brother said, “I am so glad, my people, to hear you say so, because I was going to leave my poor sister here all alone with the soldiers. I was afraid they might abuse her.” Then some of the women said to me, “Oh, dear, you can stay with us; we will make you a nice place.” I said, “Oh, brother, why can’t I stay here with our own people? I will be so happy here with the girls.”

“Oh, yes! Stay here with us, we will have such a good time.”

Brother told them he was going to see his father, and try to get him to come and live there with them.

They all said, “How nice that will be!”

Some of the old men said, “Oh, if he could only forget the wrong that the white men did to him. But of course he cannot forget it. Oh, it is hard how the white people are treating us. We cannot help it, we have to stand it like a little mouse under a cat’s paws. They like to see us suffer, and they laugh at us when we weep; but our soldier-fathers are good; we will go with you to get your father. We can tell him how kind the soldiers are to us.”

While the talk was going on, a soldier came and said that the commanding officer wanted us. Brother told the commanding officer he wanted five men to go with him in the morning. I was afraid. I said to brother, “Can’t I stay here while you go and see what he wants with us?” He went up. It was lunch time. After lunch brother told the commanding officer that he had heard something good about him and his men. He answered, “I am glad of it.” Brother told him he would take five men with him to speak for him. “I think I shall have no trouble,” he said, “in getting my father to come.” The officer said, “All right, Natchez; you want six horses, then.” So next morning very early they started out and left me alone. I felt so badly, and I cried so much, that my eyes were all swelled up. I could not eat anything. After my brother had gone, I went to the commanding officer, and said, “Colonel, I am here all alone with so many men, I am afraid. I want your protection. I want you to protect me against your soldiers, and I want you to protect my people also; that is, I want you to give your orders to your soldiers not to go to my people’s camp at any time, and also issue the same order to the citizens.” Accordingly the order was issued, and posted here and there, and the result was that we lived in peace. Soon after this my brother found and persuaded my father and four hundred and ninety of my people to come into Camp McDermitt. On their arrival they were kindly received by the commanding officer. Clothing such as the soldiers wear was given to them, and rations were also issued,—good bread, coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, pork, beef, and beans. So we lived quietly for two years. One night a man named Joe Lindsey crawled into our camp. It was reported by one of my men to the commanding officer, who had him arrested and confined that night, and the next day he was released with the understanding that he would leave the reservation. Nothing of importance occurred for three weeks, when a soldier who had been fishing, and having drank more than was good for him, staggered through our camp, and although he troubled no one he was corrected and tied up by the thumbs all day, and then placed in the guard-house all night. I tell this to show what is done to any one who violates the orders given by officers of the army. The following winter the man Lindsey came back with the express purpose of killing the Indian who reported him. He met him in the post-traders’ store. There were several white men in the store at the time. The Indian could not understand English, so did not know that they were planning to kill him. After some talk, Lindsey said, “I’ll bet the whiskey for the crowd that I can shoot his eye out.” Some one took the bet, and without any more delay, he turned round and shot him just below the eye. He then coolly pulled out his knife and scalped him and put the scalp in his pocket, got on the stage and went to Winnemucca, eighty-five miles; then went from saloon to saloon calling for drinks, and offering to pay for them with a scalp of a good Indian— a dead one. His partner put the body of the unfortunate Indian in the trader’s buggy, and tried to hide it; but the beautiful white snow was too pure to hide the cowardly deed. His blood could be seen for miles and miles, and so we tracked them and brought the body back; and such a time as I had to keep my people quiet! Early the next morning the warriors assembled, determined to begin a war to the death. I talked and reasoned for hours, and at last persuaded them to go to their camps. Every effort was made by the commanding officer, Major Seward, to bring those “hard-working, honest, and kind-hearted settlers” to trial, but in vain. All that could be done was done. Their den was broken up, and shortly after this very gang had the audacity to put in a bill of damages against the government, because the commanding officer had their cabin torn down and moved away.



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