Title: Indians Enter Protest | Sioux Chiefs Claim Their People Are Not Treated Right.

Periodical: The Quincy Daily Journal

Date: July 2, 1897

Author: Fry, Smith D.

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Sioux Chiefs Claim Their People Are Not Treated Right.

Formal Statement Presented to Congress and the Secretary of War—Waiting for the Messiah.

The American Indians seldom have an opportunity to be heard, but they always have ample opportunities to suffer; and nearly all of the wars of the past 200 years have been caused by injustice and oppression, the white men being the original aggressors.

Recently there was a council of Sioux Indians at Pine Ridge agency, and they sent four chiefs to Washington to memorialize the congress for justice. They appeared before the senate committee on Indian affairs, and presented their memorial, which had just been printed. The document is signed by Red Cloud, American Horse, Clarence Three Stars and Patrick High Star. Their statement of grievances is, in part, as follows:

"For many years a number of our people have been employed and taken from the reservation to accompany Buffalo Bill's Wild West show for exhibition purposes throughout the United States and Europe[.] A plan was inaugurated to allow the Indians to trade out one month's salary at Rushville, Neb., before boarding the cars[.] James F. Asay, [1] a white man, who was expelled from the Pine Ridge reservation for misconduct in 1891, has a deep-rooted scheme, and the Indians are coerced, and it is made compulsory for them to trade at Asay's store in Rushville, Neb., and pay for the goods they purchase the most outrageous charges or lose their position with the show.

"Upon the return of the Indians to the agency this man Asay is permitted to be present and collect bills against the Indians while final payment is being made, and in some instances Asay handles the cash and presides over payment. Mr[.] Asay's conduct was such that he was, under the provision of the laws governing Indian reservations, removed from the Pine Ridge agency in 1891, but was still permitted to use the reservation at his convenience and defraud the Indians by charging them exorbitant prices for goods sold under the Buffalo Bill trading combination, which seems too strong for the officials at Pine Ridge to break, in face of Asay's persuasive powers of pleasing those whose favoritism he seeks. Why not require Messrs. Cody and Salisbury to stand up to their agreement and pay the Indians cash, thus allowing them to trade where they choose and enjoy competition in prices the same as the whites do? What reason is there for Asay to be allowed to violate the law and plunder the Indians in the most outrageous manner?

"The Cody-Salisbury contracts call for payment of services 'in lawful money of the United States.' If the orders issued by the Wild West company on Asay and his robbing machine are lawful money of the United States, then all this goes for nothing. A suit in equity should be brought against the Buffalo Bill Wild West company for every cent that has been paid the Indians in orders on Asay's store, and the amount due each paid to the individual Indian who rendered service in cash as per contract. An investigation will bring out more facts in connection with this robbing scheme. Asay should be kept off the reservation altogether; his removal from the Indian country was a step in the right direction.

"There is a clause in the printed forms of the contract for beef which reads as follows: 'That the beef cattle under this contract shall be good, healthy, merchantable steers and cows (no bulls or stags) not over seven years of age.'

"Among the cattle received from the contractor since July 1, 1896, there have been [illustration] CORNELIUS N. BLISS [2] (Secretary of the Interior, Who Has Charge of the Indians.) old oxen, straight bulls, fresh cut bulls, and stags, old, poor cows that were not able to make the journey from the agency beef corral to the several issue stations—slaughterhouses—on the reservation. The cattle received for issue on February 19 and 20, 1897, were so poor that they dropped dead near the Holy Rosary mission school, but were dressed and issued to the Indians as 'merchantable beef,' and up to contract requirements. Other cattle died while en route to Porcupine and Medicine Root; and at this issue old bulls, some fresh cut, some in sexual prime, were conspicuous and served as an issue of merchantable steers and cows (no bulls or stags) not over seven years of age."

In giving testimony before the committee on Indian affairs, American Horse said: "I was born at the foot of Black Hills, where there is a hill called Bear hill. A little south of that there are two creeks, and a fork formed. I was born between these creeks. I am 55 years old. Since I was born I have been living about and around the Black Hills and Platte river, running up north and Tongue river and Little Big Horn, at the foot of the Rocky mountains[.] I have traveled around through that part of the country, and especially around the Black Hills and north and south   of that.

"There are four chiefs now living. I am the leader of that band of the Ogalalla Sioux. Since I was 18 years old I began to be a warrior and prominent in warfare. At the time I was 24 years old, and became a man by marrying a woman, we were living near the Black Hills on a creek called Bear Lodge. Our people came together then in great numbers, and they put up a large tent. It consisted of ten tents put together, and made a lodge. It was a gathering of the people generally. The officers of the day came and led me to the place of honor. Then they brought Young Man Afraid of Horse, and then Sword, and the fourth man they brought was Crazy Horse. Young Man Afraid of Horse withdrew from chieftanship. I am not descended from any chief, but I earned my chieftanship.

"I earned it in public life in warfare. My grandfather was a chief, but my father refused to be appointed chief, consequently the chieftanship went to another branch of the family. But when they came to select these four men to be the rulers of the people in their roving life, I was selected as a representative of that branch of the chieftanship of which my grandfather was a chief.

"Personally, my own belief is that there is a God, a Supreme God, and, while I am not an official, I am in sympathy with all religious work, and I urge my people to attend churches and become church members. As a people we have permanent convictions. We believe in a Supreme God, and we have a way of approaching Him. The sun dance was one way. Personally, I believed in the sun dance in the old days and I have been prominent in it. We have a sort of rude cross—whether it means cross or not—we have somehow got the idea to put medicine and some other things on the top of a tree in a sort of cross shape. It resembles something like the cross of the Christian people, but we do not know how we got the idea. Anyway, we got the idea of putting something on the tree when we worship God, and I believe we practice religion more strictly than white people do; that is, we do what we preach. Whether anyone condemns us or not, we do it."

Red Cloud, the famous war chief of the Sioux nation, presented a pitiful spectacle. He is almost blind and very [illustration] SENATOR R. E. PETTIGREW. [3] (One of the Stanchest Friends of the Indians in Congress.) feeble. He was led into the committee room by an attendant. Senator Pettigrew, chairman of the committee, speaking through the interpreter, said: "Red Cloud, I want to hear what you have to say, and will listen patiently and help you if I can."

"How," said the old man, as he arose and took the senator's hand. "How. I will talk from my heart. I talk only the truth."

"I believe you," said the senator, as he took the hand of the savage chief who has handled the rifle and bowie knife so often and with such deadly effect. "Now, tell me what you are here for."

"I am 76 years old and cannot see very well. The light hurts my eyes. I was born on Bluewater creek, which is a branch of the Platte river. It is about 15 miles from the place Gen. Harney killed the Rosebud Indians. I have usually lived in the vicinity of the Black Hills. The Great Creator provided us abundantly with buffalo and deer, and the trees gave us their fruit. The white man came and despoiled us. I first came here to see President Grant, and all the other presidents have considered me their friend. I have been on Rosebud agency for 28 years. I now come, as an old man, pleading for my people. We do not want our lands allotted to us in severalty. We are willing to become farmers, as our white brothers demand, but the lands are bad and fit only for grazing and raising cattle and horses. We have tried to plant, but the sun in July and August scorches everything. There is not enough water for agricultural life. There are only a few places where even the cattle can get a living in summer time.

"You see, I am very old and unfit to go anywhere, but my people urged me to come and shake your hand and beg you to help my people. I want the good white men in congress to let us have our lands in common. You have taken a whole continent. Can you not let our little remnant live in peace?

"The white men who came among us when we were wild and married our maidens are now a part of our tribe, and we want them and their children protected. But we want no more white men to come among us. They marry our girls merely to obtain tribal rights, and then they cheat us out of our best lands. If we punish them or drive them out you send a big army. We want you to keep them all away from us and let us live in peace."

Senator Pettigrew asked about the sun dance, and American Horse said: "The sun dance is a period of religious excitement. Your missionaries told us the Saviour will come again. Sometimes our young men think that He is coming, and they dance and have a good time. It is all right."

Senator Pettigrew inquired: "Do you think the Saviour will come to the Indians?"

"Of course," replied American Horse. "When He came to the white men they killed Him; and He will come to the Indians the next time, for we will receive Him gladly."

Note 1: James F. Asay (1854-1906) had been a licensed trader on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota but lost his license in 1891 for selling alcohol on the reservation. He moved his business to nearby Rushville, Nebraska, where he continued to supply goods to Indian customers. William F. Cody often used Rushville as a base for recruiting Lakota performers for Buffalo Bill's Wild West. [back]

Note 2: Cornelius Newton Bliss (1875-1949), United States Secretary of the Interior from 1897-99, was an art collector, merchant, and politician. [back]

Note 3: Richard Frankling Pettigrew (1848-1926), a United States Senator from South Dakota from 1889-1901, was a lawyer, surveyor, and land developer. [back]

Note 4: Smith Dunbar Fry (1851-1929), of Washington, D.C., a lifetime journalist and author whose subjects were Sioux Indians, the Dakota Territory, patriotism, and the United States Capitol. [back]