By Lydia Huntly Sigourney
It is regretted that more has not been written in a peculiar and candid manner about the remarkable events that have occurred and have much to do with the history of our state.
In civilized life where the happiness and welfare of man depends so much on the opinions of his fellow-men he is constantly acting a studied part. The brave and unique traits of native character are softened down by the leveling influence of what is termed good breeding. He practices so many petty deceptions that it is difficult to distinguish the real from his artificial character.
The Indian on the contrary, free from the restraints and refinement of polished life, is in a degree a solitary and independent being, obeying impulses or the dictates of his judgment; and these activities of his nature, being freely indulged, are singly great and striking.
A frequent ground of accusation against the Indian, is his utter disregard for treaties. Sufficient caution was not observed in not offending him against those feelings of pride and superstition which often prompt the Indian to hostility quicker than mere confidence and frankness which are indispensable to real friendship.
Considering these qualities of human nature, the leading men of the Five Civilized Tribes held a Conference in the year of 1843, and decided to extend an invitation to all the wild tribes east of the Rocky Mountains (at that time) to meet with them in a Grand Council to be held at Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, in the month of June.
The purpose of this meeting was to establish peaceful relations with these tribes who had been making raids on the settlements of the Five Civilized Tribes, with the hope of not causing further trouble in the future. So runners, fleet of foot, were dispatched as speedily as possible to as many tribes as could be reached in time to journey to Tahlequah. The season being one of heavy rainfall, and
because of swollen streams and other unavoidable conditions, the meeting was not as largely attended as had been hoped for. However, large delegations were sent from many tribes and like the Indians, in the song of Hiawatha,—
"Came the warriors of the nations,
The Chickasaws, Choctaws and a few other tribes did not meet with this council. Many came a long distance bringing with them pack-ponies loaded with blankets, provisions and other necessities for the long journey across valley, plain and mountain.
On arriving at Tahlequah they found the hospitable Cherokees had made ample preparation for their entertainment. This great council being held in the lovely month of June, beheld a village with all the beauty of nature. The prairies were abundant with green waving grass, affording splendid grazing for their ponies. The brooks and springs of clear cold water gave refreshing draughts to the thirsty travelers. While the fine groves of grand old trees, with singing birds flitting among the branches, made a canopy for the noted gathering, when the stately chiefs of the various tribes met and exchanged greetings.
When the solemn ceremonies around the council fire were held, the leader of ceremonies, Hair Conrad, arose and addressed the grave chiefs with much eloquence, explaining the object of the meeting, this in turn was transmitted to each tribe present by interpreters, which took some time, after much discussion arrangements were made for peace, and friendly relations, to exist between all tribes present, which was carried out in good faith up to the beginning of the Civil War. Then the solemn ceremony of passing the peace pipe from one stern chief to another took place, after which the Second Chief of the Cherokees, Maj. Lowery arose and explained the meaning of the Wampum, which was
interpreted in their various languages. This man was the only Cherokee living then who could explain the meaning of this medium of exchange, and has never been done since.
Public tables were arranged for all the guests, with a bounteous supply of beef, hominy, cornbread and other edibles. To show the liberal supply of meat, 350 beeves were consumed during this ten-day pow-wow. After the feast came the dance led by Old Dutch, who wore a high silk hat with a red ostrich feather in it; this fete continued several days and everything conspired to produce kind and happy feelings.
When the council closed the Western tribes prepared for their homeward journey, being supplied with sufficient food until they should reach their own hunting grounds. This was the largest gathering of civilized and uncivilized Indians ever held, and was always spoken of as the Grand June Council of 1843.
Mention will be made of one incident to show that Indians could keep a compact, when approached in a right manner.
A party of Cherokees were on their way to some gold mines near Pike's Peak, Col. and killed some game as they journeyed along. One day a member of the party wandered away from the others and killed an antelope. While preparing to remove the skin he noticed two Pawnees creeping upon him with bows and arrows, ready to shoot. In sign language, he made them understand that he wanted to talk with them; so one Pawnee came forward while the other stood with drawn bow ready to shoot the death dealing arrow. The Pawnee who was conversing with the Cherokee, soon discovered he was no pale-face as he wore a buckskin hunting shirt, and brushing away his long hair revealed earrings; then he knew the stranger was a Cherokee, for white people never wore such clothes. He was so pleased to find such a friend, he shook hands with him up to the shoulder. Then the other Pawnee unstrung his bow, and both helped the Cherokee skin his antelope. This party of Cherokees were then allowed to continue their journey unmolested.
It is quite evident that this Grand Council was far reaching in its results, as well as an important event in the early days of our state.
So Oklahoma, which means Red Man's Land, will never be able to efface the imprint the Indian has made upon the history or the state. Not only have they monuments in the written annals of the country, but the names of towns, rivers, lakes, hills and mountains are silent reminders that a great noble race once lived and had a cherished home in these parts.
One writer has said,
"Ye say they have passed away,