By Dan W. Peery
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs and other United States officials, including those of the War Department, soon came to recognize the splendid service that John H. Seger was rendering, not only to the Indians, but to the American people in leading the most uncivilized tribes along the white man's road.1 The Indian Rights Association, while not an official body, was an organization composed mostly of eastern reformers and philanthropists, soon came to know and approve the method adopted by Seger in the education and civilization of the Plains Indians. This organization had great influence with the Indian department and they highly recommended Seger's system of industrial education to the officials in charge of this department.
Charles F. Meserve, an authority on Indian education, and who was the superintendent of Haskell Institute at Lawrence, Kansas, in 1889, was always a friend of Mr. Seger, and was a firm believer in his system of industrial education for the young Indians. In an article written for the Wichita Eagle thirty years ago, while Meserve was president of an eastern university, used these words:
"It is patent to a casual observer that the Indians thoroughly believe in Superintendent Seger. This is because he has been with them so long, and has always been true and faithful to their interests. He is well known throughout Oklahoma by the white people as well as the Indians and there is no one respected more highly by the most intelligent and influential white men of the Territory. They recognize him as a man of sound sense and solid character who has acquired a vast amount of practical knowledge in the broad but severe school of every day experience.
1One of the Quaker teachers who acknowledged failure in his efforts to establish the school, remarked, "An Indian will only follow the white man's road to the dinner table."
"There is probably no one in any capacity on any of the reservations that is so widely known and that has to such an extent the confidence of the Indian department as Superintendent Agent Seger. Scarcely a year passes but what he is sent for to go to Washington to consult with the officials upon measures for the good of the Indians and the best way of carrying them out. Commissioner Jones and other officials in Washington have implicit confidence in Mr. Seger because of his sound judgment and strict integrity.
"His experience with Indians during the last thirty years would fill a large volume. He is modest and unassuming, and yet when his friends get him started they find a treasury of information and a rich vein of humor running through it all. He attended the Indian conference last October at Mohonk Lake, New York, and was the most interesting character, being one of the very few Indian workers that have the confidence of the philanthropists of the East and the practical men of the forests and prairies of the West. He is now in the prime of life, having only recently passed his fiftieth mark, and it is hoped by his friends and the officials at Washington that his strength and health may be spared for many more years of service."
Hamlin Garland, a distinguished writer of American historical novels, in his book, The Book of the American Indians, published by Harper and Brothers, has a long chapter under the caption, Wahiah—A Spartan Mother. The venue of this chapter is at Darlington Indian Agency and the time is in the early seventies. The name of Seger runs through this entire chapter. He exploits his character and gives him credit for the good work he had accomplished in showing the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians the duties and responsibilities as well as the advantages of civilized life. The names of most of the Indian characters in this interesting chapter are fictitious but the atmosphere is that of Darlington Indian Agency2 in the seventies. Hamlin Garland had visited the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency, knew John H. Seger personally, and had got his story first hand. It is a true story, or at least as true as an historial novelist can write a story.
2One hundred and twenty acres of what originally constituted the Darlington Indian agency, including that part of this tract upon which the agency buildings are located now belongs to the State of Oklahoma and is used by the Fish and Game department for the propagation of quail.
In the course of conversation with the Quaker Agent, Garland quotes young Seger as saying: "Our point of attack is the child. The red man's love for his offspring is deep. We must convince the mothers. They are the conservative force."
The supposed dialogues between Seger and the leading Indians in this book are very interesting and show that there was one white man who had not only physical courage, but the shrewdness of logic that would even conquer the savage pride of the red man.
In another book entitled, Companions of the Trail, Garland tells of his visit to Seger Colony in 1900, in company with Major Stough, then agent of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. He was much interested in Seger as a character and in his book relates a number of his Indian stories. Writing of Seger, Garland says: "At the close of the council I kept my eye on him—for everywhere he went the red men questioned him with gestures, and as he answered them he muttered their meaning in order that I might follow the talk, thus, giving me a glimpse into the red man's mind as well as a knowledge of his own character. When we took our departure for the next sub-agency, I said to Stough, 'I hope we are to see Seger again, he interested me deeply.'"
It would be interesting to relate more of the Seger stories that Garland writes, but we have most of these tales as told by Mr. Seger himself.
The question naturally suggests itself as to why Mr. Seger succeeded in establishing a real school among the Plains Indians where others had failed. The Indians at that time were in a surly mood and they had no kindly feeling toward the white race. No doubt, they wished that every white man might be banished to the east side of the Mississippi river—or farther east. From their point of view they had no reason to regard the white race other than enemies of the red man and intruders on their lands. They had seen treaties and agreements made, only to be broken—yes, broken by both sides. They had not forgotten the "Chivington Massacre" in Colorado in 1864. They remembered that two of their chiefs had been shot down by United States soldiers while under a flag of truce. It had only been a short time since General Custer came down on that sleep-
ing camp of Black Kettle's Cheyenne Indians on the Washita and in the fight that followed many Indian women and children were killed and Custer had carried back to Camp Supply one hundred and twenty-three squaws as prisoners, however, he captured no warriors. This was called Custer's Great Victory, although Major Elliott and nineteen men were killed and Custer retreated without knowing their fate nor making any effort to find or rescue them.
In the early seventies the Cheyennes and Arapahoes had been subdued and more than two hundred Cheyenne prisoners had been shackled in irons and taken to a military prison in Florida. The tribes were kept under military surveillance and not permitted to go out upon the plains and hunt the buffalo. They knew that hundreds of white men were even then slaughtering their cattle—the buffalo, just for their hides. By the terms of the so-called Peace Treaties made at Medicine Lodge, they were not allowed to hunt north of the Arkansas river while the white hunters without restrictions from government officials were fast killing off the vast herds of buffalo that had long been the Indians dependence, not only for food but their hides were used in making tepees and clothing, as well as robes for bedding.
While the white man's government in many instances violated its treaties with the Indians, yet they were dealing with savages who had committed atrocities upon the defenseless white settlers, the homesteaders on the frontier, and not only upon the men, but upon women and children. Their mode of warfare had put these Indians almost beyond the claims of mercy. This was their way of fighting their enemies. In one respect they were not to blame; they knew no better. This kind of warfare had been inculcated into their very nature through many generations of savage ancestors.
Before the white man came the Indians were engaged in almost constant tribal warfare. There were tribes, factions and clans that were hereditary enemies. The Indian that was the most blood thirsty with his enemies, especially, with the captured prisoners was often regarded as the greatest hero. The tribes could not increase for the reason that so many were killed in battle. Sometimes whole tribes were practically annihilated and dispersed as a result of the con-
tinual strife and warfare with other tribes. As has been said of the early Celtic clans in Scotland, "War was their pursuit—slaughter their chief delight. They worshiped the God of Battle with barbarous and inhuman rites." While the white soldiers had the advantage in battle,—because there were more of them and they had better guns,—yet, they could not change the Indian's nature nor make good citizens of these children of the Plains by military methods. The Indian had to be shown that the white man had the better way; he had to be educated and taught the ethics of civilized life. It had taken ages for the white man to learn this lesson and to emerge from the primitive life of his own white ancestors to that of civilized man, yet, we expected the Indian to accept our civilization without question in a few short years.
It was John H. Seger's task to begin this work of civilization and when he arrived at the Darlington Indian Agency in the fall of 1872, the Indians were not on the war path, but many of them were ready to put on the war paint upon the slightest provocation.
The government had agreed to furnish beef to feed the Indians but often the quantity issued at one time would not last until the next beef issue.3 Some of the Indians became
Beef issue day was once the most important day on the Indians' calendar. It was to him the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas, yet, it came once a month, that is, if the beef cattle were delivered on time.
The beef contractor was supposed to put the cattle intended for slaughter in the pens the night before issue day, so that everything would be ready for the big event. It was the writers privilege to have been present and to have witnessed a beef issue before the opening of the Indian reservations and before the government adopted the more humane plan of issuing the beef from the block, like a modern butcher shop is run. For many years these Indians would not take the meat from the butcher shops but demanded that the cattle intended for their consumption should be delivered to them on the hoof, so that their hunters and ex-warriors could have the pleasure of running these cattle down and killing them even as they once did the buffalo.
I well remember that there was a great crowd of Indians, men, women and children, gathered around the cattle pens. There were more than one hundred cattle in the pens intended for slaughtr. Where the beef contractor got these cattle, I cannot be certain, but I think he must have hunted all over Mexico to get these old long horn steers. They would not have taken a prize in a fat stock show but it took a fast horse to out-run some of them.
The Indian families were organized into bands to see that the beef cattle were distributed among them. Every band was supposed to have ten head of cattle allotted to it to run down and kill for the use of the
families constituting their band. Ten head of these wild cattle were run into a narrow chute and the master of ceremonies, (perhaps that was not his official title) announced the name of the band to which these cattle were to be issued. The leader of this band would climb upon the fence enclosing the narrow chute and would place some distinguishing mark by tying something to the tail or horns of each one of the ten head of cattle intended for his band. While all of the able bodied men of his band were mounted on their horses armed with guns, revolvers and even bows and arrows, waiting for their cattle to be turned loose. When the gate was opened the cattle would make a mad rush for the great open spaces with the hungry Indian cattle hunters after them. Before the cattle were one hundred yards from the pen the shooting would commence. Seldom was one of these beeves killed at the first volley but the hunters would ride rapidly after the wild, scared and wounded animals, shooting their guns and pistols at them with the most reckless abandon, just as they had hunted the buffalo a few years before.
As soon as one bunch was out of the way, another ten head of cattle was run into the chute and they were turned out for the hunters representing the second outfit, to pursue and kill just as the first had been. This was kept up until the one hundred head of cattle had been issued. It took over two hours to turn loose all of the cattle that were to be slaughtered.
While this exciting hunt was going on the few white visitors that were present climbed upon the high fence in order to get a better view of the scene that was being enacted upon natures green screen for miles in every direction. Sometimes the bovine that was intended for beef would get two or three miles away before it was finally killed, and I was told, one or two had out run the hunters and got entirely away. The sympathy of the white visitors was with the cattle.
The squaws and the children were watching with eagerness the wild chase and every family represented had their eyes on their hunter to see him kill their wo-haw. Most of the Indian women used their wagons with tepee poles instead of a wagon bed. As soon as the squaw saw that their beef had been killed, she drove her ponies rapidly to the place. On the wagon she had, besides the children, an ax and two or three butcher knives to use in skinning the beef. The dogs followed the wagon for there was something for them. The first thing the butchers did was to cut open the brisket with the ax and then use the butcher knife in ripping the beef open, then the feast began. The indulgent mother would cut out a big piece of the bloody raw liver, heart or most any part of the beef and hand it out to the children to eat. If the butcher who had the knife was slow the children would reach into the carcass with their own hands and knife and get any delicate piece of the beef that might please their taste. Their faces were covered with blood and dirt while they were all eating the raw meat. When they had eaten until they were satisfied they skinned the beef and put it on the wagon and started for their tepee. There was no waste in the way of butchering nothing except the fertilizer.
The writer well remembers this beef issue nearly forty-four years ago. Who could forget the scene! Blanket Indians everywhere shouting and yelling, cattle bawling, dogs barking and the sound of the guns heard in every direction as the hunters were killing the cattle.
"Uncle Sam" paid the beef contractor for all of these cattle butchered by the Indians. I have seen many cattle intended for the beef issue and I am sure they would not have sold for much, even though they could have been sold at all on the market. I never knew of a beef contractor going "broke".
This plan of delivering the cattle intended for consumption by the Indians did not last long. A protest went up from the white people who had witnessed these beef issues, and from people every where against this cruel method of slaughtering cattle. It did not hasten the process of civilization, it was not only cruel, but it was barbaric. The Indian department at last made an order that the beeves should be killed and dressed by butchers and the meat issued to Indian families should be weighed and delivered to them from the block. The Indians protested and became very indignant and positively refused to take the meat from the block. It looked as though at one time there would be an uprising but hunger soon drove most of them to accept the meat. There was one band under a sub-chief, Red Moon that never would accept the meat from the block, but moved out to the western part of the reservation and was for a while independent of the white man's rations.
—D. W. P.
wholly dependent upon the beef issue and the rations furnished by the government commissary and would not go out and hunt game when the opportunity was given them. Membership of this class of Indians made up the first Parent-Teacher Association that Seger had to deal with. The Cheyennes had no love for the white man and did not want their children to attend the school. The Arapahoes seemed to take a more liberal view; some of their leaders could discern the advantage of the white man's way of living.
John H. Seger made but little effort to placate the old Indians but he did make friends with the children. An Indian child has as much curiosity as a white child and they appreciate kind treatment as well as the children of the civilized race. Another thing—no race of people love their children more than do the Indians. The children were greatly interested in everything and all the work Seger was engaged in about the agency. They watched the operations of the saw-mill. Logs were converted into lumber and Mr. Seger used this lumber in building houses. He could mould brick and burn a kiln, and build them into walls. He could go into the blacksmith shop and make iron tools or could put iron shoes on a pony. This was all new to them, they had never heard of anything like that, it excited their interest and curiosity. He treated these Indian children with kindness and soon became their friend and gained their goodwill and confidence.
Sometimes great and far-reaching results are influenced by almost trifling things. Mr. Seger while a boy back in Illinois became acquainted with a slight-of-hand performer or magician, who taught him many tricks of legerdemain, with which he entertained his audiences.
Mr. Seger had practiced these magic tricks of the conjurer until he became as expert as his teacher. As a young man back in Illinois he was the life of the party with his
magic stunts. His knowledge of magic came into good use in entertaining the Indian children and added to his reputation as a superman. In fact, many of the old Indians came to believe that Seger was a real medicine man. But this is Mr. Seger's story and I will let him tell it.4
"After my five weeks' hermitage, eight miles away, the society of the people at the agency was very pleasant, though the only amusement or recreation which the young people enjoyed was song service or prayer-meeting. Musical instruments were very scarce.
"When spring came and the grass grew green, the Indians began to return to the agency from their winter's hunt. To those of us who had been acquainted with them, everything about these camps was novel and interesting. As they came streaming in and went to work setting up their camps near the agency I studied their manners, looks and customs very closely, and I went among them freely. It seemed as though every Indian I met was a chief and expected some special recognition on that account, but I soon discovered that there were chiefs and chiefs, and that only a few were entitled to that honor. These among the Arapahoes were Left Hand, Yellow Bear, Little Raven, and Bird Chief, while Big Mouth, Cut Finger, Yellow Horse, White Crow, and a few others were but minor chiefs or band men.
"The Leaders of the Cheyennes at that time were Bull Bear, Little Robe, Red Moon, Stone Calf and White Horse; Old Whirl Wind, Old Big Jake, Black Kettle and White Shield were subordinates.
"The Arapahoes were friendly, but the Cheyennes were proud and less inclined to fraternize with the whites. They were a stronger, more war-like people. They had fought their way for a thousand miles to this country and were not disposed to bow the neck.
"Soon after I entered the service I was in a Cheyenne Camp where they had just finished dressing a boy about six years old in the full costume of a warrior. His scalp lock was
4The stories narrated in the next few pages were written by John H. Seger and published in the University of Oklahoma Bulletin, March 1924, by W. S. Campbell (Stanley Vestal) editor. Professor Campbell assures the writer that they were printed just as Mr. Seger wrote them without any "editing" by him or anyone else.
braided, his hair was parted in the middle with a red streak drawn along the parting, his buckskin leggings were fringed at the side, his moccasins were artistically beaded and had long fringes of buckskin at the heels, his bow with sinew string was tightly strung, his quiver of arrows was well feathered and steel-pointed, his face was painted with care and taste. I never saw a more completely equipped warrior than was represented in the dress and arms of this Indian boy.
"I saw that some special significance lay in it, and watched him with interest after his grandfather and uncles and aunts had all in turn criticised or put a finishing touch to his makeup. At last he was pronounced perfect. Straightening up proudly he said, 'I am now going out to kill a white man.' The involuntary laugh of all his friends and their looks of approval, showed me that he had uttered the proper thing. It was at that moment I realized that the only way to civilize the red men was through his children; so long as they regarded the white man as their natural enemy, nothing could be done.
"I soon discovered that the best type of Indians did not stay round the agency. As a rule, those who had the least force and ambition lolled about, keeping up the brotherly-love carried on by Miles and his teachers. Yellow Horse, White Crow, Cut Finger, Big Mouth, and a few others of the Arapahoes 'lolly-gagged' around the agency a good deal of the time calling on the Quaker employees. They made visits at meal time, generally, and showed cordial appreciation of their white sister's cooking. Sometimes the Quaker housewife would fry eggs for them (which they enjoyed greatly), and while they ate recommended them to settle down and raise their own chickens when they could have eggs in abundance.
"They agreed with this plan and once Yellow Horse said if he only had a squaw hen and some eggs he would give his undivided attention to the raising of poultry. So a setting of eggs and a hen that was ready to set were furnished to him. He located the hen at the head of his bed where he could study the mysteries of raising poultry with the least trouble of himself.
"Just as the hen had gotten down to business Yellow Horse received notice that he must pack his camp and go out on the buffalo hunt with a party that was to be sent out to procure meat for the camp at the agency. A runner had been sent
in notifying them that buffalo was plenty a short distance from the agency. In vain Yellow Horse explained how ruinous it would be to his poultry project to move his hen before she had hatched her brood. Yellow Horse was well posted in all the details of setting a hen as he had called on some white families at meal time two or three times each day since he had embarked in the poultry business to get instructions in hen-setting. But the band he belonged to could not understand the situation and Yellow Horse could not change the edict.
"Finally a council was called in which it was decided that Yellow Horse might remain provided he would put up a feast to the band he belonged to. Yellow Horse was very much pleased at this decision and to carry it into effect caught up his best buffalo horse and sold it for thirty dollars and spent all the money in providing the feast. Thus, the first crisis in his new industry was met.
"A few hogs had been given to them in the hope that they would care for them. But when the word came for them to go on the buffalo hunt they had no place to keep them. They got permission to put their pigs in the agent's pen but when they returned from the buffalo hunt a few months later they took their porkers out and killed them to make a feast, so that in one day the hog industry vanished. They were always ready to have another hog given to them and quite willing that the giver should raise and fatten it for them.
"Black Kettle was given a hog which he took home and kept till it became very tame and gentle. The small children could ride it, and it was accustomed to enter the lodge and lie by the fire in cold weather. In the spring when the agency people began to make gardens this hog became very troublesome. Black Kettle was notified to take care of it, but gave no heed to the notice. Finally it was caught and corralled. Soon after, Black Kettle missed his hog from the family circle and began at once to inquire for it. He learned that it had been shut up. Going to the agent he asked, 'Why has my hog been put in the guard house? I am sure he has not done anything wrong intentionally.'
"The agent told him that the hog rooted up the potatoes that the white people planted.
Black Kettle replied, "The hog meant no harm by that.
It is a hog's nature to root. He likes potatoes and eats them because he is hungry. The fault is not with the hog but with the persons who scattered the potatoes around over the ground knowing that the hog would root after them. In camp we put the things we don't want the hog to eat in the forks of a tree or hang them on a pole out of the reach of the hog.' All of which, spoken seriously, shows how primitive they were in the business of raising poultry and pork. Hunting buffalo was an industry—raising potatoes was an illogical sort of amusement, and as buffalo were plenty why worry over the white man's ways of living?
"Everything we did was as interesting to them as their customs and ways were to us. Especially did they like to watch the white women as they went about their daily duties. To do this they often thronged the windows and pressed their faces against the panes, scrutinizing every movement of the family inside the house. They very naturally inferred that the window was intended to be used as much for looking into the house as for giving light and for looking out—a point of view the whites did not appreciate.
"When the family meals were served the scenes inside became still more interesting to the red brother, and generally some of the chiefs or head men would calmly enter and sit down to eat with the family. The Quaker employees fed them as long as the food held out, for they were attempting to win their friendship and acquaintance. At first when the visitors were few the plan worked first rate, but when one or two thousand were camped about, even the most zealous Quakers were obliged to set a limit to their hospitality.
"How to prevent the Indians from crowding into their homes and filling all the available chairs at the table without giving offense was a difficult problem, for all the warriors carried their weapons wherever they went, and each Indian woman wore a savage-looking butcher-knife in her belt, while the few Quaker families were unarmed and helpless. It soon became necessary to lock the outside doors to keep the friendly Arapahoes from entering and taking complete possession of the houses. As they were always hospitable, sharing their food and their lodge, they did not hesitate to feast with their Quaker friends. The white people in their opinion had un-
limited stores of food—and this food was very tasty after some months of buffalo meat.
"As spring came on Agent Miles began talking to them again about farming and living in houses. A delegation of chiefs had been to Washington the previous autumn and had talked long with the officials there in regard to their future. Among other things the chiefs had promised to put their children into the boarding school, and to make a start in learning to farm, but it was one thing for the chiefs to promise and another thing for the young men to follow the plow.
"Very little headway was made during this spring in getting them interested in the soil but Big Mouth offered to accept a house if the government would build it for him, so even before all the employees were confortably quartered a house was put up for him. It was a story-and-a-half frame building made from native lumber, with two rooms on the first floor and two on the second. A large stone fireplace was constructed at the end of the building and the house was plastered, and taking it all together it was the most comfortable residence at the agency, excepting the agent's house and the boarding school building.
"The agent had made every effort to complete this building before Big Mouth came in from the buffalo hunt, but owing to the inclement weather, the work was delayed, and Big Mouth arrived with twenty lodges of his people soon after the house was enclosed. He put up his camp near the house and seemed very anxious to have it finished, as he wished to show that he had not forgotten his promise to the Great Father.
"When I got ready to plaster the house, one of the older employees said: 'You'll have a whole lot of trouble at that work. The Indians will be there in crowds, and the young men and boys will scratch up the walls. You'll never get them smooth. Why, when the agent's house was plastered he had to sit on the porch all through the work to keep the boys from defacing the walls before they were dry. He was the only man the Indians would pay any attention to. Sometimes he had to take hold of them and push them out and away from the building before they would let the work alone. No other employee could do this, but they respected his gray hairs, and would not resist him. They'll make it lively for you!'
With this forewarning I began to plan to prevent the
boys from destroying my work. It happened that the man who mixed the mortar for me had lost two of his front teeth, and wore some artificial ones fastened upon a plate. He had a trick of taking this plate with the two teeth on the end of his tongue and running it out of his mouth. It seemed he had two teeth on the end of his tongue, and I concluded to try the experiment of having him pose as a 'medicine man,' or conjurer, for I had learned in what awe the red children held those wise men. So when we began plastering this house, I said: 'Joe, whenever you see a boy about to deface the walls, run up to him and motion him to get away and at the same time run out your tongue at him—that'll fix him.' Neither of us could speak a word of Indian or communicate in any way with them.
"Soon after we began working a party of young men came trotting into the room. 'Now's your chance, Joe,' I shouted.
"Facing them and pointing to the door he order them out, and when they did start, ran out his fanged tongue. Instantly they rushed for the door, apparently in great fright, falling over one another in their effort to escape. They ran all the way to camp and reported what they had seen, I suppose, for immediately a large party of young people, both men and women, came hurrying towards our building. They did not come up very close, but eyed Moreland closely, seeking some indication of his supernatural powers. They were careful not to get very near and fled like antelope when he approached them. They finally made signs asking him to run out his tongue again. Evidentially some of the newcomers began to doubt the truth of the report, so to satisfy them he again stuck out his tongue; whereupon they all uttered cries of surprise or fear and scampered off to camp.
"We were troubled no more during the day, but when we went out to dinner I foresaw that they might take advantage of our absence and scrape the mortar from the walls, so I locked the doors, but raised the window as I was anxious to have the plaster dry as fast as possible. I ate my dinner hurriedly, and returned to the building.
"Before I got there I heard a peculiar noise in the house, and knew that a lot of half-grown boys were at work on the walls. When I reached the door I found them all in the second
story where the mortar was fresh and furnished a better field for their hieroglyphics.
"The work before me was to get them out of the house, and as I could not talk to them I saw I must resort to some other means of hastening their exit, so I jumped in at the window and began hopping up and down on the floor and screaming at the top of my voice. I threw my arms around in wild gestures and flung my hat on the floor. They came running down at once and when they saw me apparently in crazy convulsions they tumbled out of the window in a heap and fled to camp, scarcely daring to look back. They troubled me no more while I worked on this building.
"At last my work was completed and Big Mouth was notified that his house was ready for his occupation and the keys were delivered to him. After looking it all over he said very gravely to the agent: 'The white man's tepee is altogether too small for my family. I have seven wives and each of them has several children. I can't possibly move into this house. Instead of four rooms I should have, at least, seven rooms. Unless each wife has a room for herself, she will be angry and mar my peace and quietude.' He saw the agent's disappointment, and added: 'I'll tell you what I will do, Father. I will move my camp close to the house and use it for my dogs to sleep in and I will store my raw buffalo hides there, while my seven wives are engaged in tanning them.' And this is how he used his new house.
"When Little Raven was talked to on the subject of dwelling in a cabin he said: 'I promised the Great Father that I would start on the white man's road and that I would live in a wooden teepee if the government would build it for me, but I am principal chief and the government should not build anything for me poorer than the house the Great Father lives in. I do not care to live in a little log tepee.'
"The agent told him that the government could not build such houses for all of them, because they had not the money to use for that purpose.
"Little Raven replied: 'I do not think that is the true reason, for when I was in Washington I saw the government making money. I think that all the Great Father needs to do when he has not enough is to hire more men and make more. There are plenty of poor white men in Washington who
would like to work for the government making money.'
"The agent could not very well explain to him how money received its value, and the discussion rested at that point.
As the camp surrounding the agency finally numbered nearly one hundred lodges it formed a most interesting sight, especially at night when every teepee was lighted by an inside fire, a rosy glow which outlined the shape of each lodge on the darkness. It was a pleasant and sociable life. In passing through camp at night one heard on every side the hum of cheerful voices. Some were singing low songs, some were talking to old men, relating stories of their adventurous lives, while here and there a young man and woman might be seen standing beneath the shelter of a single blanket, whispering love messages to each other. Children played in groups, dogs barked and whined. The whole camp was filled with life and merriment, till midnight.
"At last the children became too tired to play and curled down in the lodges, sometimes all in a heap and wandered away into the silence of dreamland. The old women covered the fires and went to bed, and by midnight quiet reigned, except when some restless dog sent up a yell, to be joined by others in a wild chorus, winding up with the far-off coyote echo. Then every one slept profoundly and comfortably.
"In the morning the camp awoke in very much the same order in which it retired. The men who had charge of the horses rose at early dawn and went forth upon the plain, ropes in hand, solitary and silent. The others awoke only when sleep no longer satisfied them. Duties were not pressing and breakfast was simple. When they had eaten and had sauntered over to the agency, the employees, who had long since had their coffee, would be engaged in their routine duties and these duties amused the red people all day—till the time for their second meal came around.
"During their stay at the agency the red men spent much time walking around examining the strange tools the white people used, noting their peculiarities of dress and gesture; but some of the Indian women were very industrious, and employed their time tanning robes, which they traded at the store in exchange for gay-colored blankets and shawls and calicos for dresses. The men bought stroudling blankets, which were afterwards ornamented with beadwork by women
and these they wore in place of the old-time whitened summer robes.
"The agency employees were frequently surrounded by a crowd of these children of the Plains while engaged in special work. How to convince the Indian that he ought to throw off the blanket (which he wore with such grace and to put on the white man's overalls, instead of standing around and looking at the white man work and sweat and tug all day long) that was the problem. The red man saw no necessity for this change and consulting his own wishes decided that work was white man's penalty—an evil to be avoided. The white man earned his living that way because he was a poor hunter.
"The agent placed his greatest hopes on the boarding school which he called 'the entering wedge of civilization.' If new wants could be created which the red man could not supply by the chase then he would listen to advice.
"While the chiefs who had visited Washington, as before mentioned, had promised the Great Father that they would put their children in school they did so only to the point of gathering up a few stupid scrofulous orphans. 'These you may have,' they said. As the boys objected to having their braids of hair cut, they were allowed to keep them, and as they could not speak any English, a few months instruction made very little change in them. The school was looked at by the young men and those who took a pride in their tribe and who thought the Indian superior to the white man as a menace to their tribal life. The pupils were taunted by other children who called: 'See the white man! See the white girl!' as they passed, and this did not make education popular.
"The children went to school in the morning but when they were let out to play quite generally scampered away to camp, and when they had thrown off their uniforms could not be identified by the teachers. It was a very difficult matter to keep anything like a fair attendance by any means at hand.
"I used to pay frequent visits to the schools, to visit Joshua Trueblood, the superintendent, and each time I could not help but note how little progress had been made. He had very little control over them.
"On one occasion while visiting at the school I found him in the playroom with his wards all around him waiting for
their retiring hour. The outside doors were locked to keep them from running away to camp, and part of them were drumming on tin cans, on the stove lids, or anything that would vibrate or make a sound; while others were singing native songs at the top of their voices.
"Mr. Trueblood was standing in the midst of them, wearing a bland Quaker smile, which seemed to be all he could do to let them know that he was friendly to them and wished them well.
"As the noise was so great that we could not converse, I began to reason upon the situation. 'Why don't Trueblood lead them in some play or song, which would prove interesting to them?' I queried. Acting upon this thought, I stepped out into the middle of the floor and when a boy looked up at me I made a queer face at him; he laughed and called attention to me and cried out: 'Do it again.'
"I again made up a worse face and others began to laugh, and soon the entire crowd gave me their undivided attention. Up to this moment I had not uttered a word, but as they fell silent I began to sing a little school song I had learned when a boy, a "round" called "Johnny Smoker"—the words were accompanied with gestures of how Johnny Smoker blew his horn, beat his drum and triangle, and played his violin and cymbal. It ended up by showing how he smoked his pipe.
"Before the song was ended the children rose of their own accord and formed a ring around me and when the song came to an end they cried out in a chorus, 'Do it again,' I repeated the song several times, and soon they were imitating the gestures and trying to repeat the words after me.
"When it was time for them to retire, Mr. Trueblood expressed astonishment that I had succeeded in quieting the uproar and getting the children really to take an interest in anything that a white man would do.
"After this whenever I went to school the children would gather around me and cry out, 'Johnny Smoker', wishing me to sing for them again. They soon learned to sing the song themselves and it was not unusual to hear them either in camp or on the school grounds, singing, 'Johnny Smoker' together with all the gestures and variations. In a short time I became known to all the Indians as "Johnny Smoker," and for some fifteen years after the name hung to me, applied not
only by the Indians, but by the agency employees as well.
"One day while I was busy laying stone for the foundation of a building a group of the schoolboys came up and wanted me to stop work and sing "Johnny Smoker" to them. As well as I could I made them understand that I had to work and could not stop to sing, whereupon one of the boys went to helping me. He began by bringing me stones, and I was surprised at his good judgment in picking out the right stone, and he soon seemed to know just how it ought to be laid. I encouraged him in all this, letting him take my stone hammer and giving him some instructions. He became very much interested in his work, so much so that when the school bell rang for supper he heard it not, but kept on at work.
"Finally when I quit work for the day I realized that the boy by remaining at work had missed his supper, so I went to the school with him and explained to Mr. Trueblood that the boy was not a truant, but had been so busy helping me that he did not notice the bell, and asked that the boy might have his supper. Mr. Trueblood said, 'What? Have you succeeded in getting Wauconich to do any work? I have never been able to get him to do so much as carry in an armful of wood.'
"The springtime passed by, and almost no progress was made in getting the Indians to farm, and when they went out for their summer hunt the children were as usual taken out of school. Only some fifteen or twenty remained, and life at the agency became very monotonous.
"I missed my red friends very much. There was very little news from the outside world. The only excitement came with the news that some party of desperadors was passing through the agency or lurking near, men who had committed some depredation along the frontier and had taken refuge in the Indian Territory. There were many such in those days. On several occasions the agency forces hesitatingly mounted the available horses at the agency and went out to endeavor to capture some of these desperadoes to—no purpose; however."
If a specific example were needed to prove the eternal worth of the work of one man in lifting a human soul from the depth of savagery, ignorance and superstition, to the
5This story of Mrs. Belle Balenti was written twenty-four years ago. It may be of interest to some to know that she is still living on her farm on the North Canadian river a few miles northwest of Geary, in Blaine county. She is a respected citizen who has many friends not only among the Indians but among her white neighbors. Mrs. Balenti is an expert in Indian fancy work and the Oklahoma Historical Society has procured several specimens of her artistic skill and has them on exhibit in the museum.
D. W. P.
plane of civilization enjoyed by the most enlightened of the white race, the life story of Mrs. Bell Balenti would be that example. This story written by John H. Seger, was printed in The Arapaho Bee, February 28, 1908. It not only tells of the tragic life of this Indian girl but records the story of the Indian fight at Darlington, sometimes called, "The Sand Hill Battle," in 1874. The letter of Mr. Seger follows
"I take pleasure in writing a sketch of the career of Mrs. Bell Balenti, an Indian woman of the Cheyenne tribe.
"Cheyenne Bell, as she was called while attending the boarding school at Darlington, entered the school when but thirteen years old. The band to which her mother, brothers and uncles belonged, was the last to come in and surrender after the war of 1874. After they came into Darlington agency they were kept in the reservation camp and guarded by soldiers while in the camp which was on the north side of the North Fork river.
"While shackles were being riveted on some of the young warriors preparatory to sending them to the military prison at St. Augustine, Florida, one of the prisoners broke away and ran toward camp. The guards fired at him and many of the bullets went into the camp. The old men and chiefs instructed all to flee across the river to a sand hill which was about a mile away. Previous to the surrender of their arms they had secreted their best guns and most of their ammunition in this sand hill, and those who had bows and arrows used them in keeping the guards back while the women and children were making their way to the sand hill. After reaching the hill the Indians quickly dug pits which they were soon occupying. As the soldiers approached the old men exhorted the Indians to take careful aim and save their cartridges.
"Two companies of cavalry and two Gatling guns were soon firing at the sand hill. As the Indians were in the pits which they had dug, the bullets had little effect except to cut up the ground and throw up the dirt. Yet sixteen soldiers
were killed and wounded, and four Cheyennes were killed in the fight.
"Cheyenne Bell lay crouched up in a pit while a shower of bullets were passing over her. The fight lasted during the afternoon. When night came on a thunder shower came up which lasted for some time. The soldiers had the hill surrounded with the exception of one side upon which there was a pond of water. During the storm the old men instructed the Cheyennes to steal out through the pond and to drop down when it lightened, and to get out as fast as they could. When it was dark Cheyenne Bell with others made their way around to the north of the agency to Whirlwind's camp. A portion of them who escaped fled to the plains and later found their way to the northern Cheyennes. This happened in March.
"The next January Cheyenne Bell entered the boarding school which she attended for almost four years. The second year she was in this school she was given what was then called a camp class to teach, these students were just out of camp, and could not speak a word of English, and Bell could teach them the chart to a better advantage than could the white teachers. The third year Bell taught fifty Indian children all fresh from camp; she took them through the chart and had them reading in the first reader and singing gospel hymns inside of four months. Bell learned to bake bread and was employed as baker for the school; she also learned to run a sewing machine and for a few months was in charge of the childrens' dining room.
"When Bell was seventeen years old she was married to Mike Balenti, who was a soldier in the regular army at Ft. Reno. Mr. Balenti got his discharge soon after his marriage and accepted a position as tailor at the Indian school. His wife assisted him and she soon became a skilled tailor and dressmaker.
"When the Indian land was allotted Mrs. Balenti took allotments for herself and children on the North Fork bottom about four miles from Ft. Reno, where she now lives in a neat frame cottage which she keeps as neat and clean as any of the homes of her white neighbors.
"Mrs. Balenti has six children, five boys and one girl. Her oldest boy was sent to school at Halsted, Kansas, to a boarding school under the charge of the Rev. Criss Crabel. He was
taught to work on a farm as well as to read and write. He is now married and has settled down on his farm and is an industrious and prosperous farmer.
"The second son went to school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he got a good education and graduated as an architect. He came home, took out citizenship papers and is in business in El Reno doing well.
"The third boy, Mike, is a student at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and plays on the Carlisle football team and was with them when they played the University of Chicago. He was given the credit of winning the game. He received $150 per month for the past season and has an offer of $250 per month for the coming season.
"The fourth boy, John, is also at the Carlisle school learning the bakers' trade while there. The fifth boy is the youngest child, and is only eight years old. His name is Jessa. He attends public school and can keep up with any of his classmates.
"The daughter, Hattie, is sixteen years old. She has received her education at the public schools of Calumet and the district school near her home. From the proceeds of cattle sold, which the Balenti family raised, Mrs. Balenti bought a piano for her daughter, which she has learned to play nicely, as I can testify to after being entertained one afternoon while on a visit to the Balenti family. The selections she favored me with were: "Home Sweet Home," "Where the Morning Glories Twine Around the Door," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and others of like character. These songs could not help but carry my thoughts back to the time when I received Hattie's mother (Cheyenne Bell) into the boarding school thirty-two years ago; and no doubt the mother, as she listened to her daughter play the piano and sing "Home, Sweet Home," let her thoughts wander back to the time when she lived the life of a wild Indian and was with them on the warpath, and shared all the dangers and hardships of a warrior.
"The years that have intervened have not all been sunshine, yet Cheyenne Bell has pushed forward and struggled on until she can now enjoy a comfortable home surrounded by her promising family, and is an example to the Cheyennes who know her, and to whom she has been a great help. In many ways she has used her natural as well as her acquired
talent in the upbuilding of her home and people, and the Cheyennes cannot do better than to seek her advice as well as follow her example. She has brought up a daughter that associates in the best society, and of whom any mother should feel proud."