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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 11, No. 1
March, 1933
THE MEXICAN KICKAPOOS

By MARTHA BUNTIN

Page 691

Among the numerous problems demanding the attention of the Indian Department at the close of the Civil War was that of the Mexican Kickapoos who had left the United States and were living in the Mexican state of Coahuila near the town of Santa Rosa.1 The Governor of Texas, J. W. Throckmorton, advised the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that these Indians were raiding into Texas, capturing and killing the citizens, and carrying off everything and anything movable.2 The Texans captured were held for ransom, while the stolen property found a ready market among the citizens of Mexico. The price paid the Kickapoos was considerably below the market price for such things.3

Nor was the remonstrance of Mr. Throckmorton the only one received by the harassed Commissioner of Indian Affairs. G. H. Nooan, District Judge, and A. M. Oliphant, both of







Page 692

"Wickeup" of Head Chief

Page 693

Texas, wrote a joint letter to him complaining of the conduct of these Indians, whom they believed to be mostly Kickapoos. They informed him of the separation of these Kickapoos from the main tribe in Kansas and pointed out the fact that, though these Indians were now living in Mexico, the Kickapoos were still a part of his responsibility.4

The first group of Kansas Kickapoos to leave the main tribe seem to have left some time in the 1840's, eventually arriving in Mexico.5 Shortly after their arrival they made an agreement with the Mexican Government to fight the Comanches, who were constantly attacking the Mexican villages. The second group, consisting of about 100 Indians under the leadership of No-Ko-What, separated from the Kansas Kickapoos in 1863. Their cause for leaving was the treaty of 1863. After traveling over the plains for some months, they established themselves on the Washita river near the Caddoes. The unsettled conditions in Indian Territory during this period and the tales of the life of their tribesmen in Mexico, influenced these Kickapoos to set out for Mexico. They understood they would become a party to the agreement between the Mexican Government and the Kickapoos in Mexico.6

No-Ko-What and his followers came into conflict with a division of the rebel army. The exact number substracted from the band was not recorded. However, the battle inspired a desire for revenge and a wholesome fear of meeting the Texans in equal combat. After spending about a year en route, the Kickapoos arrived in Mexico, only to discover that the invitation they had accepted had not been offered by the Mexican Government. They were solicited to remain, however, and assigned to a location for a residence.7 These people were decidedly dissatisfied with their new homes. No-Ko-What and about half of his band set out to return to the United States. Only fourteen of the group reached Kansas, in May, 1867. This was due to the lack of strength on the part of









Page 694

their ponies and not to any interference on the part of either government concerned. The greater part of the group returned to Mexico on foot. No others returned to Kansas.8

Commissioner of Indian Affairs, N. G. Taylor, recommended that the Indians formerly of the United States be returned and located in Indian Territory as soon as possible and that funds be appropriated for their immediate removal. He asserted that such a change in location of the Kickapoos would not only be of benefit to the Indians, but would also be of great value to the people of Texas, who were constantly losing their lives and their property to these raiding Indians.9 He stated that this step was necessary as well as expedient because the citizens of Texas would doubtlessly bring about difficulties of a most serious nature between the United States and Mexico when they attempted to redress their own grievances.10

According to the information supplied, the Indian Office believed that the Indians greatly desired to be removed to the United States, and that the Mexican authorities were willing for them to be brought back to their reservations.11 Therefore Commissioner Taylor urged that a commissioner be sent to visit these Indians and arrange for their return. He considered the most practical route to be through Texas and commented on this route as one on which the Indians would require a military escort.12

In spite of the strong recommendations of Mr. Taylor and the constant protests of the people of Texas against the inroads of these Indians, who crossed the Rio Grande, committed their depredations, and fled to Mexico, where they were quite safe from retaliations of the injured parties, nothing was done. With the appointment of E. S. Parker to succeed N. G. Taylor as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he took up the task of securing protection for the Texans against the Kickapoos and other Indians by attempting to have them removed into Indian Territory.13













Page 695

Parker advised the Secretary of the Interior that funds should be appropriated by Congress for the immediate removal of these Indians to Indian Territory. He admitted that these Indians certainly had forfeited their claim to the protection of the United States, but that it was better for them to be returned, even at the expense of the United States, than for the people of Texas to suffer from their frequent foraying expeditions.14 In 1870, Parker was able to assure the people interested that a small appropriation had been made for the removal of these Indians and that the Department would "take such steps as may be deemed most practicable."15 Under the circumstances the Commissioner considered the Leased District in Indian Territory as the most advisable location for them.16

After due consideration, it was decided that John D. Miles, Agen for the Kickapoos in Kansas, was the logical man to send, accompanied by several of his Indians, to confer with the Kickapoos in Mexico about their removal either to Kansas or Indian Territory. The mission was left largely to the discretion of Agent Miles, whose instructions were to proceed to Santa Rosa, or wherever the Indians were, and confer with them.l7 Nothing was said concerning the Government of either the state in which they might be located or the Mexican Nation.

Miles, accompanied by several Kickapoos from his reservation,18 left Muscotah, Kansas, April 11, 1871, and traveled by rail to Baxter Springs, Kansas, taking the stages to Sherman, Texas, where he hired private conveyances to take them to Fort Richardson, Jack County, Texas. From this fort they were taken from one post to another until they reached Fort Duncan on the Rio Grande on the twenty-fourth of May, 1871. At this point Miles was able to learn of the approximate location of the Mexican Kickapoos. According to the intelligence officers of the fort, these Indians were established within the state of Coahuila with Santa Rosa as the most central











Page 696

village.19 The distance was about 150 miles from Fort Duncan. After resting for a few days, Miles, accompanied by Col. Z. R. Bliss, W. Schuchardt, U. S. Consul, and his Indians, set out for Santa Rosa, planning to stop en route at a small camp of Kickapoos near San Juan de Allendo. Upon reaching the camp they were made most welcome by the chief, Chieno, who seemed most anxious to return to the United States and offered to guide them to the camps of the other members of his tribe. His services were accepted and the entire party reached Santa Rosa May 30, 1871.20

While Miles and his party were still in Fort Duncan, secret messengers, or, as Miles called them, "spys," were sent to the various bands of Kickapoos and to the Mexican officials of Santa Rosa, to warn the Kickapoos of the possible deception on the part of the Commissioner and admonish the officials to hold the Indians.21

Most of the Indians were absent from their camps on hunting trips. This necessitated the sending out of scouts to invite the Indians to a council. In the meantime Miles conferred with the various leaders, most of whom seemed anxious and ready to return to the United States. The warm reception of his proposal led Miles to think that the problem of their removal was only one of arranging for transportation. Miles had miscalculated the work of the Mexicans in keeping the Indians. 22

The Mexicans, set at work by the secret messengers, were also busy during the enforced delay in collecting the Kickapoos for a council. Supplies for all the Indians were delivered and every chief and headman received a bribe. The supplies and gifts were handed out in such a lavish manner that the source seemed inexhaustible. The Mexican people were in no way rude or unkind to the Commissioner and his assistants, but they effectively conveyed the idea to them that their mission was doomed to failure. Every effort on the part of Miles to meet with the Indians without the presence of the Mexican officials was politely but firmly prevented.

On June 13, Wah-pa-ka, the last of the important chiefs,









Page 697

came in from the hunt. The Mexicans courteously offered to allow a meeting between the chiefs and the United States Commissioner in the courthouse of Santa Rosa under the auspices of the alcalde and his deputies. Miles refused. This did not change the general plan of the Mexican gentlemen, who simply collected the various chiefs and headmen in the courthouse on June 16 and sent Miles an invitation to attend. Again Miles declined, concluding his message with: "I have no instructions from my government bringing me in public communication with the authorities of any foreign nation. My mission is to the Kickapoos only."23

The messenger returned immediately with a note informing Miles that the Indians had requested the use of the courtroom and that they were now awaiting his coming. Miles could do nothing but meet the Indians in the courtroom in the presence of the alcalde and his deputies. The Mexican gentlemen skilfully brought the opposing factions into conflict and made the work of Miles that of keeping peace rather than arranging for their removal to the United States. Unable to accomplish anything, Miles adjourned the council until four o'clock in the afternoon. Immediately after the meeting the Mexican Commissioner issued money to the Kickapoos for the stated purpose of purchasing rations. As this money was expended for the purchase of whiskey, there was no council in the afternoon.24

Miles continued talking with the various chiefs, but they were becoming less and less interested in being removed to Indian Territory. One of the leaders, Wa-pah-ha, protested that he did not know the land and that he could not advise his followers to go to a land unknown to them all. He proposed taking thirty of his people to see the land, and that if it were good, he believed that the remainder would come. This may have been fair enough, but it could not be put into effect without providing transportation by the Department of the Interior and this could not be done under the current appropriation.25







Page 698

After several days of unsuccessfully combating the Mexican donations of food and money with promises of land in Indian Territory, the Commissioner left the village and returned to his agency in Kansas. Immediately after his return, he wrote a letter to Enoch Hoag reporting the details and results of his unsuccessful trip to Mexico. In concluding his letter he advocated that a new attempt be made for their removal from Mexico to the United States in the near future.26

With the departure of Miles, the funds of the Mexican Commissioner became automatically exhausted and the Indians were in a worse condition than before. The foraying expeditions into Texas continued, with the people protesting against the condition which made their lives unsafe from day to day. Living on ranches from 10 to 30 miles apart, they were helpless against the inroads of the Indians.27 Col. J. J. Reynolds reported to the Adjutant General that the citizens of Texas would soon retaliate by organizing a force and following the Indians into Mexico. The battle which would take place between Texans and the Indians on Mexican territory would probably result in international difficulties between the United States and Mexico.28

Nothing could be done until a new commission could be arranged for by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In the meantime F. A. Walker suggested that the matter be called to the attention of the Secretary of State, who in his turn should call the matter to the notice of the Mexican Government with the request that it prevent inroads of these Indians into the settlements of Texas.29

No doubt this report, and others from responsible persons, hastened the second attempt to remove these roving Kickapoos from the borders of Texas to Indian Territory. Two special Commissioners, H. M. Atkinson and T. G. Williams,









Page 699

were selected by the Department. They were instructed to proceed to Mexico and to attempt to arrange for the immediate removal of the Kickapoos and other Indians formerly of the United States from Mexico. While the exact reservation was not designated, the conditions brought about by the great influx of white settlers made the Kickapoo reservation in Kansas too small, and left Indian Territory as the only location available.30

Atkinson and Williams left Washington March 31, 1871, reaching Fort Duncan, Texas, April 30, 1871. Upon inquiring, they learned of a proposed visit of the Governor of the state of Coahuila, Mexico, to the border towns of his territory. It was understood that he would visit Piedras Negras, a Mexican town directly across the Rio Grande from Fort Duncan, within a few days. As both Commissioners were agreed upon the necessity of seeing him and securing, if possible, his co-operation in removing the Indians to Indian Territory, they awaited his arrival. As there was no public transportation in northern Mexico, they hired conveyances for travel in Fort Duncan.31 By the seventh of May they had completed their preparations and were most anxious to continue their journey.

They crossed the river and inquired of the villagers concerning the visit of the Governor, but the people knew nothing definite about the tour of the frontier, so Atkinson and Williams continued their journey toward Saltillo, the capital of the state, reaching the town on May 15.32 Since there was no American Consul or commercial agent in the town, John O'Sullivan, a merchant, introduced them to Governor Cepeda, to whom they presented their credentials and explained their instructions relative to the removal of the Kickapoos and other Indians from the frontier of Mexico to their proper reservations in Indian Territory. Both Commissioners earnestly solicited his co-operation and requested him to select a Mexican Commissioner to work with them in the carrying out of their







Page 700

mission.33 Cepeda not only complied with their request for co-operation and a Mexican Commissioner to work with them, but he issued a proclamation to all officials and citizens instructing them to assist the United States Commissioners in their work and advised the Indians to return to their reservations if they thought their conditions would be improved by so doing.34

While in Saltillo, Atkinson and Williams wrote to the United States Consul in Mexico City requesting him to make such efforts as he saw fit to secure the endorsement of the general government on the action of Cepeda. No answer came to this communication, but the commission of Antonio Montero, the gentleman selected by Cepeda to accompany the United States Commissioners, was not revoked and he was permitted to assist them.35

The Commissioners lost no time in concluding their business in Siltillo. May 20, they set out for Monterey, Nuevo Leon, in which state a few of the Indians resided. Accompanied by J. Ulrich, the American Consul, they called on the Governor, to whom they explained their mission and requested his assistance. When the necessary formalities had been concluded, the Governor expressed his desire for the success of the mission. He demonstrated his approval by writing a circular letter to the various alcaldes of the border towns instructing them to place no obstacle in the way of the commission and to co-operate with the Commissioners.36

After spending a day in Monterey, Atkinson and Williams were able to set out for Santa Rosa to meet with the Indians to whom they had been sent. While en route a message was delivered to them from O'Sullivan, containing information of the attack of General Mackenzie on the Kickapoos.37 A number of Indians had been killed and a group had been carried off as prisoners. Because of the generally disturbed conditions brought about by the raid, the Commissioners requested and obtained an armed escort from the alcalde of Monclova.38













Page 701

They arrived in Santa Rosa on the twenty-eighth of May, almost two months after they had left Washington. Without delay, word was sent out to the Indians stating their mission and requesting the presence of the Indians in a council to discuss removal to the United States. A few Indians came in and arrangements were completed for calling the chiefs and headmen to a council.

Due to the destitute condition of the Indians, the lack of game, and the general animosity of the townspeople of Santa Rosa, the gathering involved both delay and expense. The more distant Indians had to be informed, food provided, and the Indians constantly assured that the Commissioners were acting in good faith.39 The Mexicans advised the Indians either to kill the Commissioners or hold them as hostages for their women and children carried off by Mackenzie.40 They also informed the Indians that the food provided would poison them and that the idea of the Commissioners was to get them all in one place so that the soldiers could kill them all at once. Funds were collected to use in bribing the chiefs and headmen.41

All supplies had to be purchased in Santa Rosa and for each purchase the Mexicans demanded an exorbitant price for which they accepted only gold. As the issue was not at this time the removal of the Indians, but a political factor, all the enemies of Cepeda united to hinder in every way the commission approved by his administration. False statements were sent everywhere—the news of the death of the Commissioners was made public in Texas—the Indians were advised to raid, and the merchants were at first commanded to make no sales to the Americans, but the prices that the Commissioners would pay made such a request of no effect.42

In spite of all the difficulties, Atkinson and Williams managed to meet the Indians in council June 1, 1873, explained to them their mission and urged them to return to the United States. The Mexican Commissioner told them it was the desire of both governments that they should go, that they would be









Page 702

protected, and that their condition would be much better than it was in Mexico.43 The Indians replied with a discussion of the recent attack made on them by the United States Army and then talked of an attack of the Texans on the Kickapoos in 1864. They went on to state that when they first heard of the commission, some of them had decided to return, but a number of their people had been killed and captured and they were not certain as to whether they should go or stay.44 After talking for some hours, they decided they were willing to forget those who had been killed, but those who had been captured must be returned to them. When they were assured of the return of the captives to the tribe they would then agree to discuss the matter of removal with the Commissioners and if their wishes were complied with they would return to the United States. After wasting many hours listening to the chiefs discussing the return of these captured Indians, Atkinson and Williams invited the chiefs to accompany them to Texas to see for themselves that the captives were in good condition. This led to a number of lengthy discourses in which they repeated over and over again the same statements, and when it seemed that they would never stop, the chiefs suddenly agreed that Che-quan-ka-ko should accompany the Commissioners to Texas and see that the Kickapoos were not being ill treated.45

Atkinson and Williams requested, by telegraph, the placing of the captured Kickapoos under the charge of the Commissioners for removing the Indians from Mexico. The Interior Department refused. The Commissioners resented this lack of co-operation on the part of their own government, revealed, first, by the ill-planned attack on the Indians when the peace Commissioners were at the very time arranging for their removal, and, second, by their refusal to rectify their error, allowing the removal of the Indians from San Antonio, Texas, to a place where they could be visited by their tribesmen and returned to them, once they were in territory belonging to the United States.

After the exchange of a number of messages, the Commissioners concluded that the case was hopeless—the Interior







Page 703

Department would not permit the removal of the captured Indians. They returned to Zarazota, Mexico, where a number of the Indians were, to attempt the impossible task of explaining why they, as representatives of the United States Government, could not return the captives when General Mackenzie in his letter explained that the attack was not intended for them but for some Lipans who had been raiding in Texas. If this were true, why were the Kickapoos held in Texas?46

From June 28 to July 14, 1871, Atkinson and Williams attempted to collect the various small scattered bands of Kickapoo, Lipan, and Apache Indians for the purpose of holding a council. On July 14 the Indians met in council at Remolino. The Commissioners again explained their mission. In spite of the many Indians invited, it was almost a Kickapoo and Pottawatomie council, as only one Apache was present and no Lipans. The Apache left before the close of the meeting, and, stealing a horse belonging to a Mexican, rode swiftly away.47

In this council most of the Kickapoos and all of the Pottawatomies agreed to go to the United States, but first food, clothing, pack-mules, horses, and the promise of more supplies upon their arrival had to be arranged. The Indians refused absolutely to go into Texas to receive these supplies for fear of an attack being made by the Texans. Their second demand was that no white men were to accompany them on their journey as they were going around Texas, through territory inhabited by Indians who were hostile to white men and who might kill them, causing the government to blame the Kickapoos.48 After careful consideration, and discovering that they could do nothing else, the Commissioners decided to comply with the requests of the Indians.49

Atkinson and Williams left the council at once to secure the supplies before the Indians could change their minds.









Page 704

A part of the supplies was purchased in Mexico, but most of them were bought in San Antonio, Texas. Rumors were spread to the effect that robbers intended to steal the supplies while en route. A military escort was refused, but armed citizens were allowed to accompany them. When the supplies reached the border of Mexico, the Mexicans tried to collect $7000 duties. The Commissioners refused, and wired Mexico City, explaining that most of the supplies were to be returned immediately to the United States by the Indians to whom they were being taken. The answer to the telegram was to allow the goods to pass free of duty, but the officers still demanded $4000, which the Commissioners still refused to pay. After a delay, the Mexicans took a list of the supplies and allowed the wagons to pass into Mexico. The goods reached the Indians August 23, 1873, and only those leaving for the United States were permitted by the chiefs to share in the supplies.50

After the necessary delays to prepare for the trip, bid farewell to those remaining, and do those things necessary to start on a long juorney, the Kickapoos set out on their trek across country loaded with supplies, whatever household goods they owned, and the women and small children. The trip was of necessity a very long one, as they refused to go into Texas, and planned to go around that state, coming into Indian Territory from the west. Atkinson and Williams left the Indians, bringing with them only three men, one of whom remained with the captives, while the others went on to Kansas.51

On October 8, 1873, the Commissioners reported that the Kickapoos were started to their new homes and were at that time along the eastern border of Llano, Estacado, moving toward the western border of Indian Territory. Of the Indians, 280 had not yet started but probably would as soon as they considered it safe.52

In the meantime the Comptroller refused to allow the funds for the purchases made by the Commissioners, stating that the money was no longer available for expenditure as the fiscal year had closed and a re-appropriation would be







Page 705

required if the government were to pay for the supplies.53 Atkinson and Williams informed the Commissioner that funds were required, not only to pay for supplies already purchased, but that additional supplies and presents would have to be secured if the promises to the Indians were to be kept.54

In concluding their report, the Commissioners assured the Commissioner of Indian Affairs of the increased value of the land in Texas due to the removal of these Indians, and that any further raids could be laid to the lawless frontier citizens of Mexico.55

The Indians were to remove to the Leased District in Indian Territory, but their exact location was decided upon by themselves.56 The Kickapoos spent the winter on the Wichita reservation under the charge of Agent Richards moving to the Sac and Fox Agency in the spring of 1874.57 A number of these Indians left the Wichita reservation before the others. Both Richards and John R. Pickering, Agent for the Sac and Fox Indians, subsisted them during April, 1874. Cyrus Beede, chief clerk of Central Superintendency, took exception to this purchase on the part of Pickering, stating that he had no authority to make such a purchase until August 20, 1874.58 A number of the Kickapoos arrived early enough in the spring to raise small crops. Pickering says in his annual report for 1874: "The Kickapoos formerly inhabiting the border of Texas are now in this Agency on the North Fork of the Canadian river. They have grown some corn and vegetables this season. I know but little of their habits."59

The Kickapoos had not been on the reservation they had selected for themselves for more than a few months when they decided that, although they were willing to keep it for headquarters, they wanted to go out on the plains. They















Page 706

notified Enoch Hoag, Superintendent of the Central Superintendency, in order to draw some rations before departing. In the same communication, they expressed the desire to see their friend, Commissioner Atkinson. Hoag hastily replied, sending the letter to Pickering, who was detailed to tell the Kickapoos that all the Indians on the plains were "very bad" and that any Indians found on the plains would be punished by the soldiers. He advised them to remain at home because Commissioner Atkinson might come to see them during the next few months.60

Pickering informed Hoag of the desperate circumstances of the Kickapoos, asserting that they must have food. Hoag replied that he would visit the Sac and Fox Agency about September 25, at which time he would adjust the matter of rations, but, if necessary, Pickering might purchase supplies for them.61 In the same letter he assured Pickering that Atkinson would visit the Agency in the near future. They might possibly come down at the same time. During the visit of Atkinson the promises made to the Indians while in Mexico, were to be carried out as far as practicable.

Hoag made his visit to the reservation as stipulated. He made arrangements for the issue of rations to the Kickapoos, demanding that they sign a receipt for them. Pickering purchased this bill of goods in open market for the issue to these Indians:

Sac and Fox Agency Ind. Ter.
10 mo. 26, 1874                     

John R. Pickering
     U. S. Ind. Ag't
Bought of Ranklin and Gibbs

 846 Lbs.      Coffee      @      33½c      282.00
1687   " A. Sugar  " 20c 337.40
   25   " Tobacco  " $1.00 25.00
   50   " Soda  " 15c 7.50
  100   " Soap  " 18c 18.00
  300   " Salt  "  4c 12.00
4050   " Flour  "  4½c 182.25







Page 707

 550    "      Beef      "        5c      27.50
          891.6562

The daily ration as set by Hoag consisted of the following:
1½ pounds of beef     4 pounds of Coffee to each 100 rations
  ½      "      "  flour     8    "       "   Sugar  "     "       "       "    63

After having been expected for some time, Atkinson arrived in Lawrence, Kansas, where he had a conference with Hoag and was given a letter of introduction addressed to Pickering, in which Hoag requested the co-operation of Dickering in aiding Atkinson in securing a few Indians to accompany him to Mexico to induce the remainder of the Indians to remove to Indian Territory.64 The following day Cyrus Beede dispatched a note to Pickering requesting him to assist Atkinson in every possible manner. If necessary, Pickering was instructed to provide transportation for Atkinson and his Indians to the depot. The note concluded with: "Show him the necessary attention."65

With the arrival of Atkinson, Pickering visited the Kickapoos and reported the following in his monthly report for November:

" . . . . . 3 Kickapoos. They are still on the reservation they selected west of the Sac and Foxes, and are apparently well satisfied. They are very industrious in their hunting and trapping, and have perhaps the most elegant and ubstantially built little village of bark houses in the Indian Territory.
"I am just now called upon by the Department to find a suitable location for a school house. I am very glad to have the privilege of working in this direction, believing as I do that the school is the most available means of permanently bettering the condition of the Indian. I will labor under the disadvantage of not knowing the boundary lines of their reservation, as they have never yet been fixed.
"These Indians are anxious to go to farming and have asked for Agricultural and Industrial imple-






Page 708

ments. With prompt and proper treatment they will doubtless settle down into better modes of living. A little negligence of duty will cause them to doubt the honesty and sincerity of the government, and as a result of this, they will probably commence raiding again, and cause the government more trouble of which they are fully capable . . . . . .66

(To be Continued)



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