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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 11, No. 2
June, 1933

Page 823

(Continued from the March issue)

Soon after the location of the Kickapoos on the Sac and Fox Reservation, Commissioner Atkinson was instructed by the Indian Department to return to Mexico and attempt to bring the remainder of the Kickapoos to the land selected for them in Indian Territory. His instructions were to go at once to the Sac and Fox Agency, confer with the Agent, John R. Pickering and the various Kickapoos removed from Mexico in 1873, and to secure a delegation to accompany him to their former location to assist in securing the consent of the members of the tribe still in Mexico. Enoch Hoag, head of the central superintendency, wrote a letter of introduction to Dickering requesting his assistance in accomplishing the mission and allowing a special issue of rations to the Kickapoos if necessary.1

Enclosed in another letter was a penciled note from Cyrus Beede, chief clerk of the central superintendency, dated Nov. 18, 1874:

I hope thou wilt use especial exertions to aid Commissioner Atkinson in obtaining a satisfactory delegation for Mexico if it be necessary to make a special issue of subsistance for that purpose the Supt. gives authority It may also be necessary to furnish transportation for his delegation to the Depot if so thou hast the teams necessary, show him the necessary attention.2

The delegation was secured without difficulty. The additional rations were issued as directed by the letters from the central superintendency but the deciding factor in the matter was no doubt brought about by the presents given these Indians in September and October 1874 when a part of the promises of Commissioner Atkinson were carried out and a very large shipment of supplies, consisting of very nearly

Page 824

everything from two hundred pairs ear bobs and eight and one third dozen perfumeries to axes, hoes, and blankets, was issued to them.3

Due to the fear inspired by these Indians in their recent conduct, i.e. raiding into Texas, it was deemed unwise to permit them to leave their reservation to follow the chase. It became necessary to feed them in order to hold them on the land selected for them by the government, therefore, $4,320 was set aside to support them in addition to what they could gain by farming.4 In the same letter the commissioner advised Hoag that it would be advisable to make arrangements for a school to be erected for the children of these people.5

Pickering became worried as to the effect of providing rations for the Kickapoos and suggested that the Indians should be required to work for their living. The commissioner agreed with Pickering but in the light of the recent difficulties incurred when these people were securing their necessities of life from the people of Texas, replied that the government did not want to pauperize the Indians and that they should be required to work for the supplies given them by the agent.6 The theory may have been sound but unfortunately there was nothing they could be required to do in exchange for their rations except to start farming.

In July 1875, Atkinson returned to the reservation accompanied by one hundred and fourteen Indians, a few more than one half of the Kickapoos who had remained in Mexico. While they had been enroute a little over two months, the trip was uneventful. All who had started arrived, the only death being that of an infant born on the journey.8 The agent called on them the day after their arrival and found them holding an all day religious service and feast to celebrate their safe arrival.9

Page 825

According to his instructions, Pickering attempted to enroll them for rations. They refused to be counted, declaring it to be against the will of the Great Spirit for them to be enumerated. The agent refused to issue supplies until their names were placed on the roll. This situation could not be continued for any length of time because the Indians had no means of support and their fellow tribesmen had nothing to give them. They threatened to return to Mexico. Pickering immediately advised H. M. Atkinson of the status of affairs. Atkinson replied from the Pension office in Washington, Dec. 4, 1875:

Friend Pickering
Your letter with receipts received and glad to hear from you.
I hope the Kickapoos will be satisfied and if you will allow me to suggest in regard to withholding from Mesquitos band any supplies for the purpose of inducing them to enroll. I do not believe it would be advisable at this time. There is a list of names of families who agreed to leave Mexico, on file in the Indian Office from which you can get the names of heads of families. These Indians are wild and it will take some time with kind treatment to govern them properly. You will find that they can be led, but not driven and when you get their confidence won though it cost you much patience and indulgence, yet eventually you can govern them as you could a child.
I make these suggestions because I have been with them in a foreign country and know them thoroughly.
Please rememlber me to your family,
Wishing you all the success desirable in your embarrassing position as Agent.10

Pickering accepted the advice of Atkinson in attempting to enumerate the Kickapoos and accepted the figures of the Washington office. There were probably errors in these figures due to unreported deaths and births among them and the statement of numbers in families to Atkinson when he

Page 826

was issuing rations while enroute. On September 1, 1875, Pickering reported 426 Kickapoos on the reservation, only seven were mixed bloods and there was only one white man among them except three government employees and their families.11 Of the entire tribe only one man was able to read.

In answer to the usual questionnaire supplied by the Indian office, Pickering advised the commissioner that the Indians were beginning to farm but that twenty percent of their support came from hunting and fishing, seventy from government rations and only the remaining ten percent was secured from their farming operations.12

The proposed plan to educate the Mexican Kickapoo children in English Schools was discussed pro and con for some time. The Quakers considered the delay in preparing to place the children in school a great reflection upon their work in carrying out the peace policy advanced by President Grant. Even though they were most anxious to establish a school, no available funds could be located until 1875. By January 6, 1876, Hoag had secured plans for the erection of the building and transmitted them to Pickering, instructing him to locate the building and have it constructed at once.13

Pickering decided that a boarding school would be more advantageous to the Kickapoos than a day school and located the building some distance from the bark villages of the Kickapoos. In the meantime Pickering became ill and resigned before completing the building. Levi Woodard, also a Quaker, accepted the position of Sac and Fox agent and the building was finished under his supervision.

Due to William Nicholson succeeding Enoch Hoag as superintendent of the central agency, the completion of the school involved much correspondence.14 Hoag had to discover how much money had been used in constructing the school under his direction and how much more would be required

Page 827

before the building was completed and ready for occupancy.15 After some time the building was completed and accepted. Desks were ordered and the Indians were about to be invited to place their children under the direction of the Quaker teachers, but the desks were burned in a railroad warehouse while Woodard waited for the rain to stop so that they could be freighted to the agency by wagon.16 Just at this point it was discovered that there were no funds with which to operate a school for the Kickapoos and the second order of desks were transferred to the Sac and Fox Manual Labor School.17

Even when funds were available for a Kickapoo day school, not a single Kickapoo child could be enrolled. Nothing could be done to force the parents to place their children in school. They stoutly persisted in their frequent declarations that the "world would come to an end" if they sent their children to white people to be instructed.18 Dr. James E. Rhoads proposed to send a man and his wife as missionary teachers in 1882 but the Indians remained firm in their declaration and nothing was accomplished.19

The Quakers were constantly expressing interest in the education of these people. In 1888 they sent a well trained Quaker lady to conduct a school for the Kickapoos. Moses Neal says of her attempt to impart an English education to the children of these people:

She coaxed, petted, and fed them for six months without securing a single pupil and left in disgust minus a gold watch.20

The Kickapoos were not as backward in farming as they were in accepting education. They were willing to farm their land, use agricultural implements, and very early they began to call in the Agency physician but they were still determined to follow their old customs. They could not be found at home except during the farming seasons, they traveled from one

Page 828

reservation to another, into Texas, Mexico, and even to the agencies of the north. Numerous letters are among the papers of the Sac and Fox Agency from agents in distant places requesting assistance in sending the Kickapoos back to their homes.21

In June 1875 Col. B. H. Grierson, U. S. officer commanding Fort Concho, Texas, reported to the commanding officer, Fort Griffin, Texas, the presence of a party of Kickapoos and Comanches, numbering about one hundred and thirty, at the head of the Concho River enroute from Mexico to Indian Territory, to whom he had issued rations sufficient for five days. They were carrying a pass from their agent allowing them to be off their respective reservations for a limited time and would probably reach Fort Griffin within a week.22

In spite of the strenuous objection of the Kickapoos to being enumerated, Levi Woodard secured a rather exact roll, with the names of the heads of the families, number of women, boys, and girls, and amount of property owned by each.23 However, no other employee was able to secure an enrolment of these Indians until after the turn of the century, equal to it in exactness; even the commissioners opening the country were not positive that they had included every one entitled to an allotment.24 They would sign their ration rolls for a few months and then for no reason apparent to their superintendent, refuse "to touch the pen." The quality of rations may have had something to do with their tempermental acceptance of these supplies. A. L. Stanton, superintendent of the Mexican Kickapoos advised his uncle, Levi Woodard, Sac and Fox Agent, of the situation in this letter:

Orlando has probably told thee something of the dissatisfaction there is on the part of the Indians on account of the kind of flour they have been receiving. They told one of the boys two weeks ago that they were going to refuse to take any more of it as they believed it made them sick, The contractors have

Page 829

been furnishing a very inferior lot of flour in my judgment but I believe I have mentioned this subject to thee once or twice before, and the part to which I wish more particularly to invite thy attention is, as to whether or not it would be better for the future to furnish a better quality of flour even if it does cost a little more. I do not know what grade of flour thee contracted to have furnished but I have not supposed it to be such as we have received. The Indians however look upon it as a fraud and say if we were not in some way a company to it we would put a stop to it. That we buy this flour because it is cheap and charge them for good flour and pocket the difference.
They seem to blame me more than any one else for they saw that I was placed here by the Government to look after their interests and to see that they are not imposed upon, and instead of doing that I am trying to force this sickly flour on to them . . . .
. . . I have no doubt but the fact that the Indians have plenty to live on at home and buckskin enough to buy their clothing and groceries, as they are free to admit, makes them more independent in this matter and perhaps harder to please.25

The change recommended in the rations was carried out and of September, 2, 1876, Stanton reported:

. . . Have not seen so many smiles on their faces at an issue for the last six weeks, all seemed well pleased and everything went off nicely.26

The Government provided stock for the Indians, who in spite of traveling from place to place, cared for the animals and soon had stock to sell. Each year a few were given to them over a period of several years beginning with work animals under Pickering in 1874 and 1875 and stock cattle under Woodard. After a short period most of the funds given them by the government was expended for work implements and stock. The rations were not discontinued en-

Page 830

tirely until some years after their country was opened to white settlement.

Depredation claims were being constantly presented against the Kickapoos for raids into Texas prior to their removal to Indian Territory and some were presented for acts committed as late as 1880.27 Therefore when the Kickapoos began to complain of the cattle being driven on to their reservation without their consent and against the wishes of the tribe in 1885, more than the usual amount of attention was given their complaint by Col. Summer who ordered the cattle removed after consulting with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who referred the matter to the agent, Isaac A. Taylor, for investigation.28 As late as 1890 the various settlers were worried by the tales circulated about the Kickapoos which led to the following:

A report has somehow got in circulation that the Kickapoo Indians were preparing to go on the warpath. I now take the liberty to write you that by request of Capt. Stiles Commanding Oklahoma City, I have visited the principal camps and took special notice of things, but could see nothing unusual with them. Therefore can say there is no foundation for the report. The only dissatisfaction among the Indians to my knowledge and has been for sometime is on account of the herds of cattle being permitted to run over their reservation, the cutting of timber along the line, hunting &c. The chief and a number of the leading Kickapoos wished me to draw your attention to that fact and ask that their reservation be cleared of all intruders. I received instructions on Aug. 13, to notify all persons having cattle in the reservation to remove them as soon as possible. On Aug. 15 and 16 I notified all parties. To this time nothing has been done. The same cattle or nearly so remain on the reservation. On the line timber is being cut and hauled off, and hunting is common. I am thoroughly acquainted with the Kickapoos and

Page 831

will give it as my opinion that if something is done to protect them in the above matter there need not be any fear of any trouble with them.29

The Kickapoos were constantly complaining to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in spite of the fact that they could not write. This is a typical letter in answer to a complaint sent to Washington by a Kickapoo chief:

I have read your letter in which you complain that the Blacksmith does not do your work because you will not bring coal from the Agency.
Now that you have been furnished transportation, you are required to haul all your supplies from the Agency to your homes, or do without. The Government will not encourage Indians in indolence and dependence nor do anything for them that they can do for themselves.
You have a Blacksmith who is reported to me to be a good mechanic and a faithful hard working employee. If you do not supply him with coal from the Agency, he cannot do your work, and as the Agent has been instructed to keep all employes busy at some work and knows best what requires to be done if the Blacksmith cannot work at his trade for want of coal he must do any other Agency work that the Agent directs.30

Out of these complaints the agent had a number of additional letters to write as they were always referred to him for a report.31 In order to liminate this feeling of neglect on the part of the Kickapoos, the commissioner instructed Moses Neal to call upon these Indians often and attempt to remove this very evident feeling of dissatisfaction among them.

Page 832

By 1879 the outlaws were causing a great amount of trouble among the Kickapoos, Shawnees, and Pottawatomies. They had established themselves between the reservations which were not as yet surveyed, well beyond the jurisdiction of the courts of the Five Civilized Tribes and while they could and were chased off from time to time by the military forces in Indian Territory, they returned as soon as the soldiers had left. They stole cattle and horses from the Indians, made flying trips into the nearby states and escaped unmolested to their strongholds in between the reservations.32 Their conduct did not increase the respect of the Indians for the white race.

As early as 1879 the boomers began to come into the Kickapoo country. As fast as one group were driven out, more took their place until there were a stream of disappointed home seekers constantly returning to Kansas and Texas. In 1883 David L. Payne tried to purchase land from the Shawnees in the vicinity of the Kickapoos who had not as yet had their reservation surveyed. He informed the Agent, J. V. Carter of his plan to allow the Shawnees 160 acres of land in place of the eighty acre allotment allowed them under their agreement of 1872. Carter reported the discussion to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who immediately frustrated the plan.33

In 1883 the Kickapoo reservation was established by executive order. This delay in establishing the boundaries of the reservation brought about a number of difficulties. A portion of the Shawnees and Pottawatomies had located on this land and had to be removed. They very naturally objected and their agent spent several months after the completion of the survey in getting them to remove. At first their crops had to be gathered, then the weather was too inclement to permit them to move, so that it was several years before all of them were establishd on their own reservation.34

By 1891 all of the available lands in Oklahoma were taken up and pressure was brought to bear on the Indian

Page 833

department to open the Indian reservations to white settlement. Commissioners were sent to all the Indian tribes to make agreements under which they would accept allotments and the remainder of their lands would be opened to homestead entry. The three men sent to the Kickapoos were David H. Jerone, Alfred N. Wilson, and Warren G. Sayre. These men offered the Kickapoos $64,500 for their surplus lands and proposed to make allotments of eighty acres to each member of the tribe. The Kickapoos rejected the offer. The matter was allowed to pass with the usual spasmodic efforts to influence them individually to accept allotments without success. March 3, 1893, Congress passed a bill making the acceptance of the Kickapoos unnecessary to complete the opening of their reservation to settlement. Due to other and more important lands to be opened and the difficulty in securing the consent of the Kickapoos to allotting their land, nothing was done toward opening the lands until 1895, when Oklahoma Territory decided to force the issue. The Daily Oklahoman, February 26, 1895 published these paragraphs:

The Kickapoo Country

Washington, Feb. 21.—Representative Curtis having a large correspondence asking what the interior department intends doing with the Kickapoo reservation, called at the land office today for the purpose of securing information on the subject. The cold statement was given out that there was nothing to say. All possible precaution was taken to give out no information.
From this and other instances it is believed by some that the officials are indulging in a scheme to open very suddenly that reservation some day just as soon as those standing in with the Department can be supplied with copies in a secret way. There is reason to believe that this scheme is now in progress, and that those familiar with the conditions understand very well the great advantage those who have been given the information will have over the others seeking homes.35

The Kickapoos refused to accept their allotments, an-

Page 834

nouncing their avowed intentions to retain their lands jointly. The commissioners could neither influence them to select their own allotments, nor force them to accept those selected for them. The Kickapoos had taken a firm stand against the opening of their reservation to the whites and maintained this position long after the reservation was opened according to the act of congress of March 3, 1893.36

During this troublesome time, the Choctaw Railway officials decided to re route their proposed rail road and run the line across the Kickapoo reservation. An injunction was obtained by various persons interested in securing the road for their town and near their own claims. The case filled the papers of the territory. A huge crowd turned out on May 1, 1895 to hear the decision of the court. The court decided that since the reservation was a part of Oklahoma Territory, the road could be constructed without the consent of the Secretary of the Interior.37

Shortly after the interest in the country concerning the construction of the railway had died down, a new phase of the Kickapoo situation was presented by the Daily Oklahoman:

The Kickapoo Reservation

Washington, D. C. May 15.—A very strong protest against the unaccountable delay in the opening of the Kickapoo reservation has reached the president. It is signed by several hundred prominent citizens of Oklahoma, and seems to have considerable effect. Secretary Hoke Smith until this protest was received, had maintained no great interest in the opening of the reservation. He has given orders to have preliminaries, such as the official confirmation of allotments, disposed of. It is thought that the president had prodded the interior department, and that the opening of the reservation is near.38

As there was no news of the proposed opening of the Kickapoo reservation, the Daily Oklahoman published the bill passed by Congress, March 3, 1893 without comment on the front page of the issue of May 19, 1895. However they did

Page 835

not have long to wait. On May 21, 1895, the proclamation of the president opening the Kickapoo reservation to homestead entry May 23 at high noon was published.39

The following day a statement of a Kansas City Star reporter was published stating that there were more than enough sooners in the Kickapoo country to take up all the available lands twice over.40

The Choctaw Railroad found the opening an opportunity to do a rushing business in sight seeing. They placed this announcement in the Daily Oklahoman for March 22:

The Choctaw will run a special train Thursday May 23, leaving Oklahoma City at 8 o'clock a. m. returning from Choctaw City at 5:30 p. m. Teams will be in waiting in Choctaw City to accommodate those wishing to go to the Kickapoo line and witness the sights. Every one should take advantage of this trip. Take your dinners and have a good time. Round trip 75 cents.41

After the opening of the country, the Government thought the Kickapoos would see the futility of further protests, accept their allotments, and settle down. But this was most certainly not the case, for only about one third of the tribe accepted their land and moved on their allotments, while two thirds of the tribe refused to have anything to do with the land selected for them by the commissioners.42

The majority of the tribe, who had refused to accept their allotments, became known as the kicking Kickapoos. In order to induce them to carry out the arrangements made without their consent by Congress, Martin J. Bentley was appointed to locate them on their allotments. Lee Patrick, Sac and Fox agent, made this comment on the work of Bentley and the general Kickapoo situation:

The Mexican Kickapoos were alloted 80 acres per capita in 1894. A number of them have refused to accept their lands and are known as the Kicking Kickapoos. This portion of the tribe is under a special agent, who is supposed to be locating them on their

Page 836

several allotments. Before the allotments were made these Indians were virtually self-supporting, but under the present condition, they seem to be entirely dependent, receiving this year for their support $10,000.
Under the present system the kicking Kickapoos are receiving help from the Government and are thus encouraged to kick while those who are living on their allotments and trying to do as the Government has directed are receiving nothing from the funds set apart for the support of the tribe. The bad effect is apparent as many who have accepted their allotments have joined the kickers in order to get rations. Of the true kickers there have not been over five located on their allotments during the past year. The Indian Office has not been positive enough in its instructions relative to the Kickapoos to enable me to know just what was its desire. The result in much friction among the employees and an unsettled condition among the tribe.43

The sale of land in the Kickapoo country secured by persons who soon wished to sell or trade the land, added its part to the unsettled conditions in the Kickapoo country. Nearly every issue of the Daily Oklahoman carried advertisements similar to these:

Kickapoo Claims

We have Kickapoo claims to trade for city property. If you want to buy or sell a claim in the Kickapoo country see Dunn and Whitman, Old Oklahoman Office.44
Farms in Kickapoo. Bargains in choice lands. M. N. Lynch.45

The Kickapoo lands, lying as they did in the vicinity of the town sites and along the Canadian bottom, were considered very desirable by the land speculators. Various ways and means were tried to get the lands, but the Indians could not sell their allotments as they were trust lands46 without an

Page 837

act of Congress. Efforts to secure such legislature were begun soon after the opening but it was not until Shawnee was well established that the necessary plan was consumated and funds raised to put that plan of securing the lands of the Kickapoos into action.

(To be Continued)

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