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The Cheyenne-Arapaho Cattle Ranch (1882-1885), covering three million acres from Darlington west to Texas, was the largest cattle ranch ever created within the state boundaries of Oklahoma. The Cheyenne-Arapaho Agency, established coincidentally with the practice of Texas cattlemen driving herds of bovine to railheads in Kansas, created conflicting interests. Indians sought payment in beef for the right of transit by cowboys crossing their domain. Cattlemen felt extorted. Violent gestures, verbal threats, and rustling accusations drew the attention of John D. Miles, agent for the Cheyenne and Arapaho.

In 1881 Miles petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior for permission to make leases to Texas cattlemen. His request was denied, allowing animosities to intensify. In December 1882 Miles tried easing the tension again, arranging a meeting between fifteen Cheyenne and Arapaho headmen and Edward Fenton, representative of a corporation later styled the Cheyenne-Arapaho Cattle Ranch. Terms agreed to were a rent of two cents per acre, payable in advance, every six months, for ten years. Miles forwarded the leases to the Interior Department as a fait accompli. Problems multiplied.

Cattlemen not included in the lease agreement ignored it, continuing past practices. Some Indians made separate deals with trail herders. Other Indians and whites sought to exploit the confusion, escalating hostile rhetoric until actual altercations ensued. Miles requested assistance from the U.S. Army at Fort Reno. The army refused to intervene in what it regarded as contract enforcement. Miles resigned as agent in 1884, being replaced by D. B. Dyer. His inexperience and lack of enforcement authority culminated in the Interior Department's request for army intervention. Pres. Grover Cleveland ended all the bickering on July 10, 1885, by ordering Gen. Phillip Sheridan to Darlington, nullifying all leases on the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation, and giving the white cattlemen forty days to remove their stock.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mary Ann Anders, "Ranching in Southwestern Oklahoma," Ranching Resource Protection Planning Document, Region Seven, 1984, State Historic Preservation Office, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Thomas L. Hedglen

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