i AM HAVING SOME LOW VISION PROBLEMS- BUT I WILL FIND A WAY TO CONNTONUE WRITING ABOUT EARLT ROSEBUD LAWYERS. MEANWHILE HERE'S SOME STORIES YOU HAVE NOT READ BEFORE.
Prior to 1500 the Ponca tradition places them in
. They subsequently migrated to the Virginia Ohio and Wabash valleys. When the early traders came up the Missouri River they were settled at the confluence of that river and the Niobrara River in . Their sphere of influence extended from the Nebraska to the Black Hills.1 Platte River
They are a linguistic member of the Sioux family and along with the
, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw made up the Degina (DeHeeNa) division of the Siouxan language.2 Omaha
The Poncas signed their first treaty with the
in 1817 and followed with further treaties and land sessions in 1825, 1858, and 1865 when their reservation was reduced to 96,000 acres. U.S.
By the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868, in a heartless and thoughtless act of pure negligence, the
gave the land previously reserved for the Poncas to the Sioux. U.S.
Thereafter the Sioux considered the Poncas as trespassers and stepped up war party raids on their neighbors.
The official reports of the Ponca agency stated:
“In the Months of March and April 1869 Dakota Chief Spotted Tail with a large party of his chiefs, headmen and soldiers visited the Poncho Agency . . . (to make peace) . . . between the Dakota and the Poncho . . . during the visits of the Dakota the Ponca did make presents to Chief Spotted Tail and his people to the amount of 31 horses, 10 beef cattle, 34 sacks of flour, 360 blankets, 610 yards of Indian cloth and twenty double guns and rifles . . . and for which Spotted Tail and his people invited the Chiefs of the Ponca tribe and their people to visit them . . . (and they would deliver their presents) . . . in July of 1869 the Ponca paid them a visit and received presents of 180 ponies. These the Lakota now claim they are taking back. It is evident that the Ponca made larger presents than they received from the Lakota.”
The report also states that the Minniconjou had stolen 21 of the Poncas horses that they refused to return. On September 15th the Sicangu stole more horses from within the confines of the Ponca camp.3
Spotted Tail’s camp didn’t need to steal anything. They were a fat agency. The Ponca on the other hand were dying of starvation. In fact, things were so good at Spotted Tail’s Whetstone agency that in July of 1870 D.C. Poole requested that the cattle delivered by the Bosler cattle company be held and not issued.4 On May 10th a party of Lakota attacked and killed a small boy and carried off a twelve year old girl at the “Bohemian settlement” near Niobrara, Nebraska. The Ponca were blamed by the white settlers for the depredations of the Lakota.
In 1877 the Ponca were given 25,000 dollars for moving expense and were sent packing from
Niobrara, Nebraska to the Indian Territory in . By 1878, as a result of this tragic move fully one third of the tribe had perished. In 1962 the tribe was officially terminated. On October 1990 the Northern Ponchos were restored to federally recognized status.6 On September 7th, 1863 agent Hoffman counted 864 members of the tribe.7 At the time they were finally restored to federal status in 1990 there were 442 members.8 Oklahoma
The following account is but one shameful event in the history of this small peaceful tribe’s relation with the
On December 26th, 1863 Agent Hoffman took the statement of Ponca who had survived a murderous massacre by members of Company B 7th Iowa Cavalry, stationed at
He reported that a party of Ponca was returning from the
agency to their homes. That the party consisted of the following: One was There (1) and his wife (2), Red Leaf (3), his wife (4), a boy (5) and a girl (6) Dirty Face (7), and his wife (8), Nice White Cow (9) and his wife (10), Medicine man—a youth (11), his mother (12) and a boy (13), One Sleeps on the Way, a woman (14) and her child a girl (15). Omaha
Here is their story.
On December 3rd, they arrived three miles below
Niobrara and camped near the house of a friend, Mr. Huddleston. Near sunset two soldiers, who had been hunting, came to the camp and asked who they were. They signed that they were Ponca and the soldiers left.
After dark when the Ponca were preparing for bed some fifteen soldiers rode up. The soldiers tied their horses and went into the lodge. A black bearded soldier wearing a wolfskin coat offered One Was There money for his woman, clearly demonstrating by signs what he wanted. This same soldier then offered a one dollar bill with his left hand and a cocked pistol in his right demanded that One Was There give him his woman.
Another soldier who wore a cavalry jacket with chevrons on his sleeve, a slender man with short nose and large eye, also demanded a woman threatening to cut their throats if he was refused.
Another soldier wearing a wolf tail on his hat also drew his revolver, unbuttoned his pants, pulled out his penis and approached a person wrapped in a blanket, he supposed to be a woman, but who was a young man.
One Was There sounded an alarm and the Poncas lifted the sides of the lodge and fled barefooted in the night with the soldiers firing shots after them. They managed to reach their horses and escape.
The soldiers cut the lodges to pieces, fired balls through the cooking kettles and pans scattered dried corn and pumpkins on the ground and took three guns, seventeen bear skins, two buffalo robes, one three point blanket and other articles.
After the soldiers left with their booty the Poncas returned to gather up what was left when they were scared off by an approaching wagon being driven by the soldiers. The soldiers then loaded a large lodge skin covering and several beaver traps and left.
The Poncas returned a second time and gathered what remained of the scattered food and started their journey home.
They passed the town of
without incident. After traveling about seven miles past Niobrara Niobrara they stopped to warm themselves and eat some parched corn they had saved. At that time several of the women and children left to search for wild beans, an Indian delicacy. At the camp the same number of soldiers again rode up and chased those who were in the camp away. The soldiers fired at them as they ran and wounded Red Leaf’s wife and the child she carried on her back, with two balls passing through the child’s thigh and one entering the mother’s side.
The soldiers then took the Indians ponies and what other articles the Poncas had left and started back. The women and children, who had gone after wild beans, were about a half mile below the camp. They quickly hid in the willows, but as the soldiers were passing a little dog barked exposing their hiding place and the soldiers quickly turned on them.
A young boy and his brother were a short ways off. The young boy hid himself and witnessed what took place.
He stated that two soldiers dismounted and deliberately shot Nice White Cow’s wife in the forehead as she was cowering in the bushes. His mother, (#12) was killed by three balls entering her forehead and cheek and the young girl (14) was killed by a ball entering her breast.
The young boy ran off and chased by the soldiers. He escaped by hiding in the
by diving into a hole in the ice. Niobrara River
His mother also had her head nearly severed by a sabre or knife and the young girl had her clothes torn off leaving her naked.9
After Agent Hoffman reported the murders he took it upon himself to go to
Niobrara and investigate the matter.
On January 14th 1864, Hoffman reported that Sgt. West was in charge of the party of soldiers, but no soldier would identify any of the others. When asked about the “wolfskin coat” and “wolf tail hat” the well rehearsed response was that “why every body wore that coat and hat from time to time and it would be impossible to remember who wore it on the 3rd and 4th of December.”
Hoffman interviewed Wm. Henry Sturges and William Young, who had reported that they had returned to
Niobrara on the day in question because they had “seen” two or three Indians.
The town’s folk indicated that Sturges, who ran a small store and traded with the Indians, might have made up the Indian scare just to increase his business. They said he traded extensively with the Poncas and probably knew all of them and that his report of a scare was probably a sham.
One of the soldiers said that the purpose of going to the Ponca camp was not to attack the Indians, but for a different purpose. Hoffman does not state the purpose so one may assume that the purpose was one that a gentleman of his generation would not put in writing.
“The general opinion of the citizens at
Niobrara was that the soldiers were glad of an opportunity to cover up, if possible their transactions of the previous night.”
“. . . I am confident”, he continued, “that the Poncas were not at all in fault, They have, in my opinion, been robbed, and some of the defenseless women and children murdered-the killing of them cannot be expressed in a milder term. . . ..”
The Poncas, no doubt in the same frame of mind as the student who stated “we couldn’t do anything about it anyway,” did not demand that the guilty be delivered to them for punishment, but through agent Hoffman urged he . . . “now prefer as charges against the detachment of soldiers . . . and demand that a proper and speedy investigation of all the facts and circumstances be made. . . at the soldiers who are guilty shall receive just punishment . . . and the Government indemnify the (Poncas for loss of life and property).”10
In a letter dated April 11, 1864, Hoffman reported that the only response to his charges was in a letter from General McKean who wrote Superintendent Edmunds:
“Gen’l McKean writes that a thorough investigation will be made of the whole subject and that the property taken from the Indians, so far as it can be found will be turned over to you to be returned to the Indians.
It would seem from a short conversation I had with Major Armstrong (the army investigator) that this case will not be found to vary much from the general rule to wit: “there are two sides to it”. I requested Major A., if he could possible do so, to visit you at the agency that he might have a personal interview on the subject.”11
Armstrong, of course, never bothered to interview Hoffman, but only interviewed Sturges and Young, and continued on his way the next day. Hoffman was incensed. He considered the two a coward and a fool.
Hoffman wrote: “More than three months have now elapsed since my report (he wrote) . . . from the view of the case which you derived from a short conversation with Major Armstrong when on his way up the Niobrara, “that this case would not be found to vary much from the general rule, to wit, there are two sides to it,” I conclude that he must have made very different representations from those contained in my report. My impression is that his mind was made up before he reached Niobrara. . .The unanimous opinion of the citizens of
Niobrara (is) that even if it was not intended to be (the investigation) was indeed, a farce.”
He continued, “If a thorough investigation of the whole subject promised by Gen’l McKean has been made, is it not time that it should be known?”
“With all due respect I am constrained to say that our Government does not deal with sufficient promptness with the Indians . . . The Poncas are not only entitled to justice, but merit the respect and deserve he charity of the Government to which they are truly loyal. . . . ..”12
The Government must have taken Hoffman’s request for justice as sheer militancy.
At last Hoffman was free to speak his mind. On August 20th, 1864 he wrote:
”Having resigned the office of Indian Agent . . . I have the honor to make the following report.”
Hoffman restated all of the charges of murder by the Army and identified Lt. Comstock of the 7th
cavalry as one of the first two soldiers to stop the Poncas. Iowa
“This matter was presented in full to the Department by my letter dated December 27th, in which I detailed the losses of the Indians and presented their claim for six hundred dollars for each life lost, two hundred dollars for each wounded and one thousand dollars for the loss of property and their suffering . . . ..”
Hoffman restated the history of events and investigations, including the Army’s, and his request of April that the matter be fully investigated and that justice be done . . . He had finally received a promise that the army would try the soldiers. A shallow promise indeed. Hoffman continued.
“ . . . I have labored hard for three years to improve the conditions of these Indians, having in view the great object of teaching them to use tools . . . but unfortunately for the success of my efforts, they have for more than three fourths of the time been in a state of famishment. And this has not been from any fault of theirs or mine. In the summer of 1861 they made no crop. There was no land prepared for cultivation when I took charge . . . on the 1st of June . . . .. Through the winter of 1861-61 the Poncas subsisted upon the charity of the Government. In the summer of 62 a partial crop of corn was raised. From the 20th of June until the 7th of August that year we had no rain . . . .. The records of the Hospital . . . at
. . . show that only three tenths of an inch of rain fell there from May 1863 to the present year . . . Crops of all kinds have entirely failed. My statistical report of farming will show the number of acres of each planting. . . ..”13 Ft. Randall
Hoffman concluded with a plea for the prompt settlement of the Poncas’ claims. Hoffman had been denied nearly all claims for a swather, hay press and other articles of farming utility. He had been told to make the Indians work by hand.
Having failed to secure justice for the Poncas, Hoffman wrote:
“I therefore exceedingly regret not so much on my own account personally, as for the welfare of the agency, . . . the apparent lack of confidence on the part of the Department at Washington in my judgement beg most respectfully to submit that in my opinion, a man possessed of an ordinary share of common sense and residing here on the ground is best able to judge of what is and what is not needed. If I do not possess that required ordinary share of common sense, then I ought not to occupy the position I do . . . (and) as a matter of justice to the Poncas . . . I should be removed, and a better man placed in my stead.”14
In fact starvation had become a problem in 1863. On April 29th Hoffman sent the following letter:
“I am informed there is in the commissary store at Fort Randall, a lot of between ninety and one hundred barrels of pork which have been condemned (I believe for, the second or third time.) as wholly unfit for issue to the troops. I am informed that if ordered sold, it would probably bring one dollar per barrel. I desire to obtain this pork for the Ponca Indians, and have respectfully to request, that application be made to the Commissary General of Subsistence USA for instructions to the A.A.C.S. at
to turn it over to me, without charge . . . or for such price as he . . . may consider it worth.”15 Fort Randall
On July 29th 1864, his resignation was accepted.
Thereafter the Ponca packed up lock stock and barrel and moved in with their friends the
Omaha’s Reservation along the Missouri River in eastern . They told the Nebraska ’s agent that they had moved because they were starving and they no longer had an agent who cared for them. Omaha
Students in the St. Francis Indian School gifted class were asked to read agent Hoffman’s report of the murder and write their reactions. They wrote the following:
“Some white man probably said ok it was the Indians fault and let the white soldiers go unpunished.”
“The soldiers probably said that the Indian women came on them.”
“The soldiers thought the Poncas were just a bunch of stupid, dumb, and dirty Indians.”
“They were not punished because they were white.”
“Back then white people were very prejudiced against us Indians. That is why it takes me a while to like a white person, even when they did nothing wrong, just because of their ancestors part. I can still feel the hatred in my eyes. I know I am wrong. But they label us as dirty, poor, drunk, crazy, thieves, etc. “We couldn’t do anything about it then or now.”
What happened to the soldiers of the 7th
“They were white weren’t they.”
If Lakota students of the 1990’shave such deep sense of distrust, imagine how their ancestors felt in 1864.Students participating in the project were Johanna Quigley, Sally Beauvais, Kayleen Young, Summer Lunderman, Emma Yellow Hawk, Nathan Night Shield.