Archive for Sunday, February 20, 2011

Goal: Bring treaties back to Kansas

February 20, 2011


— Pickup trucks and cars daily whoosh past the intersection of 61st North and Seneca near the northern edge of Wichita.

The boulder on the northwest corner is oddly out of place.

Near this spot almost 146 years ago, some of the most iconic names of the Old West came together to sign a treaty for the sake of peace.

Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Kiowa Chief Satanta, Kit Carson, William Bent and Jesse Chisholm all sat under trees, where the boulder now sits surrounded by houses and a dog-training school.

Any peace gained from the treaty was short-lived; two years later, the U.S. government called a second meeting at Medicine Lodge.

These two treaties shaped and divided Kansas into an often violent, thundering clash of cultures, in the end forcing Native Americans from the state and spurring Euro-American settlement onto the prairie.

Now some Wichitans hope to work with the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., to bring the documents to Kansas in observation of the state's 150th anniversary, in part to promote discussion and awareness of Native American issues.

"I think any Kansan with a curiosity about how our state began — and more specifically how settlement occurred and what happened to the Indian tribes that were here — would find this an important historical document," said Clark Bastian, Fidelity Bank chairman and CEO. "They put you in the context of the times and what was happening here."

Last year, when Bastian and his brother, Clay, renovated the old Carnegie Building in Wichita for Fidelity Bank's offices, they commissioned St. Louis artist Bryan Haynes to create a sense of history and legacy for Wichita.

Haynes created two paintings: "Ride of the Four Horsemen," depicting the moment when four Wichita leaders rode out to meet drovers along the Chisholm Trail to encourage them to bring their herds to Wichita rather than nearby Park City; and "Treaty of the Little Arkansas 1865," featuring the signing of the treaty near Wichita.

That's one reason Clark Bastian said he'd like to see the original documents on display during events observing Kansas' 150th anniversary.

The inspiration for bringing the treaties to Wichita was Kansas historian Craig Miner, who died in September.

Bastian said he and Miner had talked about what it might mean to Kansans to see those documents.

It would allow descendants of some of the signers to view the documents for the first time.

"It makes me feel good my ancestors were here," said Milton Youngbird Hamilton of Towanda, a descendant of Black Kettle, who signed both treaties. "They were here along with the Osage, Wichita and Arapaho. They played quite a history in shaping Kansas."

In fact, the 1865 peace treaty began with an apology by the chairman of the peace commission, J.B. Sanborn, for the Sand Creek Massacre.

The massacre occurred nearly a year before when a Colorado militia attacked a group of Cheyenne — Hamilton's family members, of which Black Kettle was chief.

Beans and blankets

Black Kettle, known for encouraging peace between the U.S. government and Plains Indians, hoisted an American flag and a white flag to show the approaching soldiers that his was a friendly band.

It didn't halt the massacre and didn't keep the village from being destroyed. An estimated 70 to 163 Indians, many of them women and children, were killed and mutilated.

The survivors became a focal point for the 1865 treaty.

From Kiowa to Wichita, Cheyenne to Arapaho, Comanche to Apache, American Indian tribes from throughout the Great Plains gathered along the Little Arkansas River in the fall of 1865 and again near Medicine Lodge in 1867.

The treaties were designed to create peace for settlers traveling to frontier settlements in the West. They accelerated the expansion of the railroads and gave the U.S. government authority to sequester Indians on reservations.

In return, the Indians received flour, beans, sugar, clothing, blankets and bugles — and were moved into Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma.

In 1868, Black Kettle moved his tribe into the Oklahoma Indian Territory. On Nov. 27, 1868, Black Kettle's village was attacked by Custer's 7th U.S. Cavalry. More than 100 Indians were killed.

Among them were Black Kettle and his wife, Medicine Woman.

At the 1867 peace treaty, Kiowa Chief Satanta was nicknamed the "Orator of the Plains" by U.S. soldiers and reporters.

Satanta didn't like what had happened to the prairie and his people in his lifetime, and he wanted Euro-Americans to know:

"I love this land and the buffalo and will not part with it. I want you to understand well what I say. Write it on paper ... I love to roam over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die."

Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan would eventually be called on to dissuade Indians from raiding white settlements.

In 1868 and 1869, Sheridan organized a winter campaign to force Indians to return to the reservations by destroying their homes, horses and virtually everything else they valued.

Satanta was eventually captured and placed in prison.

On Oct. 11, 1878, he committed suicide by jumping out of his prison window, demoralized after hearing that he would spend the rest of his life in prison.

He is buried at Fort Sill, Okla.

Tribal culture lost

The government forced Eugene "Louie" Stumbling Bear's family from Kansas in the late 1860s and brought them back in the 1940s when workers were needed to fill Wichita's aircraft plants.

"I have lived in Wichita all my life," Stumbling Bear said. Kiowa Chief Stumbling Bear and Satanta were his great-grandfather and great-great uncle. Both were present at the signing of both treaties.

"Kansas is my home," Stumbling Bear said. "Those treaties forced them to give up a lot of their lands, but what can you do? That's what the government did to most of the treaties. As soon as they signed it, it was broken two or three months after."

He never forgets the legacy his family has carried.

As he has for the past five re-enactments of the Medicine Lodge Indian Peace Treaty Pageant, Stumbling Bear will play the role of his great-grandfather in this September's pageant at Medicine Lodge.

What would his great-grandfather have thought of how things turned out?

"When he was young, you could go anywhere you wanted to go," Stumbling Bear said. "Many of the Plains Indians felt the same way. The peace treaty gave the encouragement of the railroad and white man, and the Indians' way of life was put to an end right there.

"They saw it coming down the line," he said. "It was just inevitable when it got here."

When the tribes were forced from Kansas, most spent decades forbidden to speak their native languages or dance traditional dances.

The children were sent off to boarding schools to learn "how to be white," so much of the culture of each tribe was lost, said Lloyd Pappan, a Kaw who lives in Wichita.

But in the past four decades much of the Native American culture has started to make a comeback, through powwows and centers such as Wichita's Mid-America All-Indian Center.

The center's American Indian Festival, A Kansas Sesquicentennial Event, will be July 9-10 at Century II.

Like Stumbling Bear, Charlie Harjo has lived in Wichita all his life.

And, like Stumbling Bear's, Harjo's family was brought to Wichita in the 1940s.

"My grandfather was from Oklahoma and he wanted better for his son and moved to Kansas," said Harjo, who is of Choctaw and Creek heritage and served in Vietnam.

"When Grandpa found a job, he didn't have money for a car and would walk to work," Harjo said. "That's one thing Kansas offered the Native Americans, was a chance for a fresh start. As far as history goes, we can look back and say how bad everything was, but I believe good always comes from bad."

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