From Buffalo Land
An Authentic Account of a Scientific and Sporting Party
in the Wild West

By W. E. Webb
Cincinnati and Chicago: E. Hannaford & Company, 1872

[From] Chapter I.

The old Indian love of commemorating events by significant names is well illustrated in Kansas. One example may be given here. Waukarusa once opposed its swollen tide to an exploring band of red men. Now, from time beyond ken, the noble savage has been illustrious for the ingenuity with which he lays all disagreeable duties upon the shoulders of the patient squaw. He may ride to their death, in free wild sport, the bison multitudes; but their skins must be converted into marketable robes, and the flesh into jerked meat, by the ugly and over-worked partner of his bosom. While she pins the raw hide to earth, and bends patiently over, fleshing it with horn hatchet for weary hours, the stronger vessel, his abdominal recesses wadded with buffalo meat, toasts his moccasined feet by the fire, fills his lungs with smoke from villainous killikinick, and muses soothingly of white scalps and happy hunting grounds.

1872 ILLUSTRATION Ox-like maiden, happy "big injun!" you both belong to an age and a history well nigh past, and let us rejoice that it is so.

But to return to the band long since gathered into aboriginal dust whom we left pausing on the banks of the Waukarusa. "Deep water, bad bottom!" grunted the braves, and, nothing doubting it, one loving warrior pushed his wife and her pony over the bank to test the matter. From the middle of the tide the squaw called back, "Waukarusa" (thigh deep), and soon had gained the opposite bank in safety. Then and there the creek received its name, "Waukarusa."

1872 ILLUSTRATION We procured a remarkable sketch, in the well known Indian style of high art, commemorative of this event. It has always struck us that the savage order of drawing resembles very much that of the ancient Egyptian--except in the matter of drawing at sight, with bow or rifle, on the white man.

[From] Chapter VI.

1872 ILLUSTRATION . . . So far along our route we had seen but few Indians, and those civilized specimens, such as straggle occasionally through the streets of Topeka. The Indian reservations in Kansas are at some distance apart, and their inhabitants frequently exchange visits. The few whom we had seen consisted of Osages, Kaws, Pottawatomies, and Sioux, all equally dirty, but the last affecting clothes more than the others, and eschewing paint. The members of this tribe, generally speaking, have good farms and are worth a handsome average per head. At the time of our visit they were expecting a half million dollars or so from Washington, and were soon to become American citizens. One privilege of this citizenship struck us as very peculiar. By the State law, as long as an Indian is simply an Indian, he can buy no whisky, and is thus cruelly debarred from the privilege of getting drunk, but once a voter, he can luxuriate in corn juice and the calaboose, as well as his white brother. What a travesty upon American civilization and politics!

1872 ILLUSTRATION Sachem produced a roll of dirty brown paper and said that he had studied the Indian question and found two sides to it. One he could give us in a nutshell, believing that the meat of the nut had often excited the spirit of war.

Where waters sung above the sand,
And torrent forced its way,
Stretched out, disgusted with the land,
A bearded miner lay,
Prepared to strike, with willing hand,
Whatever lead would pay.

Echo of hoof on beaten ground
Rung on the desert air,
Ringing a tune of gladsome sound
To miner, watching there;
A paying lead, at last, he'd found--
The vein a "man of hair."

An instant more, and at the ford
A savage chief appeared;
The miner saw his goodly hoard,
And tore his own good beard.
(You'll always find an ox is gored
When sheep are to be sheared.)

And these the words the miner said
"You've spoilt my drink, old fellow:
You've riled the brook, my brother red,
And, by your cheek so yellow,
To-night above your sandy bed
The prairie gale shall bellow.

"No relatives of mine are dead,
At least by Injun tannin',
But many other hearts have bled,
And many eyes are runnin';
For blood and tears alike are shed,
When you go out a gunnin'.

"Some slumbrin' peaceful, first they knew,
They heard your horrid din--
Women as well as men you slew,
You bloody son of sin;
I mourn 'em all, revenge 'em too,
Through Adam they were kin."

This having said, the miner smart,
Drew bead upon the red man;
They're fond of beads--it touched his heart,
And Lo, behold, a dead man;
Upon Life's stage he'd played his part,
A gory sort of head man!

Two packs of goods lay on the ground;
Quoth miner, "Lawful spoil!
My lucky star at last has found
As good as gold and oil;
I kinder felt that fate was bound
To bless my honest toil.

"Such heathen have no lawful heirs--
I'll be the Probate Judge,
For though they kinder go in pairs,
Their love is all a fudge;
I'll 'ministrate on what he wears,
And leave his squaw my grudge.

[From] Chapter IX. Arrival at [Fort] Hays.

The post possessed considerable military importance, being the base of operations for the Indian country. We found Sheridan there, an officer who won his fame gallantly and on the gallop. During the summer our red brethren had been gathering a harvest of scalps, and, in return, our army was now preparing to gather in the gentle savage.

We had read accounts in the newspapers, some time before, of the capture of Fort Wallace and of attacks on military posts. Such stories were not only untrue; but exceedingly ridiculous as well. Lo is not sound on the assault question. His chivalrous soul warms, however, when some forlorn Fenian, with spade on shoulder and thoughts far off with Biddy in Erin's Isle, crosses his vision. Being satisfied that Patrick has no arms, his only defense being utter harmlessness, and well knowing that the sight of a painted skin, rendered sleek by boiled dog's meat, will make him frantic with terror, the soul of the noble savage expands. No more shall the spade, held so jauntily, throw Kansas soil on the bed of the Pacific Railroad; and the scalp, yet tingling with the boiling of incipient Fenian revolutions underneath, on the pole of a distant wigwam will soon gladden the eyes of the traditionally beautiful Indian bride, as with dirty hands she throws tender puppies into the pot for her warrior's feast. The savage hand, crimson since childhood, descends with defiant ring upon the tawny breast, and, with a cry of, "Me big Indian, ha, whoop!" down sweeps Lo upon the defenseless Hibernian. A startled stare, a shriek of wild agony, a hurried prayer to "our Mary mother," and Erin's son christens those far-off points of the Pacific Railroad with his blood. A rapid circle of hunting-knife and the scalp is lifted, a few twangs of the bow fills the body with arrows, there is a rapid vault into the saddle, and a mutilated corpse, with feathered tips, like pins in a cushion, dotting its surface, alone remains to tell the tale of horror.

1872 ILLUSTRATION Blood had been every-where on the railroad, which reached across the plains like a steel serpent spotted with red. There was now a cessation of hostilities, and Indian agents were reported to be on the way from Washington to pacify the tribes. As they had been a long time in coming, the inference was irresistible that the popping of champagne corks was a much more pleasant experience than that of Indian guns would have been. The harvest of scalps had reached high noon some time before. Far off, south of the Arkansas, the savages had their home, and from thence, like baleful will-o'-the-wisps, they would suddenly flash out, and then flash back when pursued, and be lost in those remote regions. Lately, United States troops have been so placed that the Indian villages may be struck, if necessary, and retaliation had; and this, together with the pacificatory efforts of the Quaker agents, is doing much to bring about a condition of things which promises permanent peace.

The evening before our departure we rode over to the fort and called upon General Sheridan. . . .

We found the General thoroughly conversant with the difficult task to which he had been called. "Place the Indians on reservations," he said, "under their own chiefs, with an honest white superintendency. Let the civil law reign on the reservation, military law away from it, every Indian found by the troops off from his proper limits to be treated as an outlaw." It seemed to me that in a few brief sentences this mapped out a successful Indian policy, part of which indeed has since been adopted, and the remainder may yet be.

When speaking of late savageries on the plains the eyes of "Little Phil" glittered wickedly. In one case, on Spillman's Creek, a band of Cheyennes had thrust a rusty sword into the body of a woman with child, piercing alike mother and offspring, and, giving it a fiendish twist, left the weapon in her body, the poor woman being found by our soldiers yet living.

"I believe it possible," said Sheridan, "at once and forever to stop these terrible crimes." As he spoke, however, we saw what he apparently did not, a long string of red tape, of which one end was pinned to his official coat-tail, while the other remained in the hands of the Department at Washington. Soon after, as Sheridan pushed forward, the Washington end twitched vigorously. He managed, however, with his right arm, Custer, to deal a sledge-hammer blow, which broke to fragments the Cheyenne Blackkettle and his band. Whether or not that band had been guilty of the recent murders, the property of the slain was found in their possession, and the terrible punishment caused the residue of the tribe to sue for peace. It was the first time for years that the war spirit had placed any horrors at their doors, and that one terrible lesson prepared the savage mind for the advent of peace commissioners.

[From] Chapter XI.

Our ideas of the savage had been so thoroughly Cooperised during boyhood, that when our guide approached the Wolf, and, with a gesture to the south, invited him back to Hays, I was prepared to see the tall form straighten in the saddle, and pictured to my imagination some such specimen of untutored eloquence as this:

"Pale-face, the blood of the Cheyenne burns quick. He meets you trailing like a serpent across his warpath, seeking to steal treasures from the red man's land. He asks food, and you tell him to come into your trap and get it. Pale-faces, remove your hats; noble Cheyennes, remove their scalps!"

Nothing of this kind occurred, however. Our guide informed us that the bold savage simply fastened one button of his tailless coat, grunted out "Ugh!" in a satisfied way, and motioned his band to follow. This they did, and we were soon retracing our steps to Hays; by the guide's advice, making the savages keep a fair distance behind us.

[From] Chapter XXIX.

Of one fact our journey thoroughly convinced us. Lo's forte has no connection with the fort of the pale-faces. An unguarded hunter, or a defenseless emigrant wagon, or unarmed railroad laborer, gratifies sufficiently his most warlike ambition. The savages of the plains, in their attacks upon the whites, have been like bees, stinging whenever opportunity offers, and immediately disappearing in space. Their excuses for the murders they commit have been as various as their moods. At one time it is a broken treaty, at another the killing of their buffalo, and trespassing upon the hunting-grounds, and again it is some other grievance. It may be some gratification for them to know that it is estimated that, until within the last three years, a white man's scalp atoned for each buffalo killed by his race.

In our various wars with the Indians, it is worthy of remark the bison have been like supply posts at convenient distances, to the hostile bands. Traveling without any supplies whatever, and therefore rapidly, a few moments suffice to kill a buffalo near the camping spot, and roast his flesh over the chips. The pony, meanwhile, makes a hearty meal on the grass. On the other hand, our troops, in pursuit of these bands, have had to encumber themselves with baggage wagons, or pack-mules, bearing food and forage.

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