Chapter XLVII.


Deceit of my Interpreter--Indians Apply for Baptism--Some

True-Hearted Natives Receive the Ordinance--Help Given on our Ditch by the Pimas and Maricopas--The U. S. Agent Forbids my Interfering with the Indians

AS often as opportunity offered I talked to the Indians. As yet I had not found an interpreter that suited me; several whom I had met the year before had not come to our camp yet, their homes being some distance away. The interpreter I used, Geo. Roberts, was something of an adventurer, as the sequel will show.

I was at work one day in a field, planting, after we had been settled for some six weeks, when my interpreter came to me and said there were several of the leading men of the Salt river Pimas who wished me to come down to my camp, where they were, and baptize them.

I told him I did not think the Indians understood enough to be baptized; that I had not had time to teach them sufficiently. He said I had talked a great deal to him; that he understood and believed all I said, and fully explained all my words to these capitancillos (little captains), who also believed and wished baptism.

I did not feel satisfied. I have always been slow to baptize natives; my policy has been to teach them first, so that they would fully realize what they were doing. I have endeavored more to get them out of their degradation and savagery.

When I met these Indians I asked them (using the interpreter) what they desired. They said they wished to be baptized and be Mormons. I told the interpreter to say to them that I did not want them to be baptized until they fully understood what baptism was for. I continued talking, explaining what the requirements were, etc.

The interpreter insisted, after talking quite a while with the chiefs, that they fully understood me and were ready. I then told him to say to them: "Go back to your camp; talk with your head chief and your people, and explain these things. Take time to reconsider and do not be in a hurry to get baptized."

A few days after this my interpreter again came to me and said many hundred Indians I come to my camp (I was again at work away from home), all ready and wanting to be baptized.

I was now sorely puzzled, for there was nothing in reason to convince me that these ignorant natives were really subject to such sudden conversion. Still, I knew that our people looked forward to a time when nation will be born in a day, but I did not believe that time had come; yet it looked a little that way, so I went down.

On arriving at camp there were Indians in every place and direction; there were between three and four hundred,all looking pleasant and smiling. The chiefs were grouped, sitting quietly and sedately.

I commenced to talk to and question them, repeating what I had formerly said and added more, and in every way endeavored to fasten upon their minds the responsibility of being baptized. I really desired to deter them, if possible, for I had no faith in the reality of the situation. But my interpreter, who talked at length to them, professing to explain all my words, insisted that they fully understood and wanted to be baptized--the whole tribe included.

Several Elders were present, and I asked, "What shall I do? I have no faith in this. There is something wrong."

All said I had done my duty; if they insisted, all we could do was to baptize them, as we had no right to refuse.

I told the Indians all right--we would go to the river. At this all hands started pell-mell, the young ones laughing and playing, the older ones more sedate.

As I started to the river I observed a strange Indian looking intently at me. He was dressed differently from the rest. I asked him if he understood Spanish.

He answered, "Yes, perfectly."

"Have you heard and understood the talk with the Pimas?"

"Yes, sir; and the Indians are deceived. Your interpreter is either dishonest or does not understand you; I hardly know which, but I think it is a little of both. He talks considerable Spanish, but he has not fully understood you. I fully understand and want to help you."

"Will you go with me now?--and I will again talk to them."


On the way to the river my new friend informed me that the main inducement offered for baptism by my interpreter was, that to all who would be baptized I would give a new shirt; and to the men of families who had no land I would give lands. So it was no wonder at the number of converts.

When we got to the river bank I called the principal men together and taught them for a long time, fully explaining the true situation and requirements. The old chief, Chiacum, said he thought I must have lots of shirts and had looked around wondering where all my land was. My interpreter looked rather "sheepish."

When all was explained the old chief said he did not fully understand all I had said, but one thing he understood and was willing to try--that baptism required one to be a better man. Said he, "I am willing to be baptized and listen to your talk, for I believe it is good. I will seek to be a better man and try to learn more about God. Now here are three of us who are willing to do this; if this will do you can baptize us, we do not want any shirts; we will then try to learn and teach your words to our people, and when they are ready we will tell you and you can baptize them.

I now felt satisfied and baptized the old chief and the ones he named, feeling a real joy for I knew they were honest. This deception of my first interpreter had its effect that reaches far into the future. Believing on the start that he would be useful to me, I had given him a piece of land near by camp, where he had been doing a little work.

I now felt so disappointed in him that I wished to get rid of him. He said if he got his pay for the land he would leave. This he received in full, and I thought I would hear no more of him. In this, too, I was disappointed.

Often during the spring and summer natives visited our camp enquiring about our people and principles. I heard that the "shirt and land" story had reached quite a distance.

One party of Maricopas, fourteen in number, headed by an old chief, Malia, came to see us. They were very poor and destitute, but seemed more intelligent than the average. I was very busy, being obliged to go away from camp. The old chief said they were willing to help me, and insisted that I would show them some work to do, saying that they would remain and work until I had time to talk to them. This old fellow talked good Spanish.

I showed them a piece of land that we desired to plant in corn. They went to work and cleared the brush from it. I afterwards gave this same land to these Indians.

When Brother Merrills left, our ditch was not nearly finished. In fact it was simply commenced, and we who were left were almost destitute and heavily in debt.

Some of the same Indians we had employed offered to take hold and help us finish up the ditch if we would let them have some land lying along the river bottom. The land was sandy and broken with hills and hollows, and there was considerable brush on it. It was a kind of land the whites did not desire but the very kind the Indians preferred. I agreed to let them have this privilege.

The first who came were the same party under Malia (Maricopas), who worked clearing off land. I gave them the eastern portion of the land. Francisco Chico Ochoa, a Pima, came well recommended as a good, honest man. He agreed to keep me posted in regard to the character of those applying for lands. The Pimas were to have the western portion of the lands.

The agreement was that no Indians would be allowed to remain on these lands except those who would observe good order, live honest, sober, etc., and work for their own living, and in no way molest the settlers.

I talked with Mr. Hayden and some others about my plans. They said the Indians were generally well-disposed, and that years before the whites had invited quite a colony of Pimas to leave the Gila and come and settle on Salt river, as a kind of outpost or guard against the Apaches. This had been a success. "But," said Mr. Hayden, "as the country builds up and these Indians are not needed, you will doubtless see some of these same men who invited them here join in to drive them away. You, no doubt, will have trouble with your Indians in time."

I was deeply interested in these natives, and felt determined to do all I could for them; in fact, it was Indian or nothing if we finished our ditch in time to do anything the following season. So I divided off the land between the Pimas and Maricopas, leaving the chiefs to divide the lands among their people.

They soon went to work enlarging the ditch. These natives were of the poorer classes, having been living in settlements where the water had been shut off from them. They had been living for years in poverty and degradation. Their association with white men had only degraded them the more, and they were dwindling away and numbering less and less every year; so when they had the privilege of taking hold with us they were truly grateful.

When they commenced to move, some thirty odd miles, my son Wiley took his team and hauled their stuff for them. The squaws appreciated this, as most everything would have been carried on their heads; many a time they would pack from seventy-five to a hundred pounds. Some may ask, "If these Indians were so destitute, what was there to move?" I will see if I can think what there was. I remember well there was an eight-mule load for the Maricopas.

Without giving the number and pounds, I will name some of the principal articles. There were earthen water jars and cooking utensils; baskets and more baskets; dogs--too poor to make it afoot; Mosquite beans, old rawhides, metats, primitive hand-mills; a few old shovels, hoes, taxes, wooden plows, etc. These were about the average outfit of an Indian household. They were about destitute of provisions. I went and made arrangements with Mr. Hayden for their bread stuff.

The ditch was enlarged, during the fall and winter, so that there were several hundred acres of grain sowed by ourselves and Indians. I helped many of the Indians get their seed grain, and some of them borrowed from their more prosperous friends; they also got cattle to plow their fields from the Indians on the Gila.

As these people began to prosper, others came and wished to join in and continue to enlarge the ditch, and clear off and level down the broken lands. Sometimes the stock, belonging to the Indians living on their own lands on the opposite side of the river from our camp, would encroach on our fields. This was extremely annoying and many of the whites were sorely tried.

I was continually working to get a right understanding established.

The Indians claimed that no one had a right to occupy more country than they could fence or guard, and said that the people owning the fields were the ones to take care of them and watch the cattle.

Some of the settlers accepted the situation, and when the Indian stock would get onto their grain fields they would shoot them down. This rather got away with the Indians yet they would not get mad but would take the carcasses for food.

Owing to this trouble many of the white settlers became opposed to the Indians remaining longer on Salt river, so petitions were circulated and signed asking the government to remove them.

The agent visited me one day while I was working on the ditch, with some forty Indians helping. He accosted me in a very uncivil tone and manner and wanted to know what I was doing with his Indians. I said I was not aware that he owned these people. He said he was the U.S. agent from Sacaton; that he had heard that I was teaching these Indians Mormonism, and inducing them to leave the agency, and that he wanted the business stopped.

I told him it was none of his business what I was doing with the Indians; asked him if he knew what Mormonism was. He said he did not know anything about it.

"Then you had better wait until you do before commanding me to quit teaching it. I teach them to quit stealing, gambling, getting drunk and practicing other and worse vices; and to be cleanly and industrious; and advised them to earn their own living; and get ready to educate their young people; to quit killing witches; burning their dead, etc. How does that suit you?"

"0 that is all right."

"Well, sir, that is a part of Mormonism."

He seemed a little "stumped," then said, "Well, if I hear of any trouble, I shall forbid you employing these Indians."

I here showed him a letter that I had received from him when we first came in, asking me to give employment to a party of Indians, saying that they were good men and willing to work, but had no means of support, and that anything I could do for them would be appreciated.

I called his attention to what I had done for this people, according to his request, and asked him if he would like a copy of the letter sent to Washington. I never heard any more complaint from the agent.

The Indians that I had taken in to help on the ditch had but little stock and had agreed to take care of it, which they generally did. But visitors would come to see them and would sometimes be careless.

But the greatest trouble we had was with some five hundred Pimas who were settled about five miles from us, that we had no particular control over, they having settled there before our arrival.

I, in common with others, was much annoyed by their cattle, but desiring piece I studied how to out-general these cattle. I had also studied very hard to get an insight into the Indian character and ways, and was on the watch for an opportunity.

The old chief that I had baptized had some twenty head of work cattle belonging to his family and particular friends. They had come onto my fields several times. The old man always said it was his boy's fault, and seemed to regret it, sometimes paying a few sacks of wheat for damages. I told him that paying damages was a bad thing. It was lost to him and no gain to me, that I wanted the cattle kept off.

Finally an idea struck me. The cattle had damaged my crops a number of times. One day when I found them in my field I sent them to the chief with word that if they got on my field three times more that they would be mine, and that I would put my brand on them.

Soon the old man came over to see me, bringing a good interpreter. Said he:

"I do not understand what you say about branding my cattle."

Here I took a memorandum book from my pocket and commenced figuring. I explained to him that the cattle had been on my field and damaged me to an amount almost as much as the cattle were worth, and that three times more damaging would pay for the cattle when I would have a right to put my brand on them, having paid their full value.

I talked pleasantly and kindly, admitting that he was a good man and wanted to do right, but his boys were bad and careless. I said I would loan them the cattle for a while as I did not need them, but would let him know when I wanted them.

The old man was puzzled, he did not know what to say or do. At length, after sitting and studying a while, he said: "Suppose the cattle never get onto your land again; how will it be then?"

I then showed him my book and explained to him that some accounts were in pencil and some in pen and ink; that his was still in pencil and if left that way would wear out after a time, but sometimes it lasted two or three years, and that if he would keep his cattle away for a long time I would not write with ink and maybe the pencil marks would all wear out.

He seemed pleased at this, saying that the cattle should not get back any more, and the account would be sure to wear out before they came back.

I now gave the old man a piece of ground on our side near the crossing of the river. He said he would live there and watch the cattle himself and not let them cross. This was the land I had formerly given to my first interpreter who had deceived me so. This same fellow came afterwards and claimed the land. He was a Maricopa. This was on the end of the land I had given to the Pimas. I explained this to him. Although I considered there was nothing due to the man, I offered him land up among his own people. This he declined, but claimed the first piece.

I told him I had paid him for the land. He said I had not paid him for the land but for the work done on it; that the land was his. I finally told him to leave and bother me no more; that he was dishonest and I did not want to see him till he was a better man.

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