Chapter XXIX.


I Visit the Indian Camp--Our Big Talk--Some of Their Grievances

--The Kindness of an Indian in Providing me A Horse

THE Indians were greatly pleased to see me. It is well understood by all who are acquainted with Indian character, that they undemonstrative as a rule, except when angry, especially the warriors. Many of them said I was a strong man and had good legs. They admired my companion, saying they knew him and knew he was a good hunter.

The most that I desired for a few days was to rest and eat. Sessions soon got filled up, but it seemed to me that I never would be able to satisfy my stomach for having punished it so with the sickly mountain sheep. There was plenty to eat at the trader's quarters. The agent was kind, giving us all the potatoes and milk we wanted; these being about the only articles the trader was lacking. The dog was in about the same fix as myself, he tried to eat everything on the reservation, but finally got satisfied by getting at a barrel of tallow, one day, and eating, as we all estimated, about ten pounds. Reader, remember this was a large dog.

Basor, the trader, would not cook for me. He said a man that ate as much as I did would have to do his own cooking. So one day while alone, I made up my mind to conquer my hunger. I cooked a good square meal for three of us, waited a little while for the others then sat down and ate the whole of it. I did not feel hungry again for several days. After getting this difficulty over, I told the Indians I would visit their camp and have a talk with them. A time was appointed, and Tabby, the chief, sent a man and horse for me. The camp was some eight miles from the station. When I reached their camp, there were about fifty of the principal man of the tribe present. "Captain Joe," of Thistle valley, was there also. I always considered him like some of our political white men, not very reliable.

I was informed by Joe that I could talk. I spoke to them about half an hour, telling them that notwithstanding all the trouble and war, the good Mormons were still their friends; that Brigham had always desired peace and was sorry that any of his people wanted to fight the Indians. After saying what I thought was safe, for I knew the delicacy of the subject, as some of the Indians had been killed by such as professed to be Mormons, and I was careful not to push the subject too far in my first attempt, I desired to hear Tabby talk.

I knew he was much respected by his people, also that he was not inclined to war, but had accepted the situation and let things run, neither taking an active part in killing and stealing, nor making any great effort to stop the war. He was very sore about the killing of his half brother while a prisoner. I, myself, considered this somewhat treacherous on the part of those who did it.

Capt. Joe seemed to think he must do all the talking for the Indians. No one else spoke. Joe urged me to say more. I told him I wanted to hear Tabby. The old fellow laid down, as much as to say, "I will not take part in this." The act nettled me considerably, and I told Joe I would not talk unless Tabby did. Tabby grunted out that he was an old man, and chief; that Joe was a little captain and young, and was good enough to talk to me. This made me mad. I got up and told Tabby that I was more of a man than he or any of his men ever were; that they had been born and raised in Uintah, and none of them had ever been brave or strong enough to cross the snow mountains, but had laid there shut up winter after winter like women; that I had done what none of them could do, and had done it to keep my word with them; that they had agreed if I would be their friend and tell "Washington" their grievances that they would listen to me and make peace.

When I got through, Tabby got up and said, "You talk big for a boy. I know you have strong legs and a good belly, for I have seen you eat. But I want to know where your grey hairs are, that give wisdom. You had better wait a few years before you talk." I really felt small under this sarcasm. He further said, "You have spoke about the Indians stealing from the Mormons. I can answer that by saying some of the Mormon bishops helped the agents to steal what 'Washington' sends us. While some of Brigham's bishops steal, I do not. Neither does Tom and many others; but we have stayed at home and worked and hunted. It is the bad Indians that will not listen to me that steal." He then named some twelve or fourteen present whom he said stole from the Mormons and made the trouble.

He continued, "I have told them it is wrong; now you may talk to them and make them good if you can. I am not bad and do not steal, so you do not need to talk to me."

I held several meetings and cultivated on every opportunity the personal friendship of the Indians, especially the raiders, talking kindly to them and gaining their confidence and good-will. At length, one night, the bad Indians were induced to talk. They related many things about their raids; each in turn told something of his experience, entering into details. How they felt, and giving the causes of their ill-feelings. Each taking his turn in talking, said that hunger often caused them to go on raids to get cattle to eat, always making the statement that the agents stole what "Washington" sent them; that Mormons helped the agents to steal; that the Sanpete Mormons had stolen their country and fenced it up. The lands that their fathers had given them had been taken for wheat fields. When they asked the Mormons for some of the bread raised on their lands, and beef fed on their grass, the Mormons insulted them, calling them dogs and other bad names. They said when the Mormons stole big fields and got rich, other Mormons, who were poor, had to buy the land from them, they were not allowed to steal it from the first owners, the same as the first Mormons stole it from the Indians.

I have often wondered how these statements will be answered. They are still open. I never could answer them like many other propositions I have had to meet while laboring among the Indians. I have had to give it up acknowledging that they had been wronged. All I could do was to get their hearts set right and then teach them magnanimity.

Some made jeer at this idea, but I have found more nobility of character among the Indians than what is common among many whites, even Mormons included.

In explanation of their accusing some of the Mormon Bishops of helping to rob them, it had been told to them how the agents managed to get certain ones to sign false vouchers for flour and beef. Whether this was true or not the Indians fully believed that it was. I found evidence is afterwards that at least looked like their accusations were well founded. All who are acquainted with Indian character know that a trader who deals liberally with the natives can hold a great influence over them. The Utes were great traders at that time, having a great many skins and furs to barter. They urged me to come and trade with them. This could only be done by buying out the trader and getting the appointment. So I bought out the trader, conditionally, with the hopes of getting the post tradership. In this I failed.

The friendship of the agent was only politic for the time being. His endeavors to keep me out of the situation were successful. Mine to bring about a permanent peace and get the Indians better provided for were also successful, probably much more so than if I had been allowed the trader's position.

After visiting with the Indians and gaining considerable influence over them, getting them to promise peace, provided the Mormons would be friendly again, I commenced preparing for my return home. The Indians wanted me to go back and talk to the Mormons and see positively what they said and how they felt, especially in Sanpete valley, where the war had been the worst. They wanted to be assured that the Mormons would not kill them, provided they came in to visit and trade as in former times. I agreed to find out and return again and see them, and bring a few more things they wanted.

There were two men, John Sessions and David Boyce, at the agency that wished to come in with me. We brought in five hundred pounds of buckskins. This, with our provisions and bedding, made about seven hundred pounds. On this trip the snow had settled and we moved along all right. The dog hauled most of the time two hundred pounds. We thought this a big load, but I afterwards learned what a load was for a large dog.

In justice to my Indian friends, and one in particular, I will relate one incident. Just before leaving, an Indian, Toquana, came to me and asked me if I did not want a horse. I told him that I had finished trading and had nothing to buy a horse with, and that I did not particularly need one as we would run the sled out on wheels until we struck snow, then we could haul it very well.

His reply was, "I do not want to sell you a horse. You are a friend, and are doing hard work for our good. I want you to live and keep strong; I do not want you to wear out. I know your legs are good, and I want you to keep them good to go over the deep snow where a horse cannot go. I have got a good, gentle horse that knows how to work; he is strong, can go through snow up to his breast. You take him, let him pull your sled just as long as he possibly can, then maybe you can find some place on the hill side where the snow is not deep; turn him out and if he lives I will get him, and it will be all right; if he dies, he will die mine, and I will know he died to help my friend, and that will be all right. I do not want anything at all, no presents or anything. I want to do this because I feel like doing it."

I took his horse, work him about eighty miles and then turned him on good grass where there was but little snow.

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