By 1850, the Arapaho people were considered to be “wild and barbarous”. They were greatly feared because of possible Indian uprisings against the settlers moving into their hunting territory.
However, they did have advocates who attempted to work on their behalf with Washington. One such man was Agent Thomas S. Twiss who was given the charge of the Platte River tribes. They numbered 6,500 Sioux, 1,600 Arapaho and 1,400 Cheyenne who contended with each other over their hunting grounds while opposing white encroachment. (Trenholm, pg 144)
In 1857, Twiss unsuccessfully tried to stop Morman Mail Stops from being built in the tribes’ territory. By 1858, gold seekers invaded the territory and by 1859, immigrants were pouring into Pikes Peak area by the thousands.
On September 18, 1859, Twiss held a council at Deer Creek, Nebraska Territory. The Arapaho chiefs present were Medicine Man, Black Bear, Cut Nose, Little Owl, and Friday with thirty of their leading men. The Arapaho, in an unprecedented move, spoke on behalf of the Sioux and Cheyenne as well as for themselves.
The following is the speech that was given by Chief Medicine Man, the head chief of the Northern Arapaho.
“Father (Twiss), the words which you have given us from our Great Father are good. We listen to his voice. Our country for hunting game had become very small. We see the white man everywhere; their rifles kill some of the game, and the smoke of their Camp fires scares the rest away….
It is but a few years ago, when we camped here, in the valley of Deer Creek, and remained many moons, for the Buffalo were plenty and made the prairie look black all around us. Now, none are seen and we are obliged to go to Yellow Stone, ten days travel, and then find only a few, for the Crow Tribe of Indians show hostile feelings towards us when we hunt there; oftentimes scaring away the game and stealing our horses….
Our sufferings are increasing every winter. Our horses, too, are dying because we ride them so far to get a little game for our Lodges. We wish to live….
We are willing that our people should plant and raise corn for food, and settle on small farms and live in Cabins. We ask our Great Father to help us until we can labor like the white people.
The Arapaho Tribe wish to settle on the Laramie River, above Fort Laramie. The Oglalas will settle on Horse Creek, in part; and another part on Deer Creek, the present agency….
We request that our Great Father will supply us for a few years with a Blacksmith, Carpenter, farmers, physicians, Missionaries of the gospel, and teachers; seeds, agricultural implements and stock; and such annuity good as our necessities may require.
With this assistance and a good disposition on our part, we shall in a few years be able to raise corn and live like the White man without any further aid from our Great Father.
Father (Twiss), we give all the rest of our Country to our Great Father, except the reservations above names. It is no longer any use to us, as nearly all the game has disappeared. We should ask our Father to permit us to hunt were the White man has not settled. “
Although Twiss was authorized to negotiate a treaty, nothing was accomplished other than a “big talk”.
Excerpted from The Arapahoes, Our People by Virginia Cole Trenholm; Chapter Seven, pages 133 – 157
Jackie Dorothy ©2016