MEDICINE CREEK TREATY
Clinton Snowden, "The Medicine Creek Treaty," History of Washington. The Rise and Progress of An American State. New York: Century History Company, 1909. Volume III p. 270-276.
Having seen the session of the Washington Territorial Legislature well begun and learning that the Indians were assembling at Medicine Creek, agreeable to the invitation sent them, Governor Isaac I. Stevens immediately made ready to begin negotiation with them.
His treaty-making party consisted of himself and son, Hazard, then a boy of twelve, James Doty, secretary, George Gibbs, one of the scientists who had accompanied McClellan's surveying party during the preceding year as surveyor, H. A. Goldsborough, commissary and B. F. Shaw as interpreter...
The treaty making party reached the council grounds at Medicine Creek on December 24, the day before Christmas, a fact which shows that the governor regarded the business in hand as so pressing that holidays were not to be regarded. They found the Indians, to -the number of six or seven hundred, encamped on and near a sort of island, about a mile above the mouth of the creek and having the creek on one side and the tide mouth on the other.
Here Simmons, assisted by Orrington Cushman, Sidney S. Ford, Jr., and Henry D. Cock, had cleared away the underbrush from a considerable space, and pitched tents for the accommodation of the treaty-makers.
The cleared ground afforded ample space for assembling the Indians, and to permit them to spread their blankets and be seated, within seeing and hearing distance of those who were to address them. It also afforded ample opportunity for all to see the maps showing the grounds ceded and those reserved. "It was my invariable custom, whenever I assembled a tribe in council," the governor says, "to procure from them their own rude sketches of the country, and a map was invariably prepared on a large scale, and shown them, exhibiting not only the region occupied by them, but the reservations that were proposed to be secured to them.
As the Indians were nearly always accustomed to make rude drawings on bark or on the ground, to explain the general extent and physical characteristics of the country to strangers and to each other, this was the best possible way to make them understand what they were giving up and what they were to retain.
The council was not assembled until the 25th, the intervening time being spent in conferring with the chiefs and principal men, securing from them a general description of the region they claimed, and indicating to them what they were to be asked to give up, what they would be offered for it, and what would be set apart for their reservations.
On the following day the council was assembled and the governor made a brief address, explaining the purpose of the assembly, and telling the Indians what he hoped to accomplish by the treaty, for them and for the government and the settlers. The map which had been prepared for the occasion was exhibited, and then the treaty, so far as it had been prepared, was read and interpreted for them sentence by sentence, in the Chinook jargon, which most or all of them understood.
This was rather a tedious process, but no part of the reading or translating was omitted, the Indians listening generally with close attention. When the reading was concluded the chiefs and principal men were encouraged to make such suggestions and comments as they wished, and this invitation was accepted.
The council then adjourned for the day, the Indians being told that they would be expected to discuss all matters proposed, among themselves, and be prepared on the following day to make new suggestions, if they should desire to do so, and then, if an agreement was reached, to sign the treaty.
During the remainder of the day and evening, the members of the governor's party, including Secretary Mason, Lieutenant W. A. Slaughter of the 4th infantry, and some of the settlers in the neighborhood, who were present, mingled freely with the Indians, discussed the treaty with them and listened to what they had to say regarding it. Some of the more prominent and influential chiefs called at the governor's tent, or were invited to meet him and discuss the business in hand.
On the following day the Indians were again assembled and the governor made a short address, saying that the treaty had been read and explained to them and, if it was acceptable, he and they would now sign it. If it was not acceptable-if they wished it changed in any respect they should say so, and he would see if what they proposed could be accepted.
Some speeches were made, for the Indian never permits an occasion of so much importance go by without honoring it with some oratory, but few raised any definite or serious objection. They were not, however, quite prepared to dispose of the matter so promptly as the governor wished. They had expected to take much more time to think it over and talk about it, and it was not until a young member of the Puyallup tribe, until then not recognized as a person of any considerable standing or influence, had made an impetuous speech in favor of the treaty, that the day was carried.
The young orator's name was Linawah or Sinawah, to which the Christian name of Richard had somehow become prefixed. He was forever after known as Tyee Dick, and lived to a green old age.
Toward evening on the 26th the signing began and was continued until all the chiefs and principal men of all the tribes present, sixty-two in number, had affixed their signatures by their marks. The nineteen white men present signed as witnesses. These were M. T. Simmons agent, James Doty secretary of the treat making party, C. H. Mason secretary of the territory, Lieutenant W. A. Slaughter James McAllister of the Simmons-Bush pioneer party, E. Gaddings Jr., George Shazer, Henry D. Cock, Orrington Cushman, Sidney S. Ford Jr., John W. McAllister, Peter Anderson, Samuel Klady, W. H. Pullen, F. 0. Haugh, E. R.Tyerall, George Gibbs, Benjamin F. Shaw, and Hazard Stevens.
The first Indian signer was Qui-ee-mett, or Quiemuth, and the third Lesh-high, or Leschi, two chiefs of the Nisqually tribe, who were prominent in the Indian war of the following year. The Indians who were present at the council generally agree that Leschi made objection to the treaty, and that his objection led to a stormy colloquy with the governor, during which the commission, which had previously been given him as a chief, was destroyed in the presence of the whole council.
It has been claimed that he did not sign the treaty though there can be no doubt that he did do so. The signatures of eighteen of the nineteen witnesses is ample evidence of the fact. The nine-teenth was the governor's son, a boy of twelve and it has been objected that he was too young to make his testimony of any value. The objection may safely be allowed, as the testimony of the other eighteen is amply sufficient.
This treaty provided for the Payment of $32,500 in goods, clothing and farm implements, in annual distributions extending over twenty years; for the expenditure $32,500 in goods, clothing and farm implements, in annual distributions extending over twenty years, for the expenditure of $3,250 in removing the Indians to and improving their reservations; for the establishment and maintenance for a period of twenty years, of a school, a blacksmith shop and carpenter shop, and the necessary school-teachers to instruct them and their children.
It also assigned them three reservations of about two sections, of 1,280 acres each, one of which was Squaxon Island in North Bay, not far from the present town of Shelton, one a mile or more west of the mouth of the Nisqually River, and one on the west side of Commencement Bay, where the city of Tacoma now stands.
It was not expected that the Indians would immediately confine themselves to these tracts of land. They agreed to remove to them within a year and to reside upon them, but they were expressly permitted to take fish, for all time, at the places where they had been accustomed to go for the fishing season, and to those of them who owned horses or cattle, was reserved the privilege of pasturing them on any unoccupied lands.
Besides the governor had planned to establish one large reservation, as remote as possible from the present settlements, and yet at a place likely to be acceptable to the Indians themselves, on which all who were not inclined to adopt the habits of civilization, and preferred to continue their tribal relations, might ultimately be concentrated.
The negotiation with these tribes having been thus concluded within less than three days, the governor directed Gibbs to survey and mark the boundaries of the reservations provided for, and dispatched Simmons, Shaw, Cushman, Cock and Ford to assemble the remaining tribes of the Nisqually nation at Point Elliot for the second council.
Clinton Snowden, "The Medicine Creek Treaty," History of Washington, the rise and progress of an American State. New York: Century Publishing Company, 1909. Volume III, p.272-276.
MEDICINE CREEK TREATY
Ezra Meeker, "The Medicine Creek Treaty," Pioneer Reminiscences of Puget Sound. Seattle: Lowman and Hanford, 1903. Chapter XXX.
However much we may condemn the treaty making policy of the Government (the people of the United States), and point out the friction underlying the system, we must not close our eyes to the formidable difficulties confronting the "Fathers" while struggling for independence with as unrelenting and heartless foe as ever waged war on a supposed weaker party.
From the discovery of the continent down to the revolutionary period, all civilized governments had entered into treaties with the natives, while at the same time they refused to acknowledge their independence. Each European government based its claim to any particular part of the continent by right obtained from discovery, which right was held to apply only as against other civilized nations and not as against the native peoples.
All conceded to the natives the right of occupancy, but not of title to the soil. The Indian might occupy, but could not sell to other than the Government claiming a particular portion of the continent. And the right of occupancy soon was properly continued to a reasonable occupancy, holding that the rights of civilized people were equal to those of the savage or native although the native races were the first occupants.
The trouble came from abuse of power by the stronger party; from the failure to do equity under a righteous rule; a rule which said you must make room for a people that will utilize this fair country, exploit its mines and ascertain its possibilities for contributing to the sustenance of mankind.
Speaking of civilized nations Chief Justice Marshall says "When the conquest is complete and the conquered inhabitants can be blended with the conquerors, or safely governed as a distinct people, public opinion, which not even the conqueror can disregard, imposes these restraints (that the conquered shall not be wantonly oppressed) upon him; and he cannot neglect them without injury to his fame, and hazard to his power."
"But the tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest.
"To leave them in possession of their country, was to leave the country a wilderness; to govern them as a distinct people was impossible, because they were as brave and as high spirited as they were fierce, and ready to repel by arms every attempt on their independence."
Hence, we must treat them as a dependent people, else abandon this great continent capable of sustaining hundreds of millions of people to a race of three hundred thousand to roam over at will. This last suggestion, to leave the country in the hands of the native races, is simply an unthinkable proposition that no civilized man will entertain.
But when the American Confederacy appeared on the stage, the statesmen of that day were confronted with a problem that could only be solved by an acknowledgment of existing conditions. The Government of England had Indian allies in the field against the struggling patriots. Could they shut their eyes to an existing power confronting them, the power of great tribes of Indians upon their borders?
They did the only thing possible to do; that was to enter into a treaty with an existing power. So we find the first treaty with the Indians made dates Sept. 17, 1778, which is not a treaty for land nor a treaty for peace, but a treaty for war; of offence and defence against a common foe, with the "Delaware Nation" on the one part and the "United States of North America" on the other part, articles of agreement and confederation, and thus was the treaty system with the Indians born. It was, then no fiction, whatever may be said of after time negotiation.
We know these early treaties were broken and new conditions prevailed until it did seem there was nothing but friction; the one party, the Indians in the words of Gen. Otis, being "neither citizens nor aliens; neither subject nor rulers; neither slaves nor freemen".
We might say, a people without a country; without a flag; without a history. Did space permit, this interesting topic would be pursued but we must forbear with this remark that the subject is introduced here simply to illustrate that Indian treaties all cases and under all circumstances were not fiction, but in many instances very real.
But, the conditions calling out the first treaties with various tribes were changing and called for new rules of action. As I have said: these early treaties were broken (perhaps were made to be broken) and doubtless first the one party and then the other were to blame, but when, in the lapse of time, the Indians could not or would not observe the conditions of a treaty, and when events which no human power could control pressed upon the Government there came a time the question must be met and things called by their right names, and the only wonder is that it should have taken so long, so near a century, to finally bring the nation to acknowledge the change.
The making of treaties with the Indians of this part of the United States was sheer fiction. The so-called tribes could scarcely be called tribes at all. Their organization where they had any, was loose and broken up into families acknowledging no authority except family ties and so these tribal relations were continually changing according to the whims of the individual or supposed benefits to accrue from a change.
There was not even an unwritten law governing the tribe, no authorized chief or head men that had any but the most unstable authority or that even made a pretense of having, and to be able to treat with them as a tribe at all (except in a few cases), such chiefs were appointed by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs on the part of the United States. Of course the whole proceeding was a farce.
We will now take under consideration the Medicine Creek and Point Elliot treaties, the real cause of the war west of the Cascade Mountains. The fiction of the nine tribes to deal with, at the Medicine Creek Council, can readily be seen when the facts are stated. There were less than nine hundred Indians, nearly eight hundred of whom belonged to the Nisqually and Puyallup tribes, leaving but a hundred to comprise the remaining seven so called tribes, probably fifteen to the tribe.
George Gibbs, who was present as surveyor, took a census either at that time or a few weeks before, and could find but 893 all told. Governor Stevens, who was also Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the new Territory, assumed all the authority for the Government in making the treaty. He appointed chiefs with whom to treat, in several cases if not in all.
He did not possess either the time or knowledge to deal with this question intelligently; neither the temperament, habits, or training. If one wants a house built he does not send for a watchmaker, or if he wants a case tried in Court for a clergyman. Gov. Stevens had his special training in a special walk of life, war, and in his special department of that profession he was proficient, but sorry is the day for the Indians, and settlers as well, and we may also say, for Governor Stevens himself, when he was turned loose here with a free hand as Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
After a long absence from the Territory, at Washington City, adjusting the affairs of the overland trip of the previous year, the Governor returned in time to find a Legislature on his hands. Sending them a hasty message, he then began preparation to make treaties with the Indians, nearly two years after his appointment as Governor. He had previously made a flying trip on the Sound but had embraced no opportunity to make a study of the situation, and in fact had had no time.
His trip had afforded him about the measure of information that a ride on a railroad car will a traveler of the country traversed, and so equipped he began the preparation for making treaties with all the Indians on the Sound, and west of the Mountains, and undertook to do in a month what could not have been properly done under years of patient labor after obtaining painstaking information; in a word, he undertook an impossible task.
The first move was to block out a form of treaty in his office at Olympia with the aid of M. T. Simmons, who had previously been appointed as agent. The form soon developed into the substance as he was informed the Indians would sign anything presented to them, and so, when the Medicine treaty was ready in the office it was presented to the Indians without change of any kind, including reservations and all without consultation with the Indians.
After writing the treaty and sending men ahead to notify the Indians and clear a spot for holding the council, the Governor and suite embarked aboard a schooner at Olympia, and soon reached the treaty ground, some twenty miles distant by sail and twelve as the crow flies.
The ground selected for holding the council is a small wooded knoll on the right bank of the She-nah-nam Creek (known locally as the McAllister creek), about one mile above the mouth, where the waters of the creek fall into and mingle with the tides of Puget Sound.
The Squa-quid (Medicine creek), falls into the She-nah-nam nearly a mile above the treaty grounds, and is lost in the former, which is very much the larger. Hereafter these creeks will be referred to as the McAllister and Medicine Creeks respectively for convenience and their Indian names dropped as has been done locally by the settlers.
As has been said, the McAllister Creek is very much the larger of the two. It is a creek of absolutely pure spring water, less than four miles in length, venting an astonishing volume, from such a small area. At the head is a deep pool or spring, the delight of sportsmen for all the country round about, where the finest of trout rise to the fly of such size and flavor as to make one shy of telling the true story, lest he be accused of exaggeration, if not of downright lying.
The Medicine Creek sends out an insignificant volume of water, which is slightly covered from the vegetable growth obstructing its flow, hence its name both creeks flow through the alluvial soil of the Nisqually bottom ten feet below the level of the valley surface, the current in the lower stretches of each obstruction and in fact reversed by the incoming tides from Puget Sound twice a day.
Into these creeks the happy Indians in times gone by used to float their canoes in countless number, laden with the shell fish and other products of the vast inland Sound. As I recently drove down the right bank of the McAllister Creek to the treaty ground not an Indian was to be seen, not a canoe; but the grinding wheels of our wagon uncovered great beds of shell the remains of the feasts of the primitive race in by-gone days.
When the treaty making party started from Olympia bringing presents and food for the Indians and with a small army of attaches of near twenty persons, it was expected an easy victory would be gained, as the Governor had been told, as before mentioned, the Indians would sign anything presented to them. The party, however, was doomed to meet with disappointment. The first day was passed in anxious solicitude as to what the morrow would bring forth.
From Indian testimony we know that the Governor was nervous all day, walking back and forth with his head down and hands behind his back, as the fact dawned upon him that he could not have everything his own way without a struggle. All of the Indians had not arrived, although it is recorded over six hundred were present, men, women and children, though we have no certain intelligence that any material accessions to their number were made during the continuance of the council.
The Indians from the up-river district came with their horses as usual, and in considerable force. That class of the tribe, or so called nine tribes though not numerous, were on the alert to know what was going to happen. They had heard all sorts of rumors, even that the Government contemplated shipping all the Indians out of the country to the land of perpetual darkness (Alaska).
This idea became real when it was discovered the intention was to huddle the whole tribe on a small tract of land convenient to wit water, where they could not possibly live or keep their homes or even have a potato patch, or so much as a place to be out of reach of the forest and tides.
Plausibility of this story became fixed in the Indian mind when an attempt was made to explain in jargon, the right was reserved to remove the Indians at the will of the Government to some unknown point.
In a recent interview Colonel B. F. Shaw (who was at the time a young man and acted as interpreter on this occasion, and who, I may say, is yet of vigorous mind), said, the intention, as he understood it, was to make the reservation allotted temporary, and remove all the Indians in the whole Sound country to one large reservation further north.
Be that as it may, it is true that no progress could be made with the Indian the first day of the council.
Every effort was made by the assembled attaches to create diversion from the serious work in hand during the evening of the first day by story telling and other means to create good humor in the minds of the Indians, but with slight success. The second day developed very stubborn opposition, and resulted in the spectacular action of Leschi, as related elsewhere, when he tore up his commission as sub-chief before the Governor's eyes, and left the council grounds.
With Leschi out of the way, and with the accession of the Olympia Indians headed by John Hiton, referred to elsewhere, airld with the ament of the Squaxon upon whose land one of the reservations was to be located, together with the urgent solicitation of at least a part of the Governor's suite, some progress was made on the second day to induce the reluctant Indians to subscribe, but only such, as has been said, that would sign anything presented to them, gave their assent.
On the third day the presents were distributed, but these did not, as expected, create a favorable impression and in fact, the opposite, when it became known how small the value allotted to each person, two yards of calico here, a yard or two of ribbon there, and of like value all around.
And so ended the first treaty council held by the new Superintendent in the new Territory, that wrought ruin not only to the Indians, yet likewise to many of the pioneers and to Governor Stevens himself, for in its injustice inflicted upon the natives came the war that followed within a year, and the passage of so many years of strife among the citizens long after the Indians had been pacified by the tardy justice of the treaty and suitable rations.
I would have the reader remember this writing refers to the Indians coming wholly under the Medicine Creek treaty, and a part (the Muckleshoot and neighboring bands), under that of Point Elliot.
The partisans of Governor Stevens at a later date claimed that the Governor was not so responsible for the harsh treatment meted out to the Indians as was the department at Washington in prescribing iron-clad rules to govern his action.
It is not of record and I doubt if Governor Stevens ever made such a claim though it became Patent that under the stress of political exigencies he remained silent and let such a claim go undisputed.
The following letter of original instruction from the Department of the Interior under date of August 30th, 1854, is well worth study by the student of history as not only embodying the instructions to Governor Stevens, yet likewise outlining the general policy of the Government in dealing with the Indian question fifty Years ago.
This, it will be seen, is very different from that prevailing now, where treaty making with the Indians is forbidden by law, where tribal relations are being rapidly taken up and the individuals brought directly under the control of the law without the intervening fiction of a treaty.
The following are the instructions referred to:
"Department of the Interior, Office Indian Affairs, August 30, 1854- "His Excy.: Isaac I. Stevens, Governor, &c., of Washington Territory, Present.
In concluding articles of agreement and convention with the Indian tribes in Washington Territory, you will endeavor to unite the numerous bands and fragments of tribes into tribes and provide for the concentration of one or more of such tribes upon the reservations which may be set apart for their future homes.
"The formation of distinct relations with each of the forty or fifty separate bands of Indians in Washington Territory would not be as likely to promote the best interests of the white settlers or of the Indians as if the latter could be concentrated on a limited number of reservations, or on contiguous reservations, in a limited number of districts of country, apart from the settlement of the whites.
"Unless some such arrangement can probably be effected you will at present conclude treaties with such tribes or bands only as are located immediately adjacent to the settlements of the whites and between whom and our citizens animosities prevail, or disturbances of the peace are reasonably apprehended, and in entering upon the execution of the duty, with which you are hereby charged, you will turn your attention first to even tribes and bands.
"It is desirable also that the stipulations to be fulfilled annually on the part of the United States be few in number, and that the Department retain the authority to apply the funds to a variety of objects, such as the circumstances of the Indians at the time of payment may require.
"This suggestion you will regard particularly, if you are unable to effect the combination of all the bands into six or eight tribes, or to arrange half a dozen, treaties, or less, so that every one of the tribes shall be a party to them.
"It is not deemed necessary to give you specific instructions as to the details of the treaties. We, however, enclose to you herewith copies of the treaties recently concluded by Superintendent, Palmer at Table Rock and Cow Creek, Oregon Territory, with the Rogue River and Cow Creek Indians, and also printed copies of treaties lately concluded at this city with the Omaha and Ottoe and Missouri Indians.
"Those negotiated by Superintendent Palmer are regarded as exhibiting provisions proper on the part of the Government and advantageous to the Indians, and will afford you valuable suggestions. Those with the Omahas and Ottoes and Missouris will indicate the policy of the Government in regard to the ultimate civilization of the Indian tribes; the graduation of the annuity payments secured to them; the encouragement of schools and missions among them; the exclusion of ardent spirits from their settlements the security to be given against the application of their annuity funds for payment of debts and claims, the terms on which roads and railroads may be constructed through their reservations, and the authority proper to reserve to the President of determining the manner in which annuities of Indians shall be applied for their benefit.
"I would here remark that the amounts secured to tribes in Nebraska will not be a criterion for you, in regard to the amount of the annual or other payments to be made to tribes in Washington under stipulations of the proposed treaties, inasmuch as the former held lands which had become valuable by reason of their proximity to the State of Iowa, whilst the latter have claims of title based on occupancy alone, and that occupancy of a nature not fixed and well defined as to boundaries, and the lands which they claim are far removed from the portions of the country which have long been settled and highly improved and cultivated.
"I would also refer you to the late annual report of this office, and the last annual report of the Secretary of the Interior, from which you will perceive that it is regarded by the Department as the best policy to avoid, as far as it can be judiciously done, the payment of Indian annuities in money, and to substitute implements of agriculture, stock, goods, and articles necessary to the comfort and civilization of the tribes.
"You will bear in mind the distance that separates you from the Capital, and the time which must elapse from the negotiation of treaties until you hear of the action of the President and Senate upon them, and you will hence caution the Indians against expecting the first payments of annuities too soon after the conclusion of negotiations.
"You will at your earliest convenience furnish to this office a skeleton map of Washington Territory, showing the location of the different tribes and bands, and the boundaries of the regions respectively claimed by each, and as treaties are concluded from time to time, in your reports accompanying them, furnish a description of the reservation provided for the occupation of the Indians, with such precision that it may be marked on the map here.
"With these general views you will nevertheless exercise a sound discretion, where the circumstances are such as to require a departure from them; and you will take care in all treaties made to leave no question open, out of which difficulties may hereafter arise, or by means of which the treasury of the United States may be approached.
"It is expected that a due regard to economy will govern all your acts, and that you will promptly report progress in the execution of the trust now confided in you.
"Very respectfully, your obt. servant,
"CHARLES E. MIX. "Acting Commissioner."
Ezra Meeker, "The Medicine Creek Treaty," Pioneer Reminiscences of Puget Sound. Seattle: Lowman and Hanford, 1903. Chapter XXX.
MEDICINE CREEK TREATY
Ezra Meeker, "The Medicine Creek Treaty Reviewed" Pioneer Reminiscences of Puget Sound. Seattle: Lowman and Hanford, 1903. Chapter XXXI. p. 36-47.
The statement that Leschi did not assent to the treaty, although his name appears third on the list as having signed it will no doubt at first thought be received with incredulity by the general reader. I can only say that I believe it is true, and the facts will be given supporting this belief.
It is not necessary to attack the credibility of the witnesses to Leschi's signature while saying he did not sign, although certified to by them. All know how careless we are in such matters. Besides the question of carelessness comes the fact that perhaps not more than two or three of the witnesses knew Leschi by sight, or for that matter, any of the Indians.
Then the further fact that the council extended over a period of three days, and that the utmost confusion prevailed, with a babel of unknown tongues in several languages, to constantly distract attention. As to the particular parties having the treaty in their possession for signature, little can be said in extenuation.
We have one well authenticated case where the name of a noted chief was affixed to a treaty by another chief at the insistence of Governor Stevens himself.
We have no authority other than Hazard Stevens, son of the Governor, for the following account of how the signature to the Walla Walla treaty of one great chief, Looking Glass, was obtained without his consent, and in fact, by means no less than forgery to be committed by another chief of another tribe, Kam-i-ah-kan:
"Looking Glass, just returned from the Blackfeet country, hearing that the Nez Perces were at a great council, and concluding a treaty without his presence (I quote Hazard Stevens' own words) pushed on with a few chosen braves, crossed the Bitter Root Mountains, where for some distance the snow was shoulder deep on their horses, and, having ridden three hundred miles in seven days, at the age of seventy, reached the council ground while Governor Stevens was urging Kam-i-ah-kan to give his assent to the treaty, for the Governor, hearing the arrival of Looking Glass announced, seized the occasion to call upon the Yakima chief to sign the treaty in the name of Looking Glass, there being great friendship between the two.
"Scarcely had he concluded when Looking Glass, surrounded by his knot of warriors, with scalps tossing above them, rode up, excited and agitated, received his friends coldly, and finally broke forth into a most angry philippic against his tribe and the treaty:
"My people, what have you done, While I was gone you have sold my country. I have come home, and there is not left me a place on which to pitch my lodge. Go home to your lodges. I will talk to you." And the council was immediately adjourned.
If the Governor could obtain the signature to the treaty of one chief, as here related, in one instance, we are justified in believing that he would do so in another case when met with obstinate opposition, especially where we have overwhelming testimony, even if the witnesses are Indians. We have the testimony, of Leschi himself that he did not sign the treaty, and the testimony of numerous Indians present who have uniformly, for forty-five years, declared that he did not sign it; Of Dr. William F. Tolmie as to Leschi's opposition to the treaty, shown in his letter to Governor McMullin; of Lieutenant A. V. Kautz, who wrote in February, 1858:
Kanasket was at the council (Medicine Creek) and was cognizant of the miserable piece of fir timber that was given to the Nisquallies. He saw how Leschi was spurned when he spoke up and protested. They told him to go away. "You are half Klickitat; you have nothing to say the treaty is made."
Senator L. F. Thompson, who at the time lived within two miles of the council grounds when the treaty was made, wrote:
"After the treaty was over the Indians came to me and said that Leschi would not sign the treaty for the Nisquallies and Puyallups. They were the Indians Leschi represented. But M. T. Simmons told Leschi that if he did not sign it he would sign it for him. From what the Indians told me at the time and from what the whites told me, I am positive that Leschi never signed the treaty."
And finally, of the disappearance of the records of the council from the files of the Government at Washington, after the partisans of Governor Stevens had published garbled extracts from the proceedings but suppressed all reference to Leschi or to the speech he made, which we know was a matter of record.
I have recently interviewed John Hiton, an Indian, one of the five survivors of the signers, who steadfastly refused to go into the war. He says Leschi did not sign; that he stood up before the Governor and said that if he "could not get his home, he would fight, and that the Governor then told him it was fight, for the treaty paper would not be changed." Continuing, Hiton said, "Leschi then took the paper out of his pocket that the Governor had given him to be sub-chief, and tore it up before the Governor's eyes, stamped on the pieces, and left the treaty ground, and never came back to it again."
Hiton still lives on his own farm near Tenino, where his father lived before him, and is looked upon as a truthful man by all his neighbors amongst whom he has lived so long.
Subsequent to the penning of these lines and before the manuscript had been handed to the printer, I received the following interesting letter;
Olympia, Wash., Dec. 21, 1903.
Hon. Ezra Meeker, Seattle.
In the Indian war of 1855-6 a family named King on White River, or thereabouts, was massacred. One boy was saved through the efforts of an Indian (Friendly) now living near here. The boy was adopted by a family named Gunn, and now lives in Connecticut.
The Indian has property worth quite a little money and he wants to will it to this boy. Mr. Billings says he thinks you can give me the address of him or his people. Please do so, as it means a modest fortune to the beneficiary.
Fortunately I was able to give the desired information through John King, the only survivor of the massacre, but who is not of kin though of same name and at the time of the massacre lived on an adjoining claim. I happen to know all the parties, and also to know the property, which does include a nice "modest fortune to the beneficiary" and feel extremely gratified to be able to record this generous impulse of my old friend Hiton, whom I have known so long and whom I have always known as a truthful upright citizen.
Hiton has always been friendly to the whites and steadily refused to go into the war but he feels deeply the injustice done his race, yet he condemned the acts of the Indians in murdering those poor, innocent people, and now, at the age of seventy, wants to make amends for the wrongful acts of his race.
I had heard that Hiton was unfriendly towards Leschi, but I found this was a mistake; that his sympathies were with Leschi, but his judgment was that it was useless to make war as they were certain to be overcome in the end.
I introduce this incident here to show the character of the man and to ask the reader candidly, whether the utterances of such a man are not worthy of credence even if he is an Indian.
Hiton, though shrewd enough to obtain an allotment on the Puyallup Reservation, never made that his real home, but obtained title to land twelve miles out from Olympia, where he has always lived and where his father lived before him.
I have visited Hiton twice in the preparation of this work and when he and his wife both told me that Leschi did not sign the treaty, but left the council grounds in a rage, I believed as I have said that they have told me the truth, and I believe so yet.
Tyee Dick, another signer of the treaty, recently told me that Leschi did not sign the treaty, and that Leschi told the Indians, "If you sign that paper, I will go away, but I will come back and get what I want."
"What did he mean by that, Dick?" I asked.
"Oh, he meant that he would fight until he got his home."
I have quite recently interviewed Dick for three hours at one time, and tested his memory by asking about things I knew and found his answers almost invariably correct.
Dick signed the treaty and then went in to the war "like a fool for signing," he said.
"Then why did you sign, Dick?" I asked.
"Oh, John Hiton made a speech. This was the second day. Hiton he said we sign treaty, and then we take farms all the same as white man! and then all the whites and the Governor took off their hats and cheered, and then the Olympia Indians began to sign and the Squaxons they signed and I held back, but Simmons come and patted me on the back and told me ‘that's a good fellow, Dick, you go and sign, and I will see you are treated right and well taken care of’ and I knew Simmons and thought him good man and signed."
"Did you understand what the treaty was?"
"No, I don't think any of the Indians did understand. Why would they agree to give up all the good land, and that was what we found afterwards the treaty read."
Hiton said, "The reservation was no good; all stones; all big timber; up on bluff; nobody live there; nobody live there now."
"Then why did you sign it?" I asked.
"Why, what's the use for Indians to fight whites? Whites get big guns; lots ammunition; kill off all soldiers, more come; better sign and get something some other way."
Old Pa-al-la hearing that I was on the treaty grounds searching for information, came to volunteer his testimony. This man went to the war with his three sons and was very bitter against the Governor.
Said he: "S'pose no Governor Stevens, no war. Leschi tear up the paper; I saw him do it, and then I knew he would fight," and much more in the same strain, but I forbear to record it. To my mind the fact is abundantly proven that the Indians strenuously objected to having all their land taken from them save a small area of heavily timbered, upland, totally unfit for cultivation; that the Governor stubbornly refused to, give way an inch, but insist that they must submit to his will, and that not only did Leschi not sign the treaty, but many others whose names are attached as signers did not sign or give their assent.
The question will naturally arise in the reader's mind, why was this done? It cannot be true! What object could Governor Stevens have in view to make him do such a thing? That it was preposterous to make such a statement, for it carries its own refutation by its improbability, said in fact, was impossible for men occupying such a position under our Government to do so.
I have racked my brain on this question a good many years, and confess that such thoughts would crowd upon me, and then I would awake to the cold fact that it was so; that it was written in Articles of the Medicine Creek Treaty; that the land described I knew was as I have said, totally unfit for occupancy or cultivation, and so I would come back to the question, Why was it so?
Then why was, the quantity so restricted? Why less than four thousand acres allotted for nine hundred Indians of nine tribes? We know this is so, for it is so written in the treaty and signed, Isaac I. Stevens, Governor & Superintendent; ratified by the great United States Senate as attested by Asbury Dickens Secretary, and finally, by no less august signature than that of Franklin Pierce, President of the United States, and attested to by W. L. Marcy, Secretary of State.
So we must accept the fact as proven that out of the millions of acres of this broad domain only these tracts aggregating less than four thousand acres of the poorest, land that could be found, were allotted to the original occupants of the district described.
This chapter having been submitted to Thos. W. Prosch, of Seattle, for criticism, that gentleman, without the knowledge of the author, wrote to General Hazard Stevens with reference to the foregoing extraordinary statement with reference to Looking Glass and received the following reply and explanation, which is cheerfully reprinted as follows:
Olympia, July 29th, 1903
Thomas W. Prosch, Esq.
Dear Sir: I am astonished at your misconception of the sentence in the account of the Walla Walla council that you quote, viz.:
"The Governor, hearing the arrival of Looking Glass announced, seized the occasion to call upon the Yakima chief to sign the treaty in the name of Looking Glass, there being great friendship between the two," etc.
The meaning I wished to express is that the Governor called upon Kamiakan in the name of Looking Glass to sign the treaty for himself, Kamiakan. It seems to me the sentence is quite plain to this effect, although it would have been better had the clauses been transferred. To charge Governor Stevens with attempting such a fraud and one so impossible to carry out with those intelligent and proud Indians, is simply preposterous.
My account is drawn almost wholly from the official journal, which is very full. Colonel Kipp's account is excellent, too. I am interested in what you say about the manuscript. I doubt if anything that I or any one could say would satisfy a writer who could seize upon the sentence you quote to support so outrageous a charge.
If it is not a secret I would like to know who the writer is. As for any agitations, etc., I have no fears. Governor Stevens' record and character are proof against such imputations. Whatever else may be charged, no instance of double dealing or indirection can be found in his entire career.
Should I publish another edition of the life I will certainly make this sentence clear by changing the clauses. I am exceedingly obliged to you for calling my attention to it.
Very truly yours,
Whatever may be the true version of the incident at the Walla Walla Council, the facts as to whether Leschi signed the Medicine Creek Treaty remain unchanged. We have a right to weigh testimony by the rules of probabilities as well as by that of the respectability of witnesses.
On the one side we have the signature of Leschi affixed to the treaty with the words, "his mark," while on the other we have the testimony of all the Indians that he did not in any way assent to the treaty, but on the contrary, that he vehemently opposed the treaty and finally left the council grounds, after tearing up his commission as sub-chief, in the presence of the Governor.
This, it may be said, is assuming to accept as true, Indian evidence instead of the white man's testimony. Let us then look at the probability of the case. All agree, both Americans and Indians, that Leschi was a man of more than ordinary intelligence.
He was wealthy beyond any of his tribe. He had his farm and substantial improvements as shown by Wiley's letter quoted elsewhere, on the upper reach of the Nisqually River. He was a hunter, and lived by the chase and the products of his herds that pastured on the prairies of the Nisqually plains.
He had numerous bands of horses at that very time, so numerous that when he finally started from home he could not take all of them with him, and fifteen head fell into the hands of the volunteers and were turned over to the Government. His wife, who is still living, told me recently, they had a "whole field full of horses at the outbreak of the war, but they lost all of them." I judge from the manner she described them there were at least fifty head.
Is it at all probable that as shrewd a businessman as Leschi had proved himself to be, would sign away his home, and agree to give up everything, and in company with four or five hundred Indians go upon a reservation of two section (1280 acres), of heavy timbered land bordering on the salt water, where the soil was sterile, the timber so dense he could not even build a house without great labor of clearing off the tall giant trees likely to crush it, and finally where no pasturage existed on the reservation or even anywhere near it where he could keep his herds? This to me seems in the words of Hazard Stevens, "simply preposterous."
Such a grave charge as this should not be lightly made. Hearing that a record of the speeches made had been kept and forwarded with the treaty, I made an attempt to get a certified copy of the proceedings. The following letter is self explanatory:
Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.
Washington, August 1, 1903
E. Meeker, Esq., Puyallup, Wash.
Sir: You request in your letter of July 14, 1903 to be furnished with a copy of the proceedings of the Medicine Creek treaty, December, 1854, negotiated by Governor Isaac Stevens with the Nisqually and other tribes.
In reply you are advised that the proceedings of the treaty (council) to which you refer appear to have been mislaid or lost. Search has heretofore been made for them, but the office has been unable to find them. It is suggested that you read, for a full history of this subject, the life of Governor Stevens, by his son, Hazard.
The best account of the Medicine Creek treaty known to this office is given in the book referred to. It appears that you are seeking historical information and knowledge concerning the councils held and the proceedings reported concerning the negotiation of the said treaty. If so, the perusal of the Life of Governor Stevens by his son is respectfully recommended.
Turning to the book cited, I find the following:
The Indians had some discussion and Governor Stevens then put the question: "Are you ready? If so, I will sign it."
There were no objections, and the treaty was then signed by Governor I. I. Stevens and the chiefs, delegates and head men on the part of the Indians, and duly witnessed by the secretary, special agent, and seventeen citizens present.
But not a word is said about what sort of a "discussion" the Indians had. Upon what they said an ominous silence prevails, in view of the fact that the son of the Governor had access to these very papers during the preparation of his work. I have been equally unfortunate from Colonel B. P. Shaw, the interpreter of the Medicine Creek Council. Three courteous letters of inquiry remain unanswered, and hence we must look elsewhere for his testimony.
In a paper read before the Washington State Historical Society, October 9th, 1893, by Hon. James Wickersham, now United States Judge for Alaska, signed by that gentleman before filing in the archives of that society under the caption of "The Indian Side of the Puget Sound War," that gentleman after quoting numerous authorities tending to prove that Leschi did not sign the Medicine Creek Treaty, says:
"Let us pass, however, for the sake of the argument, that they (the Indians) did sign the treaty. Did they understand it? Did it contain the contract agreed upon? Were they over persuaded by their guardian? Were they deceived and mistaken. If so, it is not their contract and should be set aside as being obtained through fraud and intimidation."
Let us continue our evidence on these points and call the interpreter at the Medicine Creek treaty, Col. B. F. Shaw, of Clark County, now a member of the State Senate. On the 11th of March, 1893, Colonel Shaw made a statement in writing which I have in my possession touching these matters, and from it I make the following suggestive quotations.
He said: "Leschi and Quiemuth did sign the treaty, The fault was in the treaty. They said: 'Can you get the Indians to sign this treaty?' I answered: 'Yes, I can get the Indians to sign their death warrant.' Their idea was that in a few years the Indians would die out and the reservations would be large enough. My opinion is that the treaties were humbugs-premature, and that the Indians did not understand them although we endeavored to do it; they did not realize it.
"When they got home they were dissatisfied. Two or three days after the treaty was made I rode over to Nisqually and met Leschi and Stahl, and they were very much dissatisfied and they complained very much. I told them that if anything was wrong it would be fixed by the Government. They were very much excited and accused me of deceiving them. I denied it and told them that I had told them just what the Governor had said. They tried to get a new treaty.
"They asked me to report their dissatisfaction to the Governor. I told the Governor, but the treaty was sent to Washington. The Governor promised to get them other reservations. The trouble seemed to die out slowly until after the Walla Walla treaty, then there was dissatisfaction. Over-persuasion and persistency brought about the Walla Walla treaty. The Governor was a persistent man. It did not seem to dawn upon Leschi what the treaty was, what it meant. He was called a tyee, etc., and flattered."
Now, this is the evidence of the interpreter, the mind through which the contracting parties made this treaty the contract. The treaty, or contract was prepared and given to the interpreter. "Can you get the Indians to sign this treaty?" "Yes. I can get the Indians to sign their death warrant." In this question and answer you have the whole injustice of the Medicine Creek treaty laid bare.
It was a contract obtained through over-persuasion and deceit; through promises not in the record; by imposition upon minds unaccustomed to written contracts; a contract obtained from the weak by the strong; from the ward by the guardian; from the child by the parent, and wholly without consideration, unfair, unjust, ungenerous and illegal.
Any American court of justice would set such a contract aside as fraudulent and void because of the imposition upon the weak by the strong, and for failure of agreement of minds and considerations."
Ezra Meeker, "The Medicine Creek Treaty Reviewed" Pioneer Reminiscences of Puget Sound. Seattle: Lowman and Hanford, 1903. Chapter XXXI p. 36-47.