During the Civil War, most of the "wild" tribes of the Great Plains, which had never been confined to reservations, were engaged in war against the white people who were traveling overland to the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast. In the autumn of 1865, the chiefs and head men of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa and Plains Apache tribes met the Government peace commissioners in council at Wichita, Kansas, where new treaties were negotiated and signed. The next year many of the Indians of these tribes were on the warpath again and the hostilities continued for more than a year, when another peace council was held at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, in the autumn of 1867. New treaties were negotiated and new reservations were assigned to these tribes in the Indian Territory. But the Indians were greatly dissatisfied because railroad lines were being built across the Great Plains and because the buffalo herds were being slaughtered by white hunters, so many of them went out on the warpath again in 1868. Thus far, the frontier settlements and overland trails in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas had suffered most from Indian raids. Late in the fall of 1868, it was decided to carry on a winter campaign against the Indians.
Most of the "hostile" Indians had gathered for the winter in the wooded valleys of the western part of the Indian Territory. an expedition was organized under Generals Sheridan and Custer, at Fort Dodge, in the western part of Kansas, to invade the Indian Territory at a season when the Indians felt secure from molestation or attack. Marching southward in the latter part of November, the site for a new military post, known as Camp Supply, now a historical site at Fort Supply, Oklahoma, was selected at the junction of Beaver and Wolf creeks, in Woodward County. Although the snow was deep and the weather was bitterly cold, General Custer marched with his regiment, the Seventh Cavalry, from Camp Supply southward across the canadian to the valley of the Washita, where he found and attacked the village of Black Kettle and his band of Cheyenne people. This chief and many of his followers, mostly women, children and the elderly were massacred, the village was distroyed and its herds of ponies were slaughtered. Most of the Cheyenne men were on a hunting expedition. Other Indian villages near at hand became alarmed, pulled down their lodges and fled. General Custer and his men returned to Camp Supply, where the expedition was reorganized. It then returned to the valley of the Washita, marching down as far as Fort Cobb, in Caddo County, where it encamped for several weeks. It was then moved over to the valley of Medicine Bluff Crek, near the eastern extremity of the Wichita range of mountains, in Comanche County, where the site of Fort Sill was selected.
From Fort Sill, General Custer with his command, consisting of his own regiment and a regiment of Kansas volunteers, marched westward through the counties of Comanche, Kiowa and Greer and on into the Texas Panhandle to the border of the Staked Plain. Finally, the Cheyennes were overtaken, their village was captured and they were forced to come back with the troops. This was the beginning of the end of the old order, wherein every tribe was free to roam at will on the Great Plains. The Indians were told they must not leave their reservations except with the permission of their tribal agent. For a year or more the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency was maintained at Camp Supply. Then, in the spring of 1870, it was established at the place which had long been known as Darlington, in Canadian County.
For four or five years following, there was much trouble with the Indians of all of these tribes. Raiding parties of warriors would leave the reservation without permission, to carry terror to the frontier settlements, especially in Texas and Kansas. Finally, in 1874, angered by the continued slaughter of buffalo by white hunters, many of them went out on the last general war against the white people. As in the previous war, six years before, a winter campaign was waged against them and, in the end, they were compelled to beg for peace. The last one to surrender was Quanah, the Comanche chief, who gave himself up at Fort Sill, in June, 1875.
As for George Armstrong Custer, in 1873 he was ordered to the Dakota Territory to protect railway surveyors and gold miners who were crossing land owned by the Souix. After 3 years of intermittent clashes with the Souix the U. S. Army determined to crush the tribe by a three way envelopment. Custers regiment formed part of the forces of General Alfred Howe Terry, one of the three groups participating in the movement. Ordered by Terry to scout in advance of the main force, Custer's regiment, on June 24, 1876, located an encampment of Souix, the size of which Custer underestimated. He attached the morning after, but his regiment was hopelessly outnumbered, and the entire center column including Custer and 264 of his men, were killed.
Immediately after the new treaties with the five civilized tribes were ratified, efforts were made to induce some of the tribes which had long been settled on reservations in Kansas to accept new reservations in the Indian Territory and remove there. Among the first to agree to move to the Indian Territory were the main bodies of the Delaware and Shawnee tribes, both of which purchased the right to settle in the Cherokee Nation, to which they became citizens. Reservations were assigned to the absentee Shawnees and Pottawatomies on the land which had been ceded by the Seminoles, and to the Sac and Fox tribes on lands which had been ceded by the Creeks. Reservations were set aside for the Osages, Kaws and Pawnees in the Cherokee Outlet and all of these tribes were removed to the Indian Territory during this period.
Ann Maloney, Bartlesville, OK.
Copyright © 1998 Ann Maloney all rights reserved.