Thursday, May 16, 2013

Divisions Among the Nez Percés Will Complicate Treaty Negotiations

The correspondent for The Oregonian penned another letter from Lapai on May 16, 1863. This was a follow-up to his report of four days earlier. He wrote, “Since my last there has been two or three talks with the Chiefs.  It was arranged that ‘Lawyer’ should have all his tribe in here by Monday next, and that the Council should commence then.”

He then named several other prominent chiefs and went on, “There seems to be great animosity existing between the bands of ‘Lawyer’ and ‘Big Thunder,’ so much so that they hate each other as much as they do the Blackfeet, and until this difference is reconciled, the chances of making a successful treaty seems very slim.”

While the correspondent perhaps over-stated the level of animosity, he had correctly noted the division among tribal leaders. By and large, the split was between the Christianized, more-settled bands along the Clearwater River, and those that still followed traditional ways.

The writer next said that the negotiators were waiting for a preferred interpreter to arrive. Thus, “the Council will be necessarily deferred until near the latter end of next week; in the meantime the Indians are collecting on the council grounds in great numbers.”
Chief Lawyer ca 1861.
University of Washington Special Collections.

Government representatives had agreed to provide rations to sustain the bands while they waited. The reporter said that, with so much valuable land involved, a treaty might be expensive for the government. But, he observed, “this is a mere trifle, compared to the magnitude of the interests involved, to say nothing of the cost of an Indian war, which is a certain consequence in the case of a failure to make a treaty.”

References: Jerome A. Greene, Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poos Crisis, Montana Historical Society Press: Helena (2000).
“Items from the North,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (May 29, 1863).

No comments:

Post a Comment