Sunday, May 12, 2013

Negotiations Planned with the Nez Perce But Have Not Yet Begun

On May 12, 1863, a reporter for The Oregonian sent off a letter to the newspaper from Lapwai, Idaho Territory. (Lapwai is located about ten miles east of Lewiston, on Lapwai Creek.) His main goal was to observe negotiations for a new treaty with the Nez Percés Indians.

Still, he also observed, “On my way up from the Dalles, I was surprised to see so many miners disembark at the Umatilla Landing, but I was informed that that was the best and most practicable route to the Boise mines at this season of the year, hence the rush that way.”

Treaty business had to wait: “As there is not a full commission here, nothing has as yet been done.”

At this point, whites needed to negotiate a new treaty with the Indians because most the best northern gold camps were located on their old 1855 reservation. Lewiston itself stood on Indian land and, technically, was not part of the new Idaho Territory.

The reporter went on, “Another Commissioner is needed to fill up the treaty Board on the part of the whites … It is hoped, however, that Governor Wallace will soon arrive here and supply the ‘vacuum,’ as he is ex officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs for this Territory.”

Of course, the lack of white commissioners was matched by the fact that “There are at present but few Indians in attendance.” Still, more were showing up all the time so “no doubt the grand council will soon convene.”

Turning to other matters, the correspondent said, “The lands in and about the Agency are in a high state of cultivation and abundant crops are confidently expected. The saw-mill on the Lapwai creek is in full blast, ripping lumber from the cottonwood timber for the use of the Government Fort and the Agency. The Fort is situated about three miles up the Lapwai, and is now garrisoned by six companies of Uncle Sam’s troops, who are to remain here until close of the treaty, when a portion of them will be sent to Boise.”
Fort Lapwai as it Became. National Park Service.
The writer outlined a bit of Lapwai Mission history, and went on, “The scenery around here is very picturesque and beautiful; the wild flowers are all in full bloom, and emit an agreeable fragrance which is very exhilarating and refreshing … The houses of the Agency are located in a pretty little valley, at the foot of which the beautiful Clearwater glides swiftly along.”

Getting back to the main issue, he went on, “I am inclined to the opinion that everything is favorable for a successful treaty.” But “if the treaty should fail, look out for an Indian war which will put a stop to all mining operations for this season.”

References: [B&W]
“Indian Treaty at the Lapwai Agency,”  The Oregonian, Portland (May 16, 1863).

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