Spokan Council

September 22d. We left camp at half-past six this morning, and marched seventeen miles through a rolling country, occasionally diversified by open timber.

When we reached camp, we found that the head chiefs and warriors of the Spokans had come in, accompanied by Father Joset. Kamiaken and Tilkohitz were in last evening, but their courage seemed to have failed before the time of meeting Colonel Wright, and they went off again. Colonel Wright sent Gearry (the Spokan chief) and Big Star out after Kamiaken, telling him to come in and he should not be harmed; but if he did not surrender himself, he (the Colonel) would hunt him down until he captured him, and then put him to death.

Kamiaken has been for years the most powerful chief among all these tribes, and at the same time the most relentless enemy of the whites. He is the head chief of the Yakimas, his mother having been a Yakima, and his father a Pelouze This gave him great influence with both these, tribes, and by his talents he has acquired authority with all the northern Indian nations. He seems to occupy the same position with them that Tecumpsah formerly did with our north-western tribes.

My first acquaintance with him was at the Walla Walla Council, three years before. There, it was evident that he was the great impediment in the way of any cession of the Indian lands. While the other chiefs, one by one, came into the measure, and even Looking Glass, the war chief of the Nez Percés, at first entirely hostile, at last yielded to the force of some peculiar arguments which are equally potent with savages and white men, nothing could move Kamiaken. With more far-reaching wisdom than the rest, he probably saw that this surrender of their lands and intrusion of the white men would be the final step in destroying the nation. Governor Stevens was unable to induce him to express any opinion, but he sat in gloomy silence. Several times, when the governor appealed to him with the inquiry, “We would like to know what is the heart of Kamiaken,” his only answer was, “What have I to say!” He was the leader in the outbreak which took place shortly after, when Major Haller’s force was defeated, and has been, we have no doubt, the moving spirit in arraying all these tribes against us this season, and bringing on this open warfare. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that he is afraid to put himself in the power of the whites.

September 23nd. We did not move camp this morning, as it was the day appointed for the Council, which after breakfast assembled in front of Colonel Wright’s tent. The Indians numbered one hundred and seven. Besides the Spokans, were Pend d’Oreilles, Colvilles, Iles des pierres, and delegates from other smaller tribes.

We heard to-day a fact, showing what will be the influence of our two fights even upon the Indian tribes which were not engaged in them. One of the chiefs of the Colville Indians, whose hunting-grounds are far north of the Coeur d’Alenes, just on the borders of the British possessions, told his tribe that lie had heard a great deal about the soldiers, but never having seen them, he would go down and be a witness of the fight which they knew was at hand. So he joined the other tribes, and was present at the battle of the “Four Lakes.” When the fight was over, he turned his horse and rode until he reached his own people. There he called his tribe together, and told them he had seen the soldiers, but never wished to see them again; that they stood as firm as the oaks when the Indians fired at them; that they could march faster and further in a day than horses that their guns carried a mile, more than half way as far again as those of the Indians, and he ended by advising them always to remain friends with the whites.

The Spokans being assembled at the Council, Colonel Wright addressed them He promised them peace on the same conditions he had imposed on the Coeur d’Alenes, and announced that he expected to see them come forward like men. The Coeur d’Alenes had done so, and were now the Mends of the government. Besides, this was the last treaty which would be made, and he wished the friendly Nez Percés Indians to be included in it. The hostile Nez Percés, who had engaged in the war against us, he would have driven out of the Spokan country; that the government would make roads through their country where and whenever it pleased, and the workmen employed on them must not be molested.

The Spokan Chief replied: “I am sorry for what has been done, and glad of the opportunity now offered to make peace with our Great Father. We promise to obey and fulfill these terms in every point,”

Another old Spokan Chief said: “My heart is the same. I trust everybody is included in the Colonel’s mercy.”

Colonel Wright. “It embraces everybody, and those who go with me to Walla Walla as hostages for the good behavior of the nation shall not be hurt the least, but well taken care of until their safe return at the expiration of one year.”

The treaty was then signed by all the chiefs present, on the part of the Spokans.

During the council, Gearry and Big Star returned, and reported that they had been hunting all night for Kamiaken without success, when at daybreak they found him, and Schroom, his brother, on the other side of Spokan ‘ river. They were unable; however, to induce him to come in, as he said he was afraid he should be taken to Walla Walla.

The conditions of peace were then interpreted to these two chiefs, and the treaty signed by them.

Among those present at the council, was Milcapzy, a Coeur d’Alene chief, who was not at the treaty made with his own nation. As the council was closing, Colonel Wright singled him out and addressed him thus:

“Milcapzy! I saw your letter to General Clarke. You say to the General, ‘Perhaps you think that we are poor and want peace. We are neither poor nor do we want peace. If you want peace, you must come and ask for it. And take care that you do not come beyond the battle ground.’

“Who now asks for peace? I do not And where stands the battle ground? Milcapzy thinks he is rich. He has bands of horses, and houses, and farms, and lodges foil of grain. Let him remember that riches sometimes take wings and fly away. Tilkohitz 1 was rich once, but is poor now. Milcapzy! look upon the banks of the Spokan. I should like to hear Milcapzy speak.”

Milcapzy reflected for a moment, spoke a few words to another warrior at his side, arranged his head-dress, and rising, said:

“I am aware that I have committed a great crime. I am very sorry for it. My heart is cast down. But I have heard your talk just made in this council. I have confidence in what you say, and I thank you for it I am ready to abide by the terms you propose.”

The priest then explained to him the conditions on which peace had been granted to the Coeur d’Alenes, and he expressed his willingness to sign the treaty. The council was then dissolved.

Among the chiefs at this council, were Polatkin, the head chief of the Spokans, whom we formerly held as a prisoner, and released, and one of his sons, the one who visited our camp on the Spokan the day his father was detained. His brother and himself were the Indians who were fired at by the guard, across the river, when demanding the release of the old chief. He is one of the most splendid looking men I have ever seen. He was shot in the arm below the elbow, and his brother was shot through the body. From what we could learn of him, he will probably not recover.

One of our hostages is Anthony, a Coeur d’Alene chief, who was in the fight with Colonel Steptoe. When Lieutenant Gaston fell, he took his body and covered it with leaves, intending afterwards to go back and bury him. When, however, he returned, he found the body had been removed.Citations:

  1. Tilkohitz was the owner of the nine hundred horses captured by us and shot, September 9th.[]

Kip, Lawrence. Army Life on the Pacific: A Journal of the Tribes of the Coeur d'Alenes, Spokans, and Pelouzes, in the Summer of 1858. Redfield, 1859.

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