- Historic Sites
A Most Satisfactory Council
That was what the white men called it, but the Indians could see how the wind was blowing. Would they abandon the hunting grounds of their forefathers without a fight?
October 1965 | Volume 16, Issue 6
How satisfactory it soon became apparent. Stevens himself violated its terms at once, announcing through the newspapers of western Washington and Oregon that the treaties had opened for immediate settlement all Indian lands east of the Cascades except areas specifically reserved for the Indians. No treaty had yet been ratified in Washington, D.C.; no provisions had yet been made for moving the Indians; no terms had yet been carried out by the whites. It made no difference. Miners and settlers entered the Indians’ lands. The tribes smouldered, thought of how they had been dictated to and then betrayed. Angry young Yakimas began to warn the trespassers. Killings followed, and by fall, 1855, the entire country was aflame.
Armies scoured the lands of the Yakimas, Palouses, Wallawallas, Cayuses, Umatillas, Spokans, Coeur d’Alenes, and numerous other peoples till the close of 1858. Both sides counted victories and losses, and both sides had a great number of dead and wounded. In the fighting, many of the headmen, including Peopeo Moxmox and Owhi, were killed. When the battles had ended, the tribes had been smashed, the people had been herded onto reservations or driven into hiding (Kamiakin had retreated to exile in Canada), and most of the land they had fought to save was lost.
Some of the Nez Perces, still under Lawyer’s domination, even helped the Americans. Looking Glass and his followers fussed and fumed, but Lawyer sent volunteers to fight the other tribes. The Nez Perces’ turn to fight Americans came twenty years later. Alone then, without allies, the generation of the young Chief Joseph fought to save its own homeland from a new generation of whites—and also lost.
Stevens lost too. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, a southerner, would have nothing to do with a northern railroad route. His determination to build across the South created a stalemate until the Civil War. Then northerners, finally in control of Congress, chose the central route to the Pacific. By that time Stevens, a Union officer, was dead, killed at Chantilly in 1862.