Camas Prairie in the News 1872

Idaho Statesman, Boise City, Idaho
2 Jul 1872, pg. 4, col. 2.

Report of Mr. Clitus Barbour on the Late Alleged
Indian Outrages in the Region of Camas Prairie

To His excellency the Governor of Idaho Territory:

Dear Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of facts elicited on investigation into the conduct of the Bannack Indians under "Bannack Jim."

In pursuance of instructions, I started on the 23d inst., with a suitable escort for Big Camas Prairie, whence the principal rumors had emanated. On the way out I found that the greater portion of the women and children had been sent in from the settlements, and a very uneasy feeling prevailed among those that remained.

The people had been warned by friendly Indians of the dangerous designs of some of "Bannack Jim's" band, and in one case the danger was considered so imminent that a friendly Indian left his Henry rifle with a couple of white men to defend themselves with, in case of attack. This was in Little Camas prairie, where some hogs were being herded, and, it was the nearest place where white men lived by the camp of the hostile Indians.

I arrived on Soldier Creek, in Big Camas prairie, on the morning of Thursday the 27th inst. Here was encamped the Shoshone tribe, under "Dendoy." Along with him were some friendly Bannacks, who had deserted "Bannack Jim," other Bannacks who had never recognized or traveled with him, and a few scattering Indians of other tribes.

We were received by this chief with great friendliness, and hospitably treated by him during our stay. As we were anxious to hear all side of the stories messengers were dispatched forthwith to the camp of "Bannack Jim," which was across the valley and above, for the leading men of that tribe to come over and see us. A delegation of the Bannacks arrived about two o'clock p.m. of that day, headed by a couple of pseudo chiefs, who proceeded forthwith to call a council and prepare for a big medicine talk.

Their spokesman was an insignificant, though vicious looking little Indian, with a dish clout on his head, while his colleague was a venerable fossil, apparently deaf and dumb and blind. The redoubtable Jim had not put in an appearance, and I soon found that more important personages had stayed away than those that came. There seemed to be a disposition to play us, and convert the thing into a farce, and therefore I repudiated that outfit with, I hope, a proper measure of contempt. I demanded to see some more responsible men, and they were sent for.

In the meantime I pursued my inquiries as diligently as I could under the circumstances, and found the following facts, principally on the testimony of Bannacks themselves, and eye witnesses of some of the facts stated:

"Bannack Jim's" Indians killed two white men last fall on the Yellowstone, near the Bozeman pass, and took their horses and other property, which they have in possession now.

They killed two men near Murphy's toll bridge, on the Montana road, and are said to have their horses. It appears, however, in this case, that the white men fired on them first.

They attacked three men near the Boise City and Montana road, about 40 miles beyond Wood river, killing one of them and wounding another, the third escaping unhurt. Here they captured four horses and their accoutrements. There is no difference in the account of this affair which has been published in the Boise City newspapers, and that which I obtained from the Bannacks themselves, save that the latter admitted that they had killed two men. This undoubtedly arises from their supposition that they had killed the man who was wounded.

They have committed numerous larcenies of horses along the routes of their travel, and they now have not less than 15 head of stolen horses among them. They attempted the wholesale capture of a band of mules at the crossing of Wood river which were being driven through to Montana, and their conduct shows that they would have taken the lives of the three men in charge, but they were foiled in both endeavors by the friendly offices of Mr. Jas. A Dempsy and "Dendoy" and his band.

They are also charged by the other Indians with having committed other murders and robberies in lonely and unfrequented places, but these charges may have come from unfriendly lips, and are too vaguely supported for me to set them down here.

The next morning their Big Medicine man and Prophet, Pe-te-go, arrived. He came very reluctantly, and only after the second attempt of his dupes to bring him. He is reputed to have immense influence among his people, especially the younger portion thereof. Having learned that "Bannack Jim" had slipped away to return to Boise city with the four horses stolen from the three men attacked beyond Wood river, I despaired of an interview with him, and concluded to hear what Pe-te-go and his supporters had to say.

I recited specifically the crimes with which they were charged, and stated explicitly the consequences that would ensue, and then informed them that I would like to hear their explanation of the matter.

I fully expected a denial of the facts, or at least some attempt at exculpation or justification. On the contrary, they impliedly admitted the truth of the matters charged, and laid them on some hot-headed young men among them. Pe-te-go declared that there would be no more of it, because they would hereafter make the boys behave themselves.

As to the attempt to steal the bad of mules at the crossing of Wood river, I found that the principal portion of "Bannack Jim's" band was engaged in that affair, and that "Bannack Jim" was aiding and abetting it personally. They admitted that four young Indians, instigated thereto by their Medicine men, had started out to murder and rob the three men who had passed them beyond Wood River, and I found that "Bannack Jim" had went after them the first time, and made them come back.

They started out the second time the same day, and "Bannack Jim" was notified of the fact by some of the older Bannacks, and implored to exert his authority to restrain them again. Instead of doing so, he crawled into his lodge and let them go.

I found that old "Winnemucca" had been tampering some way with these Indians, as well as various other tribes, through his runners, and endeavoring apparently to rouse them against the whites through their superstitions.

I may mention one of his prophecies which is currently believed among the credulous ones, and that is that on a certain day, not far distant, all the dead Indians will rise from their graves and collect in some plain, making a great and powerful army, strong enough to overpower and wipe out all the white men. A number of imitators have sprung up, and their influence over the ignorant savages is pernicious in the extreme. I attribute much of the late outrageous conduct of "Bannack Jim's" band to the teachings of these sour fanatics.

I ascertained in the course of my investigations that "Dendoy's" band of Shoshones, and the other Indians who live under his chieftainship, are well disposed toward the whites, and have exerted themselves on behalf of the whites to protect their lives and property, and recover and restore property stolen from them on more than one occasion, at great personal risk to themselves.

I saw for myself that the influence of "Dendoy" was salutary. I saw that the Bannacks were practically without a responsible head since the death of "Tygee," and that their tribal organization was in a very demoralized state. I regarded the charges against them of murders and robberies, as incontestably proven, and I considered it very likely that an attempt would be made by the authorities to punish the guilty ones.

Therefore, in view of all the facts, I took upon myself the authority to advise all the well-disposed Bannacks, who had not been concerned in any of the murders or robberies going on, to repudiate "Bannack Jim" and the "Medicine Man," and the lawless ones among them, and draw out from him and them, and come over into the camp of "Dendoy," where the American flag was kept flying, and peace with the white men was sure to be preserved. Thus the wolves could be separated from the sheep, and the former could be dealt with as the premises might seem to demand.

The arrangement was acceptable to "Dendoy," and I have reason to hope that it will prove acceptable to a majority of the Bannacks likewise. They have a natural chief in the person of "Tygee's" son, who will be old enough in a few years to take the position, at which time they may be able to resume their tribal organization under better auspices. Until that time it will be best for them to remain with a safe man like "Dendoy." Before leaving Big Camas prairie, I made arrangements for having early information of the action of the Bannacks on the proposition submitted, for the guidance of those in authority here.

As nearly as I could estimate them, there were 1,200 Indians in Big Camas prairie, about equally divided between the two camps under "Dendoy" and "Bannack Jim." They go there in early summer, because of the abundance of camas and yampas. From the hostile and devilish disposition of some of the Bannacks who come in there every summer, under a provision in the treaty made with them from their reservation at Fort Hall, I should say that it would be dangerous for small parties to go over the road through Camas prairie while they are there. They are probably too cowardly to come out and maraud among the settlements, but they are liable to continue to cut off small and feebly aimed parties, taken at a disadvantage, unless the guilty ones are visited with condign punishment for the deeds they have done.

I cannot conclude this report without expressing my obligations and I think I may say the obligations of the community, to Messrs. Lon. Minder, Ed. Elmer, Obe Corder, Gilbert Bixby, Wm. McCameron, and Jas. Williams, who left their homes and their business to accompany me on the expedition.

I have the honor to subscribe myself,
Your obedient servant,
Clitus Barbour

Idaho Tri Weekly Statesman, Boise City, Idaho
9 Jul 1872, pg. 3, col. 1


Mr. Tatro, proprietor of the Rocky Bar Stage Line, came in on Friday evening bringing as passengers Andy Kramer, of Rocky Bar, and E.B. Hall, of Atlanta, and passengers, from Indian creek Frank Coffin, W.P. Thompson, Robert Louthan and Geo. Twichell, Jr.

Rocky Bar people celebrated the 4th at Pine Grove, twenty miles this side of the Bar on the South Boise.

Little Camas Prairie is full of Indians. Dendoy's band, with considerable many Bannacks, numbering about 1,200 in all. The Indians are moving this way, and going over to the Weiser.

The bad Bannacks are slowly following up Dendoy. Tatro found an Indian agent from Fort Hall by the name of Fisher with the Indians at Camas Prairie. He had been sent out there to look after the murderers, robbers, etc., but was sick and came in on Tatro's Stage and is now at the Overland House.

His investigations, as far as they have gone, confirm Mr. Barbour's report, with some additional facts. He is for capturing those bad Indians, and hopes to get help and do so. Dendoy will pass through here, and if the Bannacks follow him up, there may be a chance to capture the murderers.

Idaho Statesman, Boise City, Idaho
9 Jul 1872, pg. 4, col. 1

The Indians Again

Mr. Fisher, Indian trader at Fort Hall Reservation and acting Indian Agent during the absence of Mr. High, arrived in town last Saturday from Fort Hall, by way of Big Camas Prairie, whither he had come to investigate and try to straighten out matters among the Bannacks.

The wounded man, Nelson, and another named Gillis had arrived at Fort Hall and told their story about having been attacked and robbed by Indians beyond Wood river. One of them accompanied Mr. Fisher to the scene of the alleged attack. There they found the grave of the murdered man Chatman. Mr. Fisher arrived in Big Camas Prairie a few days after Mr. Clitas Barbour and party had left there.

We have interviewed Mr. Fisher, and he substantiates the statements in Mr. Barbour's report and says that it is even worse than is there set down. He says there are not less than a dozen Bannack Indians who ought to be hung, and must be dealt severely with, or worse will follow.

Mr. Fisher was compelled by a severe attack of sickness to come into Boise City for medical aid, and was thus prevented from pursuing the object of his mission. He is now lying at the Overland Hotel, unable to move out.

It seems that a majority of the Indians under Dendoy, have left Camas prairie and are making in this direction. Their destination is the Weiser valley, where they go for the salmon fishing.

The Bannacks, or those of them who are still together, are close behind, evidently clinging to Dendoy's skirts for protection. The bad Indians are along with them. We understand by letter from out on the road that their hostility has not cropped out since they left Big Camas prairie, except in the killing of some hogs and cattle. The cattle belonged to Messrs Bixby and Robinson. We did not learn how many had been killed.

These bad Indians spoken of will probably skulk through our settlements, keeping hidden among the friendly Indians, who are anxious to keep the peace with the whites, and who yet dislike to give up their relatives to punishment, however much they may condemn their conduct. It is true of them, as with most of mankind, that "blood is thicker than water."

Nevertheless it may be possible to secure the punishment of the guilty ones, if the proper effort is made to do so. It is for those in authority to make the effort. Why that sort of apathy and indifference which suffers these lousy and beggarly culprits to be unwhipped for their crimes is liable to arouse the citizens to take matters in their own hands, when it may chance that no trouble will be taken to discriminate, and the innocent will go up with the guilty. The people may of themselves remove the last reason for supporting in these United States a standing army.

Dendoy, the Shoshone chief, is in town with several Indians. His object is to get away from the bad Bannacks and find some place where he can fish and hunt. From all we can learn, the bad Bannacks are following him up. They don't feel safe to go by themselves, and still some of them are opposed to coming under Dendoy, because if they were to do so he would deliver up about a dozen murderers that are amongst them.

Idaho Tri Weekly Statesman, Boise City, Idaho
15 Jul 1872, pg. 2, col. 3.


Notice is hereby given that I will apply to the Hon. Board of County Commissioners of Alturas County at their July Session asking them for an extension of Porter's Toll Road, commencing at the east end of said road, in Long Tom valley, and extending to a point known as the divide between Dixie and Camas Prairie valleys, intersecting the old Fort Hall Emigrant Road, a distance about six miles.

James A. Porter

Idaho Tri Weekly Statesman, Boise City, Idaho
20 Jul 1872, pg. 4, col. 2.


Sub-Indian Agent Fisher, from the Fort Hall Reservation, who has been stopping at the Overland Hotel, in this City, for several days to recover his health, has finally followed the Indians down to the Payette and probably over to the Weiser.

There is some dirty work about the management of these Indians, and it begins to point very strongly against Agent High and this sub-agent Fisher. High knows that he has no authority to send the Indians off the reservation, except to the camas ground where they may go for certain months in the year, and if they go beyond their bounds it is his duty to bring them back.

The truth is, he has sent the Indians down to the Weiser so as to keep them away from the reservation in order to get rid of feeding them. And it appears that Fisher is the man who is to carry out his instructions. There was a large band of Indians in town yesterday, said to be Dendoy's band, on their way to the Weiser.

Some people believe that Gov. Bennett has control over the Indians and he might send them back to the reservation. This is a mistake. The governor has no more control over this matter than any other citizen. The responsibility is wholly with the Indian agent at Fort Hall. In another issue we will speak more fully of the course that High is pursuing in regard to the Indians, as some things have come to light which we did not know of before.

There is no news from the Weiser since the Indians began to congregate there. Report says some of the Fort Hall Indians are roaming around the Bruneau country, and others have gone through Owyhee county, probably to join old Winnemucca. We shall not be surprised to hear of trouble in any quarter with these roving bands of Indians. There don't appear to be any efforts to keep the Indians on the reservation.

Idaho Tri Weekly Statesman, Boise City, Idaho
29 Aug 1872, pg. 4 col. 3


While we have been talking about the Indians and remonstrating against their coming west of Camas Prairie, we had the impression, from what Fisher said when he came here, that they had no right to go beyond those limits. In fact, Fisher says in his letter to the editor of the Avalanche they have a right by treaty stipulation to come off their reservation to Camas prairie, to the Shoshone Falls, and to the buffalo country, as Fisher says -- it don't say anything about these places.

The treaty requires "that reasonable portions of the Port Neuf and Kamas prairie countries shall be selected for their reservation, and the Indians agree to live there for their permanent home -- and they will make no permanent settlement elsewhere, but they shall have the right to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States so long as game is to be found thereon."

We have no doubt that Mr. High will set up these provisions as his defense against what we have said about Indian matters, or which we are ready to give him the benefit, but we think his agent ought to be informed as to the provisions of the treaty before he undertakes to enlighten others.

But be that as it may, this assemblage of Indians on the Weiser has been a dangerous thing for the people, and ought not to be repeated. We can say to Mr. High and the other agents that we have no axes to grind in this matters; we don't want an Indian office ourselves, and don't want one to give away. We insist upon every officer doing his duty. If he makes mistakes he does no more than others may do; but they should not be gross mistakes, and he should be ready to correct them and not turn a deaf ear to the people. If he can't do this his usefulness is gone, and he had better be dismissed.

Giving the broadest construction to this treaty stipulation for the Indians to hunt upon the unoccupied lands of the United States, it cannot be conceded that any such gathering of Indians, as has been had on the Weiser, was ever intended. It never should have been permitted by the agents, especially when the Indians had committed murder and robbery upon first starting out, and the guilty ones still at large and traveling with the others.

Another piece of advice we wish to give the agents is, that when any congregation of Indians is contemplated, an escort of soldiers under responsible officers should be sent to insure their good behavior. It would have a good effect in keeping bad men from selling them whisky, and would afford protection to both Indians and whites, wherever they may be. If Mr. High had sent out a few soldiers to Camas prairie at the time the Indians went there, the depredations would have been prevented and perhaps the presence of one or two responsible agents might have done so. The whole affair has been badly managed, and the agents are not without blame.

The Indians have broke camp on the Weiser and are returning to their reservations. The Shoshones and Bannacks have been passing through town for several days, and we hope the last of them are gone.

From Dempsey, a white man who has been with the Bannacks and Shoshones for many years, we learn the number of Indians that were congregated on the Weiser. He says there were 500 Nez Perces, about 800 Umatillas or Cayuses, 75 Klikitats, a few Shoshones, and the rest Bannacks the total being about 2,500. Most of the Shoshones that were on Big Camas prairie went over on South Boise, and only a few went to the Weiser. The Nez Perces were accompanied by a man named Bane, sent with them to look after their behavior. With this exception, no white men or soldiers were with them.

The Nez Perces and Bannacks made a treaty of peace, and hereafter each are to have the right to visit the other, and they agree to steal no horses or squaws, though he says two squaws were stolen from the Bannacks when they broke camp, which was the only stealing from one another, he thinks. The treaty was celebrated with great pomp and parade. He gave a description of the affair, but we don't think it would interest our readers very much.

Dempsey took a great deal of credit to himself for the good behavior of the Indians. But for his presence, he says, there would have been serious trouble with the whites on several occasions.

We are not sorry that these Indians are gone, and we are heartily glad to hear that they done no serious injury to the settlers. We presume the people on the Weiser will breathe easier and sleep sounder without their presence. If they get through to the Camas grounds without molesting any of the settlers east of here, as we hope they may, it will be a great relief to people.

ERRATUM. An "out" occurred in Mr. Fisher's communication to the Avalanche as reproduced in our last issue, and we reprint today a portion of it with the omission supplied:

Ed. Avalanche: I accept your offer of space in your columns, for the purpose of correcting some misstatements concerning my connection with the investigations into the late alleged Indian outrages in and near Big Camas Prairie, and my authority therein. I started from Fort Hall Reservation on the 20th of June with a party of one hundred Indians, for purposes which the following letter from the Indian Agent, resident there, will explain:

Bannack and Shoshone Agency
Fort Hall, I.T., June 17, 1872

SIR: You will proceed to Taylor's Bridge and investigate and report to me in relation to the outrages and murder committed near there by Indians. You will detail and order any Indians belonging to this reservation to perform any duty which will, in your judgment, aid and assist in the detention and arrest of the guilty parties.

If practicable you will also go to Camas Prairie and ascertain what cause to complaint the annual visit of the Indians from this Agency gives the people who live in that country. You will prevent if possible, their presence this year conflicting with the interest or rights of any person occupying that or any country through which they may pass.

Very respectfully,
J.W. High
U.S. Indian Agent

Stanton G. Fisher,
Late Indian Trader
Fort Hall Reservation

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