Camas Prairie in the News 1877

Idaho Tri Weekly Statesman, Boise City, Idaho
26 Jun 1877, pg. 3, col. 2.

Interview with the Bannock Indians

Hon. Thos E. Logan, Mayor of Boise City, and Hon. T.N. Coston, member of the Legislative Council, who left here on Wednesday, June 20 for the purpose of visiting the Indians encamped on Great Camas prairie 75 miles northeast of this place, returned at noon Saturday accompanied by fourteen of the principal chiefs of the Indians there assembled. There are now encamped in that locality about 1,500 Indians of both sexes and all ages embracing members of the Bannock, Shoshone, and Yellowstone tribes.

Messrs. Logan and Coston after leaving Boise City on Wednesday proceeded by the Kelton stage road to Corder's station at Indian creek twenty miles distant from this place where they learned that parties of Indians had been to the station for provisions, and that they had returned to their camp on Willow creek twenty miles further and in the direction of the main camp or rendezvous.

Messrs. Logan and Coston then went on to Willow creek where they found a party of Indians encamped to whom they made known the object of their visit, which was to ascertain the disposition of the Indians and their intentions. The Indians were asked to send forward their best riders to the main camp and request the principal chief to meet the commissioners at Willow creek.

The Indians complied, and very soon the chiefs made their appearance when an interview took place, which revealed the fact that these Indians had been visited by emissaries from the Nez Perces and other hostile tribes in the north, but they professed friendliness to the whites and a determination to remain faithful to former treaties and pledges. The commissioners then requested the chiefs to accompany them to Boise City and have a talk with the Governor to which they agreed. James Dempsey, an Irishman, who has been long with these Indians and understands their language, came with them as Interpreter.

Upon their arrival in town after exchanging friendly greetings with Gov. Brayman and the citizens to most of whom they were old acquaintances, the chief were conducted to the Overland Hotel where a magnificent dinner was awaiting them.

After dinner the chiefs met the Governor in the Executive Chamber when the following interview took place in the presence of Messrs. Logan and Coston and several other citizens:

Governor Brayman: I wish to know what positions and authority these chiefs hold in their respective tribes.

Interpreter: Capt. Jim is chief of the Boise Indians; Maj. Jim is a Bannock chief representing here Tetoba in the absence of Den Doy who is sick at the camp on Camas prairie; Maj. George is a Bannock chief residing up on the Fort Hall reservation and is a brother of Cap. Jim; Bannock John resides at Salmon falls on the Snake river.

Governor Brayman: Which am I to recognize as head chief here.

Interpreter: None of them claim precedence. Their authority is about equal.

At this point Mr. Coston addressed the Governor giving a relation of a talk he had with the Indians, and said that they had come to have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the Governor, whom they now meet for the first time. That they wished to renew to him the assurances of their friendly feelings, and their desire to preserve the peace for all time, that during all the excitement they had remained true.

Governor Brayman to the chiefs: How many Indians do you represent?

Capt. Jim: I represent about three hundred.

Maj. Jim: I represent seven hundred.

Governor Brayman: I wish to say to the chiefs that I am very glad to see them here today.

Maj. Jim: Our hearts feel good towards you. We are not foolish. Our brains are strong and clear. Our hearts are in the right place toward the white men.

Governor Brayman: We heard four or five days ago that the Nez Perces had killed 30 or 40 of our people, and that they were concentrating and making war. We were afraid that they would try and get the friendly Indians to join with them. Our people were much alarmed and called upon me for help, and I had plenty of guns and men, so I began organizing companies.

Maj. Jim: There has been no bloodshed in our country. It is clear of it. We wish you to know that it is our intention is to remain peaceful.

Governor Brayman: Some days ago I requested Sheriff ___ of Silver City to see Winnemucca and find out whether he was friendly. He did as I wished and Winnemucca came to Silver City under a flag of truce and asked to communicate with me by telegraph. We exchanged messages, and I was assured by him that he planned to remain friendly.

Three or four days ago when we apprehended danger, Messrs. Logan and Coston were authorized to go to you and to assure you that we were friendly. We were not afraid that you would go to war against us, but were afraid that you might be led away by stories told by hostile tribes. We are now satisfied of your friendly disposition and we will not get into any trouble.

When the people here heard that the Nez Perces were killing our people they became alarmed and, as I had guns, I sent them to the people, not for them to attack anyone. I simply made preparation in case of an outbreak. I wish to know where you expect to be during the summer?

Maj. Jim: We will tell you that after awhile.

Governor Brayman: Some years ago the Governor was superintendent of Indian affairs and had power to help the Indians, but now I have no power as none but the Indian agents have authority to act.

Maj. Jim: We have not thrown off on the Fort Hall reservation. We went to Montana to hunt buffalo to get something to trade for food for our little ones. The Indians are like the whites; they do different things to get the means of living. Our hearts are good; our brains are good; we like to shake hands with the white men.

The Nez Perce who fight are no relations of ours. We do not intend to help them. We have always fought with the whites and for them, and never against them. The Nez Perce who fight will not come to our camp and hunting grounds. I do not lie; I tell the truth. Some of your people make farms and raise wheat and potatoes. I wish you to tell me who owns this country?

Governor Brayman: I suppose you owned it first.

Maj. Jim: Your people make farms and fence up all this country; the Indians make their farm too which is the Great Camas Prairie where our women dig roots to feed them and the children. The white men drive too many hogs and cattle upon the prairie, which eat up the roots of the Camas and destroy the plant. We cannot live without food and the Camas root has always been our food. When the Camas is destroyed our children will suffer from hunger.

Fuller the Agent at Lemhi, takes the blankets which are sent to us from Washington and cuts them in two. He gives us the half of a blanket and sells the other half for money. Donaldson the Agent at Fort Hall is always angry with us, and treats us roughly. He divides the blankets like Fuller and sells the good horses from the Reservation and puts poor Indian ponies in their place.

We wish to have these Agents taken away, and good honest men sent to us. We do not like Fort Hall. It is too cold. Nothing will grow there. We wish to have the Great Camas Prairie put with the Fort Hall Reservation, so that we can live there in summer and dig Camas. We never sold, or gave away Camas Prairie. We had nothing to do with any treaty which would take it away from us.

Here Dempsey, the interpreter, explained that the Fort Hall Reservation was separated from the Great Camas Prairie by a barren country one hundred miles in width.

Captain Jim: There are three Reservations for the Bannacks and Shoshones. The Washakie Reservation on Wind river, the Fort Hall Reservation, and the Lemhi Reservation. There are not one Reservation for Bannacks, one for Shoshones, and one for another tribe; but the Bannacks and Shoshones may live together upon one or the other. A dog with three homes has no home at all. We would like to have one Reservation rather than three.

Some further conversation ensued in which the Indians complained feelingly of the dearth of food upon the Camas Prairie when a liberal contribution was made by the gentlemen present for the purpose of purchasing food for the Indians to take home with them.

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