11 March 2020

Determined to Fight it Out [guest post by Edward Fox, 4 March 1873]


T
he prospects of peace with the Modoc Indians are not so favorable to-day, as Mr. Elijah Steele has just returned from the lava beds, bringing the intelligence that after a long council the Indians decided against going away from their own country, and are evidently determined to fight it out on that line.
Mr. Elijah Steele went yesterday morning into the lava beds, the bearer of the following terms:—
First—To surrender to General Canby and receive full amnesty for the past.
Second—To be removed to Angel Island, where they are to be fed with soldiers’ allowance and clothed until a new home can be provided for them and they are able to support themselves in it.
Third—To be furnished by General Canby with transportation for their women and children to the island, and thence to their new home, perhaps in Arizona.
Fourth—General Canby is of the opinion that he can promise that Jack and some of his head men should go to visit the President, and that the President will permit them to select for themselves a new home in a warmer climate.
They had a long talk over the matter; but from the first they evinced a marked dislike to leaving the home of their forefathers, and finally sent back word by Mr. Steele that they would only live in their own country. This alters the aspect of affairs, and the Commissioners have telegraphed to Washington for instructions. The first talk was held last evening, in Jack’s cave, and everything went on smoothly until Mr. Steele read out the terms and they were translated to the Indians.
Only two or three appeared to approve of their tenor, and presently John Schonchin got up and spoke rather wildly, saying that the Commissioners were talking with two tongues, and that he wondered Steele had the courage to make such a proposition to them. Schonchin’s speech fired up the warriors, and if the envoys had not preserved their presence of mind they might have fared badly.
Steele counted sixty-nine warriors present, all fully armed, which makes twenty-five more than I saw when I was in the lava beds. These last twenty-five are supposed to belong to the Snake tribe, as some of them wore mustaches.
Captain Jack spoke, and said he did not understand what Mr. Steele meant when he was in before, but now he knows the nature of the proposition. He felt sorry because he could not go away from his own country. His heart was good. He did not want to fight, and he would give up all his land in Oregon and live on a little piece in California, but he would not go away from this country. Mr. Steele finally concluded that it would be better to defer the talk until the morning, and the council adjourned.
Steele and party did not pass a very pleasant night, as it was evident from the actions of Scar-faced Charley and Captain Jack that they were afraid of treachery. Steele and the clerk who went in with them slept in Jack’s cave, with Scar-faced Charley on one side of them and Mary, Jack’s sister, on the other. Captain Jack sent away his wives and slept at their feet.
The night, however, passed over without any outbreak, and in the morning they had another talk, but there were only about twenty warriors present. Captain Jack and Schonchin both spoke for some time in an excited and insolent manner, and from their language indicated a decided intention of having their own way and stopping in their own country.
Steele tried to temporize with them a little, and proposed an interview with the Commissioners somewhere near the lava beds. To this they assented, but only wanted to see Meacham and Applegate and no soldiers.
Mr. Steele finally left and came back with his report to the Commissioners, accompanied by several [women], who are determined not to go back again, and say that the [men] are mad and want more blood. It is hard to account for this sudden change in their bearing, and I can only account for it by the appearance of those strange Indians who are supposed to be the Snakes.
When I was in there Jack said overtures had been made to him by the Snakes, but that he did not want them in his country. It appears, however, that they have come, and probably more will come from the same source. Mr. Steele has had enough of the lava beds, and I do not think he will go back there any more.
The Commissioners are looking very blue, and Meacham said to-night that he wanted a good horse, as he was a peace man, not a soldier, and from the look of things the Modocs appeared to be anxious for a lock of his hair, which he had no intention of giving away if he could prevent it.
A message will be sent in to-morrow by some Indians that the Commissioners will only meet them on honorable terms and will not go into the lava beds; they also send word that they will guarantee clothing, food and protection to any that may choose to come out. Things look rather like fighting, as since the Indians have been round the house a flask of powder and some caps have been stolen.
Two wounded Modocs, Duffy and Long Jim, have surrendered, and are being taken care of by the military.

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