Out of the Past
History Lessons


Medicine Lodge Treaty Signed

"The government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is here pledged to keep it. The Indians desire peace and they now pledge their honor to maintain it.
The Treaty of Medicine Lodge Creek

These words were stated in  the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty of 1867, drawn between the U.S. government and five tribes of Plains Indians -- the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche -- at a place known as Medicine Lodge in southern Kansas. 

The Plains Indians frequented Medicine Lodge, which they considered a sacred area. The different tribes of Indians peacefully shared a "lodge" on the banks of the Medicine River, which they believed had the power to cure ills.The Kiowa went there once a year to bathe in the healing waters of the river.  They renewed their medicine at the sacred lodge.  There were no railroads.  There were no white settlements nearby.  It was many miles to
the nearest Army post. 

Over 5,000 Indians from five different tribes came to the meeting with a commission appointed by the U.S. Congress to make peace with the Indians. 

Many speeches were made during the meeting, which was covered by major East Coast newspapers. Satanta, the chief of the Kiowas, made one of the most eloquent appeals on behalf of his tribe: 

"I love this land and the buffalo and will not part with it. I want you to understand well what I say. Write it on paper... 

"I hear a great deal of good talk from the gentlemen the Great Father sends us, but they never do what they say. I don't want any of the medicine lodges (schools and churches) within the country. I want the children raised as I was. I have heard you intend to settle us on a reservation near the mountains. I don't want to settle. I love to roam over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die. 

"A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on it's banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting. 

"This building of homes for us is all nonsense. We don't want you to build any for us; we would all die. Look at the Penatekas! Formerly they were powerful, now they are weak and poor. I want all my land, even from the Arkansas south to Red River. My country is small enough already. If you build us houses the land will be smaller. Why do you insist on this? What good will come of it? I don't understand your reason. Time enough to build us houses when the buffalo are all gone. But you tell the Great Father that there are plenty of buffalo yet, and when the buffalo are gone, I will tell him. This trusting to agents for food I don't believe in." 

Chief Satanta was a tall man with an erect bearing and a piercing glance. He could speak five different languages fluently, according to reports,  four Indian toungues and Spanish. Newspapers reported that those who could not understand a  word he said were fascinated by the rhythmic tone of his voice. 

Satanta’s impressive speech made no difference on the outcome of the treaty.  The commissioners had been appointed to make sure the Indian would live on reservations and learn to farm.  Their children were to go to school and learn to speak English.  No longer would the Indians roam freely over the plains. 

The treaty promised to protect the Indians from white hunters, to provide them with schools and farming tools, and to give them allotments of food and clothing. It also  allowed for white settlements in the area, opened it up to railroads, and fixed the southern boundary of Kansas. 

The Medicine Lodge Treaty -- signed on October 28, 1867 -- did not end all the fighting.  Many Indians gave up their hunting grounds and their nomadic of life and accepted life on the reservation.  Others refused to stay on the reservations, which led to a decade of warfare with the U.S. Cavalry. 

Satanta (White Bear)
Satanta, Kiowa Chief, 
(c. 1820-1878), also known as Settainte (White Bear) 

Oratory in Native North America

by William M. Clements
The University of Arizona Press, 2002

"The association between metaphorical speech and Indianness became so ensconced in American iconography that one of the markers of 'playing Indian' in the late 18th and early 19th century was speaking in metaphors. This became a 'given way of signifying Indianness.'"

In this critical study of Native American oratory, Folklorist William M. Clements explores the cultural tradition and its impact on the European settlers who are its primary historians and archivists.

As Clements documents, almost all of the source material for Native oratory in America is from Euro-American letters, journals, diaries, missionary reports, captivity narratives, soldiers' memoirs, newspapers, ethnology studies and treaty proceedings. As such, the sources are often prejudiced and tainted with political or social motives.

Clements, the author of an earlier study of Native American Verbal Art, shows how to scrutinize the historical reports and get a closer approximation of the true history through the textures, situations and contexts of the oratorical events.

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