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Washington Indian Wars - Page 3

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Whitman Murderers Hanged (June 3, 1850) - In March, 1850, the Cayuse were persuaded to surrender five men by the names of Tiloukaikt, Tomahas. Klokamas, Isaiachalkis, and Kimasumpkin. The U.S. Cavalry then brought the five accused murderers 250 miles from their homelands to Oregon City, the capital seat of Oregon Territory. Court proceedings began on May 21, 1850 and the Cayuse men were provided with interpreters and lawyers. After the indictment was read, the men pled not guilty. The trial began two days later on May 23rd. It was over the next day. After the jury deliberated just 75 minutes, all five men were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The execution was carried out on June 3, 1850 before a large crowd of Oregon City spectators. They were buried at the outskirts of Oregon City in unmarked graves.

 

Yakama WarriorYakima War (1855-1858) - Between the years of 1855 and 1858 the Yakama Indians (spelled Yakima at the time) were living along the Columbia and Yakima Rivers on the plateau in central Washington Territory. Residing in an area that was "in the way” of white settlers, most particularly, miners looking for their fortunes, the first governor of the newly formed Washington Territory, Isaac Stevens, along with the Superintendent of Oregon Territory, Joel Palmer, sought to move the Yakama, as well as the Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Cayuse tribes on to reservations in 1855. Ceding in excess of six million acres to the U.S. government in exchange for $200,000, the Indians were promised that white miners and settlers would not be allowed to trespass upon their lands.

 

However, when gold was discovered in the Colville area and in the Fraser River area of British Columbia, the miners ignored the rules and trespassed anyway, sometimes stealing the Indian's horses and mistreating them. When some of the Yakama warriors retaliated by killing miners in isolated incidents, Andrew J. Bolon, the Indian sub-agent at The Dalles was sent in to investigate. When, he too was killed, troops were sent into the Yakima Valley, starting the Yakima Indian War in October, 1855.

 

Yakima warrior hangedAs the troops continued to flood the region, the Yakama united with the Walla Walla and Cayuse tribes and a number of raids and battles took place. The last phase of the Yakima War, referred to as the Coeur d'Alene War or Palouse War came in 1858 when a force under the command of Colonel George Wright was sent in to deal with the Indians. In September, 1858, Wright’s troops defeated the Yakama and their allies in the Battle of Four Lakes near Spokane, Washington.

 

Though the main Indian leader, Yakama Chief Kamiakin fled to Canada, 24 other chiefs were captured, and then hanged or shot. The remainder of the tribes were then permanently placed on reservations.

 

Toppenish Creek (October 6-8, 1855) - The Battle of Toppenish Creek was the first engagement of the Yakima War in Washington. The prior month, Yakama Chief Kamiakin announced that he would kill all whites who entered his country and Indian agent Andrew J. Bolon was tipped that he should leave the area. As he was trying to do so on September 23rd, he encountered three Yakima braves, including Chief Kamiakin's nephew, Moshell. After one of them accused the agent of having previously hanged several Indians , Bolon's throat was cut and he was killed.

 
 

 

In retaliation, district commander Major Gabriel J. Rains ordered an expedition to intimidate the Indians. Led by Major Granville O. Haller, several infantry companies left Fort Dalles in early October with a howitzer. After a three-day march, Haller and his more than 80 men arrived at Toppenish Creek, east of present-day Fort Simcoe State Park.

 

There, he encountered about 600 Yakama and Palouse Indians led by Yakima Chief Kamiakin and Palouse Chief Owhi. Though Haller's group was not nearly as large, the infantry took position on a ridge and attacked. However, when the warrior numbers were reinforced to about 1,500, Haller ordered his men to retreat. As they headed back Fort Dalles, they were followed by about 250 braves who fought the soldiers intermittently. In the initial battle and on their return, they lost the howitzer, most of the pack train, five men were killed, and some 17 others wounded. Their defeat would soon embolden other northwestern tribes to take action.

 

Puget Sound Tribes of WashingtonPuget Sound War (October, 1855-1856) - This armed conflict, taking place in the Puget Sound area, primarily occurred between the United States Military and local militias against members of the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, and Klickitat tribes over land rights. At the same time, the Haida and Tlingit tribes were also coming into conflict with the United States Navy.

 

The affair began after the Treaty of Medicine Creek was negotiated in 1854, which set aside reservations for the tribes. However, for the Nisqually tribe, their reservation was situated on rocky high ground which was unsuitable for farming and cut them off from access to the river that provided the mainstay of their livelihood, salmon. In 1855, Nisqually Chief Leschi traveled to the territorial capital at Olympia to protest the terms of the treaty; but he was unsuccessful. In October, Acting Governor, Charles H. Mason, ordered that Leschi and his brother Quiemuth be taken into "protective custody" and sent the militia after them.

 

In October, 1855, Captain Charles Eaton and his citizen militia -- "Eaton's Rangers," caught up with the Nisqually, and a fight ensued in which two militiamen, Joseph Miller and Abram Benton Moses, were killed. Upon hearing the news, Governor Stevens immediately dispatched more troops to find Chief Leschi and bring him in.

 

The war itself consisted of a series of short skirmishes with relatively few deaths on either side. Notable battles occurred in present-day Tacoma, Seattle, and even as far east as Walla Walla. Although limited in its magnitude, territorial impact and losses in terms of lives, the conflict is often remembered in connection to the Battle of Seattle, which occurred in January, 1856, and to the execution of a central figure of the war, Nisqually Chief Leschi on February 19, 1858. The contemporaneous Yakima War may have been responsible for some events of the Puget Sound War and it has never been clear that the people of the time made a strong distinction between the two conflicts.

 

 

Nisqually Chief LeschiMilitiamen Killed (October,1855) - After Nisqually Chief Leschi had traveled to Olympia to protest the terms of the treaty that had been negotiated the previous year, Lieutenant James McAllister convinced Acting Governor Charles Mason that Leschi was stirring up trouble with the other Indians. Mason responded by dispatching McAllister's militia unit, Eaton's Rangers, headed by Captain Charles Eaton, to take Chief Leschi into custody and deliver him to Olympia. However, before the militia arrived Chief Leschi received word that they were coming after him and he and his brother, Quiemuth fled. However, when the militiamen were encountered by the Nisqually, a fight erupted and two soldiers named Abram Benton Moses and Joseph Miles (or Miller) were killed. Though Leschi was not even there, infuriated territorial authorities blamed him for the killings and the search for Leschi would gain momentum. The chief would remain at large for nearly a year. In the meantime, Stevens declared martial law over Pierce County on April 2, 1856. (He was later charged with contempt of court due to this declaration; however, as governor he pardoned himself.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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