the year 1851, the vast plains to the eastward side of the Rocky
Mountains were regarded as Indian
territories, over which numerous tribes roamed at will from
Mexico to the British possessions to the north.
The discovery of gold in
1849, drew the eyes of the civilized world to the Pacific Coast, and a
tide of emigration set in that direction, the like of which this country
had never seen before. The ships that made the tempestuous passage
around Cape Horn were crowded to overflowing with men eager to face
every peril for the sake of digging the yellow particles from the
mountains and river beds.
While these lines of travel were crowded, thousands more crossed the
continent by the plains or overland route, which was filled with perils.
The emigrants spent weeks and months, their wagons winding slowly across
the prairies, fording streams, climbing mountains, toiling through
ravines, deluged with rain, sleet and snow, shivering with cold or
fainting with heat, and in continual danger from Indians.
Many a train that left Independence,
equipped and armed, and full of high hopes, never lived to catch the
gleam of the far Pacific. If they survived starvation and the rigor of
the climate, they were overwhelmed, perhaps, in some lonely glen by the
fierce warriors, and their whitening bones were left to tell their fate
to the crowds following in their footsteps, and compelled to face the
same perils and possibly to meet the same fate.
tide of emigration across the plains made necessary a treaty with
various tribes, by which a broad highway was opened to
were restricted within certain boundaries. The government agreed to give
the tribes $50,000 annually for 15 years in payment for the privilege
granted to emigrants to cross the plains without molestation.
This treaty assigned as boundaries to the
the larger part of the present State of
were to occupy the land traversed by the Powder River route to
However, some years later, gold and silver were discovered in
Colorado upon the Indian
lands, and hundreds of settlers crowded in, as usual with no regard for
the rights of the Indians.
When these intruders had taken up most of the lands, another treaty --
The Treaty of Fort Wise -- was made on February 18, 1861. The Indians
agreed to give up an immense tract of territory and to confine
themselves to a small district on both sides of the
and along the northern boundary of
New Mexico. The
government bound itself to protect them in these possessions, paying an
annuity of $30,000 to each tribe for 15 years, and to furnish them with
stock and agricultural implements.
No difficulties occurred between the white inhabitants of
Colorado and the Indians
until April, 1864. During the summer of that year, some warriors began
committing depredations and robberies upon the property of the settlers.
Colonel John Chivington, commanding the troops at Denver, allowed a
subordinate officer to lead a detachment of soldiers to punish theIndians
for their acts. He attacked the
village of Cedar Bluffs, killed 26, wounded 30, and divided the plunder
among his men. Hostilities and fighting continued until autumn, but the Indians
wanted peace, and applied to Major Edward Wynkoop, commander of
Fort Lyon, to
negotiate a treaty to secure it. That officer ordered the Indians
to gather about the fort, assuring them of protection.