Samoset knew that land came from the Great Spirit, was as endless as the sky, and belonged to no man. To humor these strangers in their strange ways, however, he went through a ceremony of transferring the land and made his mark on a paper for them.
Before these laws could be put into effect, a new wave of white settlers swept westward and formed the territories of Wisconsin and Iowa. This made it necessary for the policy makers in Washington to shift the "permanent Indian frontier" from the Mississippi River to the 95th meridian.
To justify these breaches of the "permanent Indian frontier," the policy makers in Washington invented Manifest Destiny, a term which lifted land hunger to a lofty plane. The Europeans and their descendants were ordained by destiny to rule all of America. They were the dominant race and therefore responsible for the Indians—along with their lands, their forests, and their mineral wealth.
Late in July Carson moved up to Fort Defiance, renamed it for the Indians' old adversary Canby, and began sending out reconnaissance detachments. He probably was not surprised that few Navahos could be found. He knew that the only way to conquer them was to destroy their crops and livestock—scorch their earth.
The superintendent examined the soil on the reservation and pronounced it unfit for cultivation of grain because of the presence of alkali. “The water is black and brackish, scarcely bearable to the taste, and said by the Indians to be unhealthy, because one-fourth of their population have been swept off by disease.” The reservation, Norton added, had cost the government millions of dollars.
Little Crow rejected their arguments. The white men were too powerful, he said. Yet he admitted the settlers would exact bitter vengeance because women had been killed. Little Crow’s son, who was present, said later that his father's face grew haggard and great beads of sweat stood out on his forehead.
Truly, he thought, that nation of white men is like a spring freshet that overruns its banks and destroys all who are in its path. Soon they would take the buffalo country unless the hearts of the Indians were strong enough to hold it. He resolved that he would fight to hold it. His name was Tatanka Yotanka, the Sitting Bull.
As soon as his wound healed, George made his way back to his father's ranch. There from his brother Charlie he heard more details of the soldiers' atrocities at sand creek—the horrible scalpings and mutilations, the butchery of children and infants. After a few days the brothers agreed that as half-breeds they wanted no part of the white man's civilization.
Thus did the Cheyennes and Arapahos abandon all claims to the Territory of Colorado. And that of course was the real meaning of the massacre at Sand Creek.
Before that winter ended, half the luckless Galvanized Yankees were dead or dying of scurvy, malnutrition, and pneumonia. From the boredom of confinement, many slipped away and deserted, taking their chances with the Indians outside.
As for the Indians, all except the small bands of warriors needed to watch the fort moved over to the Black Hills, where plentiful herds of antelope and buffalo kept them fat in their warm lodges.
The Indians who ambushed Fetterman were only imitating their enemies, a practice which in warfare, as in civilian life, is said to be the sincerest form of flattery.
Incidents such as this, combined with Red Cloud’s continuing war, which had brought civilian travel to an end through the Powder River country, had a strong effect upon the United States government and its high military command. The government was determined to protect the route of the Union pacific Railroad, but even old war dogs such as General Sherman were beginning to wonder if it might not be advisable to leave the Powder River country to the Indians in exchange for peace along the Platte Valley.
For several months he debated what his next course of action should be. Above all he wanted to help the advancement of his race, but if he remained in office with political enemies constantly sniping at him because he was an Indian himself, he feared that he might do his people more harm than good. He also wondered if his continuance in office might not be a political embarrassment to his old friend President Grant.
No lawyer represented the Modocs, and although they were given the right to cross-examine witnesses, most of them understood very little English, and all spoke it poorly. While the trial was in progress soldiers were constructing a gallows outside the prisoners' stockade, so there was no doubt as to what the verdict would be.
Of the 3,700,000 buffalo destroyed from 1872 through 1874, only 150,000 were killed by Indians. When a group of concerned Texans asked General Sheridan if something should not be done to stop the white hunters' wholesale slaughter, he replied: Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance.
The offer was four hundred thousand dollars a year for the mineral rights; or if the Sioux wished to sell the hills outright the price would be six million dollars payable in fifteen annual installments. (This was a markdown price indeed, considering that one Black Hills mine alone yielded more than five hundred million dollars in gold.)
There was not enough to eat in this empty land—no wild game, no clear water to drink, and the agent did not have enough rations to feed them all. To make matters worse, the summer heat was unbearable and the air was filled with mosquitoes and flying dust.
The Poncas of Indian Territory had learned a bitter lesson. The white man's law was an illusion; it did not apply to them.
Ouray was to receive a salary of one thousand dollars a year for ten years, "or so long as he shall remain head chief of the Utes and at peace with the United States." Thus did Ouray become a part of the establishment, motivated to preserve the status quo.
"Indians!" Sitting Bull shouted. "There are no Indians left but me!"
“You must not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight. Do right always,” the Messiah commanded. Preaching nonviolence and brotherly love, the doctrine called for no action by the Indians except to dance and sing. The Messiah would bring the resurrection. But because the Indians were dancing, the agents became alarmed and notified the soldiers, and the soldiers began to march.
It was the fourth day after Christmas in the year of Our Lord 1890. When the first torn and bleeding bodies were carried into the candlelit church, those who were conscious could see Christmas greenery hanging from the open rafters. Across the chancel front above the pulpit was strung a crudely lettered banner: PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN.