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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1864
([1864])

Dakota superintendency,   pp. 259-293 PDF (15.0 MB)


Page 266

266 
DAKOTA SUPERINTENDENCY. 
unoffending and defenceless three women and a little girl huddled together.
The soldiers dismounted and, making up to, deliberately shot them down with
their revolvers, by balls through their heads and breasts. Being in the habit
of calling things by their proper names, I call this murder. One of the boys,
a 
youth, who was a short distance away, ran for the river, and was pursued
by 
the soldiers. He got into the river through an opening in the ice, and  as
he 
raised his head, was several times fired at. After the soldiers left he succeeded
in getting out and made his way to this agency. One of the women, the mother
of this boy, had three balls enter her forehead and cheek, and her throat
cut, 
and her head half severed by a sabre or knife. Another, the youngest woman
of the party, had her cloth skirt taken off and carried away, and her other
gar- 
ments torn off, leaving her body lying naked: The wounded were brought up
in the course of the day and all have recovered. 
This matter was presented in full to the department, by my letter dated De-
cember 27, in which I detailed the losses of the Indians, and presented their
claim for six hundred dollars for each life lost, ($2,400,) two hundred dollars
for 
each wounded, ($600,) and one thousand dollars for the loss of their property,
and their suffering in consequence of such loss. On the 14th of January last
I 
made a further report of informoAtion relative to the matter obtained at
Niobraa. 
In February I was advised by letter from you that General McKean, command-
ing the district of Nebraska, had, detailed Major Armstrong to wake a prelimi-
nary examination in the case, and had informed you that all the property
taken 
from the Indians which could be found should be returned, and that a thorough
investigation of the whole subject would be made. 
On the 11th April last I addressed a letter to you in relation to this matter,
from which I make the following extracts: 
"More than three months have now elapsed since my report to you, and
nearly three since the preliminary examination made by Major Armstrong. 
"From the view of the case which you derived A'om a short conversation
with 
Major Armstrong when on his way up to Niobrara, 'that this case would not
be 
found to vary much from the general rule, to wit, there are two sides to
it,' I 
conclude that he must have made very different representations from those
con- 
tained in ny reports. The information he had was, no doubt, received through
military channels. My impression is that his mind was made up before he 
reached Niobrara, or started for that place. and from all I can learn of
the pre- 
liminary examination, I am strongly inclined to agree with the almost unanimous
opinion of the citizens of Niobrara, that even if it was not intended to
be, it was 
indeed a farce. If the thorough investigation of the whole subject promised
by 
General McKean has been made, is it not time that it should be known ? Or
if the preliminary examination by Major Armstrong presented the other side
of the case in so strong a light as to render, in the opinion of General
McKean, 
further proceedings unnecessary, should not this be known? 
"The Po-acas say, and I am confident, that they were in nowise in the
wrong. 
If it is alleged against them that they were in the vicinity of the white
settle- 
ments, it can very easily be shown that several other parties had passed
to and 
fro over the same ground without objection by the soldiers or others; even
if 
in this they were wrong, it was -not a sufficient cause, after driving them
from 
their lodges, taking from them their arms and despoiling them of their property,
for following them up, and in their defenceless condition killing their women
and children the next day. The soldiers well knew that they were Poncas,
and that they were well on their way to their home on this reservation, and
were within twelve miles of it when they killed them. Admitting that the
soldiers would have been justified in killing the men, the killing and wounding
of these women and children was, under the circumstances., atrocious and
cow- 
ardly. The Indians argue that the return of their property (a portion of
which 
has been received) is an acknowledgment on the part of the military authorities


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