Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Evans' late rationalizations and the banality of evil, document 8, part 2


For the first part, see here. In his 1888 interview with H.H. Bancroft, Evans continues:

“I got the Indian agent to select a party and among them were Quincy, Shavano, Nauvo and others. They went with a party I appointed to escort them, and they were shown the army of the Potomac and they saw a gun carry a ball five miles…

“A gun carry a ball five miles” – Evans wanted to impress, repetitively, the danger of the big guns on the Indians so they would fear him. Evans was raised a Quaker. But the contradiction with Quakers who seek to treat everyone decently and do not rely on intimidation, let alone “big guns” - escapes him.

***

“and they were taken to New York and saw much of the East [to see how overwhelming the numbers of Americans were]. While they were gone there came to me a report that the Utes up on the Laramie Plains had fired upon a company of U.S. soldiers stationed there to guard the Overland stage route, had captured their horses and run away. That was pretty serious, so I requested the commander of the forces here to send a battalion to regulate that and to protect others and to recapture the property. Major Wyncoop went and got after those Indians and chased them back into the mountains into North Park, and through a perfect wilderness until they got down to the Gunnison River where they were pretty near their country, and they got away entirely; they always managed to keep a little ahead of him. Just after he made his report of this expedition the Indians got home from Washington and had a conference with me.”

***

Evans tried to frighten Indians into submission and was himself possessed by fear of “savages” attacking whites and being “a little ahead of” the soldiers…

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“I heard from the San Luis Park where there was a little Mexican settlement that the various tribes there had sent Indians out all over the country to hold a council of war. I got that report as a result of Major Wyncoop’s case. Ouray [this is the first introduction of Evans’ friend and client] spoke Spanish and Indian and a man named Head who had married a Mexican woman spoke Spanish and English and I interpreted that way. [part II, pp. 14-15] When the Indians arrived from Washington I sent them south at once to San Luis Park where this war council was to be held and there they told them of what they had seen in the east. They were all just ready to go to war."

Governor Evans “forgets” – ignores – the aggression or Occupation in the settlers’ being in Colorado and regards “the savages,” who were under attack and being starved out (denied hunting, forced to move their villages at the expense of stores and winter supplies, being made dependent on the United States government/Indian agents as a precondition for ever-new exploitative treaties, repetitive surrender, and consignment to concentration camps), as anxious for war….

***

Evans did not look in the mirror, denied who he was, what he was doing at that time, what he had done...

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“Ouray told them the United States Government [Evans’s spells out U.S. in this case perhaps to indicate its great power] had soldiers enough under arms to surround their entire country and close in upon them and wipe them from the face of the earth,…”

***

Did Ouray really say these words? Or was this Evans’ own genocidal thought, sending Colonel Chivington, to surround the peaceful settlement at Sand Creek “and close in upon them and wipe them from the face of the earth”?

***

Menacing, once again, was Governor Evans’ opening and central approach to “savages,” and here, genocide. Sand Creek was, in this respect, just carrying out a constant threat…

***

“and he [Ouray] stopped the council of war. The Indians were all pretty well armed. They were always anxious to get ammunition. When I distributed presents they wanted Hawkins rifles and ammunition, because they could kill their game with these better than with anything else. We wound up that expedition with peace.”

The United States established the “peace” of Occupation by pointing to its overwhelming force – and then treated the indigenous people so badly that many felt they had no choice but to fight, though not the ones at Sand Creek who had still made every effort to make peace.

***

From working in the Colorado History Museum's archive (the Stephen H. Hart library) on Evans's letters as superintendent of Indian Affairs, I have discovered that Evans relied, as a "friendly" Indian, on the future, great war leader Roman Nose who had been in the Powder River country in what is now Wyoming. Evans urged Cheyennes to come settle on Cache La Poudre river with Roman Nose and they would not be attacked. But after and because of the Sand Creek massacre of women and children, starting in January 7, 1865 at Julesburg, Roman Nose would lead Indians in battle, with the image, like Red Cloud defending the Powder River Country, of defeating the whites, until his death in 1868...

Black Kettle sought peace with the whites persistently (he and his wife were nearly murdered by Chivington whom Evans sent, in 1864, and then were murdered by Custer in a second massacre near the Washita River in Oklahoma in 1868). Similarly, Roman Nose sought peace in 1864, but would become, in contrast, a famed leader in (defensive) war. The irony is glaring.

***

To himself and other whites, Evans was, on the one hand, deeply concerned about gathering information (sent out numerous spies on whom he relied) and in detail, down to the number of carbines (Garibaldis) and ammunition, the arming of settlers to fight, but on the other hand, was the abject prisoner of rumor and fantasy. The gathering of information and organization of "defense" fed into his fears and prejudices and by the sheer murderousness at Sand Creek, into instigating the very war and enemies which did not yet exist at the time of the Hungate murders and Evans' panic in fall of 1863 and repetitively to high officials in 1864 about a supposed "General War" on the Plains.

***

The fearful and, in fact, crazed incompetence of Evans accompanies his seeming attention, as Governor and Indian Agent, to detail...

***

Evans thought Black Kettle had been killed in an earlier battle. One of his dispatches refers to meeting with "Black Kettle" - that is, in quotes, so-called Black Kettle. The unreliability of rumor among the authorities here is glaring.

***

There was no reliance on law or view of punishing those who actually committed crimes. Instead, every retaliation the government provoked, every rumor the Governor took in, was, an invitation to fantasize about general "Indian war" and aggress against any Indians the soldiers came across.

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But through their crimes at Sand Creek, Evans and Chivington provoked the further war which Evans had conjured, in a panic and mistakenly, the year before - Denver is "defenseless," "helpless," cut off from supplies - to E.M. Stanton, the Secretary of War and others in Washington as well to General Curtis in Nebraska. He was in almost daily contact with Chivington (21 messages to the Colonel in July and early August, for example), called constantly for "chastising the Indians" further...

The result was Sand Creek.

***

Fearing a unity of tribes against the U.S. government in the year before the Massacre, Evans produced it (sadly, the indigenous people did not act in a sufficiently coordinated way to stop the genocide; that action was the chief hope for decency at the time...After the revolt of over a million Americans protesting the 1830 Indian Removal Act, there were courageous individuals like Silas Soule, Joseph Cramer and Edward Wynkoop, but less a movement against the depraved doctrine of "Manifest Destiny").

***

After the massacre, as Soule rightly emphasized, no one in their right mind would have thought that peace with the settlers was possible – a “long hot summer” of 25 years would ensue - part of the long, second Civil War in the West - and the warriors wanted to rejoin their wives and children (some 5/6 of those slaughtered at Sand Creek) in death, in the spirit world, by taking out the killers….

***

To Bancroft, 24 years later, Evans continues retrospectively to try to recast and justify his conduct toward the Cheyennes and Arapahoes. He and the legislature were hardworking and looking out for the tribes’ “true” interest, he avers, one which they imposed, about which they listened to the words of few indigenous people…. Call this Evans’s First Rationalization of the Massacre: the alleged benevolence of the Governor and the settlers.

“When the first legislature was elected it was composed of a lot of new fellows and they legislated all they could. They had located the capital of the state at Colorado City, moving it away from Denver. My first legislature was an adjourned session of Gilpin’s first legislature. I studied the Indian question very carefully. They had laid off a big reservation down on the Arkansas river that was susceptible of irrigation for the Arapahoes and Cheyennes, a nice tract of land extending 100 miles North and South and 20 miles East and west, and I looked it all over and there had been an appropriation made and they had started in to take water out of the Arkansas and irrigate this piece of bottom land and on their reservation.”

***

Evans does not consider that this is cordoning them off on a comparatively small tract of land – one where they could not live in their own way and hunt – in violation of the coercive (compelled by force; the indigenous leaders had no access to the written words...) Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851) and the following the Gold Rush, the even more coercive Treaty of Fort Wise (1861).

The latter was ironically signed by Black Kettle and Lean Bear (his real name was Awoninahku), who would be murdered on May 16, 1864 by U.S. soldiers as he approached them with his letters of honor and protection from Abraham Lincoln (worth about as much as the American flag Black Kettle proudly flew above his tent at Sand Creek...).

Chivington, the military commander in the Colorado territory which included the Smoky Hill Trail (now in Kansas) had ordered the murderer Lieutenant George Eayre, to fire on sight at Indians...The murder of Lean Bear was the immediate incident which provoked the Cheyenne and Arapahoe to fight back.... Sand Creek was, of course, near Fort Lyon and within even the reservation territory of the Treaty of Fort Wise.

***

Evans and the legislature perhaps were “generous” compared to other reservations; his description does not sound as much like a concentration camp as, say, Bosque Redondo in New Mexico to which the farming Navajos (already becoming whites, as it were, as Evans would demand) were driven by the rapacious General Carleton. See here (Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, ch. 1).

***

But it still involves destruction of the indigenous way of life, a point beyond Evans’ ability to take in…

***

“I was directed to employ and engineer to dig this ditch and build some houses for the agency. Major Colley of Wisconsin was the agent, succeeding Col. Boone. They had made a treaty with the Indians before I came here [he apparently never read the Treaty of Fort Laramie nor considered his actions of conquest/intimidation and Occupation in the light of it), which had not been ratified…”

The Treaty of Fort Laramie was written by officials representing the U.S. government {Indians were “told,” that is, often lied to, about what a Treaty said, unless they had “half-breeds” who could read some English with them to check; Moketevato (Black Kettle) and others had a culture of being straight about agreements and had difficulty accepting that the leading white men, who also had big guns so they had few choices, were liars}.

But treaties involved promises that were the law of the United States (see Article 6, section 2 of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause, which makes treaties signed by the United States the highest law of the land). Heeding no law toward indigenous people, the sanctimonious Evans here tries the rationalization that a treaty “had not been ratified.”

But since that Treaty was signed in 1851, it would be surprising if by 1864, as Evans asserts, it had not been ratified. In fact, it was “ratified with Amendment by Congress in 1852” and reported as in turn, “Ratified by the tribes.” See here.

It was likely still the law.

***

Now Evans could also mean the Treaty of Fort Wise (1861). But more to the point, this treaty, requiring 3\4 approval of adult Indian males, had not even been signed by most of the Cheyenne chiefs. Thus, it was not the law.

There is also no indication that the Treaty was ratified by the Senate, so it never had the comparative (though coerced) legal weight of the Treaty of Fort Laramie.

***

The relationship between Evans’ account as Governor and the laws of the United States was tenuous (alternately, he lied about them). In addition, the treaties signed by the United States with indigenous people in the “settling” of the Continent following the Revolution were but to be broken. Being bound by its own laws in the ethnic cleansing\"Manifest Destiny" (what the latter horrific term really means...), was for the United States government and its agents, close to non-existent.

***

That fact makes the slaughter of friendly Indians at Sand Creek and the Federal Government’s three repudiations of it – that there was some limit of barbarity that the American government might not cross – all the more remarkable...

***

“at any rate there was some question about the Indian title having been extinguished.” [pp.15-16]

Evans again tries to depict himself as a good guy, looking out for “true” indigenous interests – call this Evans’ hyperbolic version of rationalization 1.

***

“I made up my mind soon after I came here that this thing of starting schools among these wild Indians [he is obsessed with the word…], and trying to make scholars of them before they knew how to get a living except by the chase was civilizing the wrong end foremost, and as I found that some of the tribes had some individual property among them as well as their tribal property, and as I found that they had herds of ponies that made out to live, and as I found that the cattle were getting fat on the plains when you would not think a rabbit could exist, and that the buffalo were in immense herds out on the plains, living on that kind of pasture…”

Evans here sees that there were “immense herds [of buffalo] out on the plains.” But then, the indigenous people were perfectly right to think that there were buffalo to be hunted, a way of life, were they permitted and not killed, to be sustained.

Evans does not consider what this fact meant in his portrait of Indians starving and needing his protection to survive. He, again, contradicts himself. They were doing fine with the hunt – did not need to be compelled to become farmers - except for the convenience of the relentlessly encroaching Occupation…

***

Evans was no diplomat. He could not look at them, could not place himself in their circumstances, never reflects explicitly even the rudiments of their point of view…

***

“I thought it would be a pretty good idea if we could get the Indians to raise sheep and cattle as well as horses and herd them on the plain until they accumulated something to live on instead of living hand to mouth as they did.”

If only they had become Navajos...

***

Evans again contradicts and deceives himself, and perhaps his interviewer…

***

“So I started in for this, more particularly when I distributed to them individual sheep and cattle and horses; and I found they were pleased with the idea wonderfully; that it was better than sugar and flour and blankets, but still they wanted some of those too to mix in with the stock, and I wrote a long article for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who was Mr. Doe of Illinois but it did not get there in time to be printed, and I had distributed a good many thousand sheep and I had the head men and the chiefs of their tribe distribute them to their followers in accordance with the recommendations.”

As a benevolent patriarch, Evans did well when indigenous people – rare ones like the Utes - made no claims against the seizing of their lands and became farmers. Though determined to drive out Cheyennes and Arapahoes in 1864, he was not initially as murderous, to steal the "rich paradise of their land," as General Carleton named it.

***

Evans mentions briefly a tension even with the Utes, however, before drifting on:

“In 1863, I tried to hold a council with these Indians; they had got at loggerheads with the whites and did not like the reservation I had been preparing for them to live on.” (part II, p. 16) This, too, might have produced some thought.

***

“In 1863 I was appointed a commissioner with Dr. Steck, Superintendent of Affairs in Mexico and another Indian agent and we got all the tribes to make a treaty at Conejos. They had a great military display [apparently, he is not referring to the American firing of cannons here] and one of the finest Indian performances you ever saw; they showed how they could do military movements.”

***

As opposed to the Utes, however, he needed a case to drive out the main tribes, the Cheyenne and Arapahoe. This would stem in part from refusing his offer to settle as farmers, his looking for them fruitlessly on the Plains, his rejected offering of a "feast" and "presents" in 1863. But even the Utahs, as he called them, shortly after his Governorship, would be driven out to...Utah.

Evans would also make peace with Roman Nose, again the future war leader, and urge "friendly" Cheyennes to come to his camp. With Black Kettle, who sought nothing but peace and the vast majority of Cheyennes and Arapahoes, Evans would, determinedly, make no peace. Evans' aim, as he says in an earlier, 1884 interview with Bancroft, was to clear the indigenous people away from the Colorado settlers (p. 24), to drive them out of the Colorado territory.

2 comments:

dennis douglas said...

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Alan Gilbert said...

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