Some Interesting Kiowa Drawings

I came across this yesterday on

A Kiowa Warrior’s Drawings of Captivity and Assimilation, 1877

The third drawing is particularly interesting to me. It’s a pretty good representation of the scene one would see standing today on Interstate 44 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, facing west. The buildings around the Old Post Quadrangle are depicted, along with the Old Post Chapel, and the blockhouse on Signal Mountain.


Woodward Threatened by Obama Administration?

Bob Woodward claims a senior administration official yelled at him and told him he would “regret” making the claim that the idea for sequestration originated in the White House. From MSNBC:

Journalist Woodward tangles with White House over spending cuts

I have to confess that I’ve only read one of Woodward’s books, Obamas Wars, which I found to be a fairly interesting look into Obama’s attempts to get a handle on Iraq and Afghanistan after he took office. Other than that, the only thing I really know about Woodward is his role in exposing Watergate. What little I know, now coupled with this latest brouhaha, makes me curious to know more about him. I have no idea what his politics are, but he seems to me to be the sort of gadfly this country needs more of. I’m sure conservatives tend to sneer at him; after all, he is a member of the loathed “liberal” press, and writes for that socialist rag, the Washington Post. And of course, there’s probably some residual resentment for his role in hastening Nixon’s self-destruction. On this story, though, at least some of the rest of the “leftist” press is attacking Woodward. From

Bob Woodward Trolls the World

United States-Indian Relations After the Revolution

As Horsman points out, the dominant theme in United States-Indian relations in the decades immediately following the Revolution was the American hunger for more land.[1] A corresponding constant during this period was the belief that war with the Native Americans should be avoided, if at all possible, for both financial and humanitarian reasons. The initial approach to the issue was rather heavy-handed in that it involved American officials informing Indian tribes that the land they occupied was in fact American territory by right of conquest, and that the native peoples had forfeited any claims they may have had by supporting the British during the Revolution. Treaty terms were dictated to the tribes, and American officials presumed that the Indians would willingly recognize the authority and claims of the fledgling Confederation. Under the terms of the treaties, American ownership of all the land between the Ohio and the Mississippi was assumed, and the Indian tribes would be granted the right to occupy stipulated areas. It was also assumed that as settlers moved west toward lands granted to native peoples, the resulting pressures on the forests and game would induce the Indians to move farther west, thus opening up even more land to white settlers. The envisioned end state was for the Indian tribes either to remove beyond the Mississippi or to assimilate into the American culture that would eventually reach that river.[2]

There was understandable native opposition to this grand American plan, and as Indian hostilities seemed imminent, a new approach was inaugurated in 1787 in the form of the Northwest Ordinance. The acquisition of land for white settlement was still the ultimate goal, but the Americans ceased “acting from a position of superiority,” and “treat[ed] with the Indians on a basis of equality.”[3] Land would be purchased from the native peoples, rather than “giving lands to the Indians as though the land were already American.”[4] Two years later, as the new Constitutional republic took shape, “the element of national honor played an increasingly important part in determining the methods of land acquisition.”[5] Secretary of War Henry Knox recognized that the United States did not have the money or the military to remove native peoples by force, and at any rate, he felt that negotiation was preferable to war on humanitarian grounds.[6] Knox advocated the old idea that the very presence of white settlers would push the Indians westward, but he also began campaigning more forcefully for the assimilation of native peoples into “civilized” American society.[7] Despite the best intentions of Knox and other American officials, the Indians “did not want to yield any land beyond the Ohio either by war or purchase,”[8] and the United States was forced to fight the Native Americans until Wayne’s decisive victory at Fallen Timbers in 1794. Knox, speaking now more than ever about “national honor,” recognized that the native peoples must be treated fairly if the United States was not to be judged harshly by future generations, but he nor anyone else seemed to realize that American hunger for land, and native resistance to that hunger, ensured that there would be no solution to the problem.[9]

Throughout the rest of the 1790s, a cowed native populace, coupled with an aggressive American pursuit of pre-emption, allowed for an expansion of white settlement westward. When Thomas Jefferson ascended to the presidency in 1801, “he was able to combine an apparent genuine interest in the welfare of the Indian with a voracious appetite for Indian land.”[10] The plan that Jefferson consistently proposed was for native peoples to discard their old traditions and way of life and assimilate into white society, becoming the yeoman farmers of Jeffersonian ideal. He apparently felt that this was in the best interest of the Native Americans, and that only in this way could they improve their condition.[11] While it is impossible to know for certain whether or not Jefferson’s central motive was humanitarian in nature, it is quite obvious from his words that the result of such Americanization of the Indians would be that “they would need little land, and would exchange it for other necessaries.”[12] He also wished to see more trading houses established among the native peoples so that they might incur debts so substantial that they could only be paid by ceding their lands.[13] While Jefferson was telling Congress that these measures were meeting with success, and that the Native Americans were happily casting aside the old for the new, resistance was in fact building among the Indians.[14] By the time Madison took office, Tecumseh had secured the needed support to wage war on the Americans.[15]

[1] Reginald Horsman, “American Indian Policy in the Old Northwest, 1783-1812,” The William and Mary Quarterly 18, no. 1 (January 1961): 35. .

[2] Ibid., 35-39.

[3] Ibid., 41.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 42.

[6] Ibid., 43.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 44.

[9] Ibid., 45.

[10] Ibid., 47.

[11] Ibid., 47-48.

[12] Ibid., 49.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 50.

[15] Ibid., 52.

Indians and the American Revolution

            For nearly three centuries, Amerindians watched as succeeding waves of Europeans arrived in North America. The native peoples became witnesses of and very often participants in violent struggles for control over the “New World.” During those years, many tribes simply disappeared under the seemingly endless stream of European settlers who planted a cross or a flag for their homeland and grabbed up as much land as they could. Those native peoples who survived found ways to adapt, and some, such as the Iroquois Confederacy, actually found ways to thrive in the new political and economic systems. When the American Revolution began, the Amerindians were once again faced with choices: pick a side, or remain neutral? If not neutral, which side? As had almost always been the case in the past, the choices the native peoples made reflected their desire to weather yet another storm, to emerge from this latest war relatively unscathed. And as had almost always been the case, the Amerindians were rarely allowed to remain neutral; in the minds of most Europeans, an Indian who professed neutrality was in fact professing loyalty to the enemy.

            The American Revolution was different for the Amerindians, though. For the first time, a large-scale war had broken out between peoples who spoke the same language. The British regulars still stationed in North America who had fought with and died alongside the colonial militiamen (and some of the Amerindians) just a few years earlier against the French were now fighting each other. Tribes all along the Atlantic coast were confused, and many, weary of war, simply wished to be left out of this English family quarrel.[1] Most of the tribes, however, soon found that remaining neutral was impossible. The Amerindians had become so dependent on the colonists for trade goods, particularly arms and ammunition, that refusing to choose a side meant choosing to starve.[2] The native peoples also had to concern themselves with who had the best chance of winning the war. After all, if they chose to support the losing side, how would they be treated by the victors? In the end, even those who chose to support the colonists fared little better than those who supported the English, as the Indians of Stockbridge came to realize.[3]

            Most tribes supported the British for a few primary reasons. First, the English crown simply had more wealth and resources to continue trading with the Amerindians on a larger scale than the Americans could afford. Second, for the trans-Appalachian tribes at least, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 afforded the Amerindians the greatest chance of keeping European settlers out of their lands. Support for the British meant, hopefully, support for the proclamation. Finally, the Indians recognized that most of the direct acts of land grabbing and treachery had been committed by the colonists, so it only made sense to fight for the crown.[4]

            There were a few native peoples who fought with the Americans, and their reasons varied. The fortunes of the Indians of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for example, had become so intertwined with the those of the Americans who lived, worked, and traded among them that it was natural for them to fight for the same cause. The native peoples of Stockbridge had seen their lands shrink along with their voice in local politics as more white settlers arrived in western Massachusetts, but despite this, and with the hope that a show of loyalty might cause the Americans to restore their lands to them, the Stockbridge Indians chose to fight for the Americans. It was tragic and disgraceful that their sacrifices “did not earn [them] a place in the nation they helped to create.”[5]

          The American Revolution splintered the Six Nations of the Iroquois, with most choosing to fight for the British, who were their traditional trading partners in Albany. A few, however, chose to support their Americans, and at least part of the reason for this schism was religious in nature. Anglican missionaries, who were primarily Loyalists, competed with American Presbyterians for the souls of Iroquois in the upper Susquehanna Valley, and the religious divide that resulted evolved into a political one that largely determined for whom the competing sects would fight.[6]

[1] Colin G. Calloway, The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 26-28.

[2] Ibid., 31.

[3] Ibid., 107.

[4] Carl Waldman, Atlas of the North American Indian, 3rd ed. (New York: Checkmark Books, 2009), 144; Calloway, American Revolution in Indian Country, 31.

[5] Calloway, American Revolution in Indian Country, 107.

[6] Ibid., 108-28.

War Poetry

A few days ago, a contributor to Tom Ricks’s “Best Defense” blog posted the following:


Where are the poems that could help us grasp the meaning of our post-9/11 wars?

A reader and fellow blogger responded with this:

Military Poets Let Slip the Doggerel of War

That link led me to this, which is absolutely stunning:

SO I WAS A COFFIN– by Gerardo Mena

I love the poetry of World War I, especially that of Wilfred Owen, whose bleak lines condemned the glorification of war. Mena’s poem definitely belongs in that same class.


Two Accounts of Grant’s Peace Policy and the Red River War

         In his first inaugural address, President Ulysses S. Grant said, “The proper treatment of the original occupants of this land—the Indians one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course toward them which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship.”[1] This is the only mention of Native Americans that Grant made in his short speech, but those few words foreshadowed a sweeping though very short-lived change in the way in which the nation would deal with its “Indian problem.” Grant’s Peace Policy, as it came to be known, established that Protestant missionaries would administer Indian affairs, from the federal level all the way down to the individual tribal agencies. These missionaries would convert the Native Americans to Christianity and thereby civilize them, dispensing with the need to conquer them militarily. The military and many public officials resisted the Peace Policy from the outset, and doubted that the policy would be successful.[2] In the end, Grant’s Peace Policy did not even last as long as his two-term presidency, and the military was sent in to quell native uprisings throughout the West.[3] The policy’s critics had been right.

            The Society of Friends was awarded jurisdiction of many of the agencies in the West, and a Quaker farmer from Iowa named Lawrie Tatum drew the assignment for the Kiowa and Comanche agency. Located at Fort Sill in southwestern Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the agency was being used as a refuge by Comanche and Kiowa warriors who were free to raid in Texas safe in the knowledge that the army could not pursue them past the reservation boundary. Tatum initially believed wholeheartedly in the efficacy of the Peace Policy, but even he began to acknowledge “that the Quaker experiment was failing” among the Kiowas and Comanches as the tribes continued their raids south of the Red River.[4] Tatum’s emerging pragmatism cost him his job, and “although the Peace Policy remained the official policy, by fall 1871 it had become a dead letter on the southern plains.”[5] The ensuing Red River War finally broke the resistance of the Kiowas and Comanches, and forced them on to the reservation for good.

            Pekka Hämäläinen’s The Comanche Empire takes a new and novel approach to the study of Native Americans. While welcoming and acknowledging the much-needed contributions of revisionist historians to Native American studies over the past three decades, Hämäläinen insists that even those studies simply build on older models, and that an entirely different model is needed. He attempts to overturn “the view of European powers as the principal driving force of history” and “recover the full dimension of Indian agency in early American history.”[6] In order to do this, Hämäläinen refuses to describe the Comanches as a loose confederation of nomadic bands merely reacting to Euroamerican expansion and doing their best to resist, adapt, and survive. Instead, he portrays Comanchería as a true empire, a genuine political entity with real though fluid borders, a rational foreign policy, and thriving trade relations with its neighbors.[7] Besides the obvious fact that the in-depth nature of such a study sets it apart from the summaries found in Carl Waldman’s Atlas of the North American Indian, Hämälainen’s unique approach offers insights that will not be found in Waldman’s work.

            Both Waldman and Hämäläinen pay scant attention to the Peace Policy, with Waldman mentioning it in passing fewer than a half dozen times, and Hämäläinen devoting only a portion of his penultimate chapter to the Peace Policy and the final military conquest of the Comanches.[8] There are two general differences between Waldman’s and Hämäläinen’s treatments of this stage of Comanche/Kiowa history, one merely interesting and the other perhaps more significant. The first is that while Waldman actually calls the U.S.-Comanche/Kiowa conflict of the mid-1870s the Red River War, Hämäläinen never refers to the war by this name and indeed never names it. The more significant difference between the two authors is the amount of space they each dedicate, relative to the total words each writes on the subject, to the seven-year period between the beginning of the Peace Policy and the surrender of the last remnants of the Comanche and Kiowa militants. As noted earlier, Waldman mentions the Peace Policy only a few times and only in passing, but he spends fully half his entries on both the Comanches and the Kiowas discussing the military campaigns of the early to middle 1870s that culminated in those tribes’ surrendering and being confined to the reservation. Hämäläinen, on the other hand, provides for only a fifteen-page discussion of this period in his three hundred sixty-one page monograph. The result is that Waldman’s account leaves one with the impression that the final hostilities between the tribes and the United States was the single most important fact about the Kiowas and Comanches, while Hämäläinen paints this period as a tragic and brief coda to the glorious history of a proud people. Furthermore, Hämäläinen’s brevity, which does not lack colorful description, lends the account a breathless quality in its depiction of a defeated people spinning inexorably toward their doom.

            For the most part, the historical facts and figures in each account match each other fairly well, though there are a few discrepancies. For example, in his description of a battle during Mackenzie’s 1872 campaign onto the Llano Estacado, Hämäläinen records that “the soldiers killed twenty-four warriors,” while Waldman states that “at least 30” were killed.[9] Elsewhere, Waldman relates that Kiowas alone killed eight teamsters on an attack on a wagon train in Texas, but Hämäläinen writes that both Comanches and Kiowas were involved, and that seven teamsters were killed.[10] These are relatively minor differences and may be the result of the two historians consulting different sources, though this is difficult to say, since Waldman does not provide source notes. A significant departure between the two occurs, however, when they each discuss the role of New Mexico traders, known as Comancheros, in sustaining the Indians’ access to arms and ammunition, and thus their ability to continue to resist the Americans. Waldman says that Mackenzie’s expedition captured several Comancheros in the 1872 expedition, and “thereby expos[ed] the Comanche-Kiowa source of arms and ammunition.”[11] His brief comment on the subject implies that this was the first time the U.S. Army had encountered the problem. Hämäläinen, however, insists that the military knew about the Comancheros at least two years earlier, and that General Sheridan had put into place a plan to interrupt trade between the Comanches and the renegade New Mexicans.[12] Either Waldman is communicating ineffectively with his readers, or Sheridan communicated ineffectively with Mackenzie.

            Neither Waldman’s nor Hämäläinen’s account provides any new information about Grant’s Peace Policy and the Red River War, and Waldman’s writing gives no real insight into the events. Hämäläinen does provide a broader economic rationale for the federal government’s desire to put an end to Comanche/Kiowa raiding once and for all when he discusses briefly the need for Texas ranchers to get their cattle herds to railheads in Kansas quickly and safely without the threat of Indian attack.[13] Though this argument does relate to the ultimate failure of the Peace Policy, the insight is not particularly new or startling. The two accounts are complementary and parallel versions of the end of Comanche and Kiowa domination of the southern Great Plains, one more dispassionate (Waldman), the other bitterly reflective (Hämäläinen), but both ultimately tragic.


[1] “Address by Ulysses S. Grant, 1869,” Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies,

[2] Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 332.

[3] Carl Waldman, Atlas of the North American Indian, 3rd ed. (New York: Checkmark Books, 2009), 167-95 passim.

[4] Hämäläinen, Comanche Empire, 332.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 7.

[7] Ibid, 8.

[8] Waldman, Atlas, 167-168, 177, 189; Hämäläinen, Comanche Empire, 325-41.

[9] Hämäläinen, Comanche Empire, 334; Waldman, Atlas, 189.

[10] Waldman, Atlas, 191; Hämäläinen, Comanche Empire, 332.

[11] Waldman, Atlas, 189.

[12] Hämäläinen, Comanche Empire, 330.

[13] Hämäläinen, Comanche Empire, 329-30.

The French and Indian War and the Conspiracy of Pontiac

The primary cause of the French and Indian War, control over the Ohio Valley, was in itself a concern to the native peoples of that region, as the outcome of the struggle would determine in large part the future of the tribes living there. Several of the tribes of the trans-Appalachian, such as the Delawares and Shawnees, were refugees from English colonial pressures east of the mountains. The tribes of the Ohio Valley perhaps suffered the most from British victory, since that outcome encouraged more English settlers to cross the Appalachians and begin competing with Amerindians for land, despite the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The fact that many of these tribes supported the French during the war did not help their cause. But even Amerindian allies of the British found themselves facing a growing threat from English settlers, as the Cherokees discovered in the late 1750s.1

I think it is a fair assessment that no Amerindian tribes benefitted in any meaningful and long-lasting way from the English victory in the French and Indian War, and that view would not necessarily change if the French had been victorious. Most of the tribes had benefitted in some way from the competition between the two colonial powers, and had used trade and border skirmishes to play one side against the other in attempts to gain useful advantages over their traditional native foes. The Six Nations appeared to have gained some advantages in that they were given by the English certain powers over the Shawnees and Delawares after Pontiac’s Rebellion. But even these advantages were illusory, since the Iroquois and all other tribes in the eastern half of North America were now living in exclusively British territory.2

I believe it was this British hegemony in eastern North America that was the primary trigger of Pontiac’s Rebellion. Pontiac recognized that without another colonial power present to balance the British, the Amerindians were at the mercy of only English settlers and traders. He and other Amerindians longed to return to “the best of the world they had just lost.”3 I do not believe that Pontiac’s goals were realistic, nor do I believe that they could be obtained through war, and for the same fundamental reason: during the decades of French-English struggle for domination of North America, warfare on this continent had been transformed from the low-intensity, guerilla fighting characteristic of the native peoples to traditional European siege warfare. Without cannons, Pontiac and his followers were simply unable to defeat the entrenched English positions at Forts Detroit, Pitt, and elsewhere.4


1. Carl Waldman, Atlas of the North American Indian, 3rd ed. (New York: Checkmark Books, 2009), 137-40; Ian K. Steele, Warpaths: Invasions of North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 179-82.

2. Steele, Warpaths, 244-5.

3. Ibid., 237.

4. Ibid., 221-2.