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Bannock War
Part of the American Indian Wars
Date 1878
Location Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming
Belligerents
Flag of the United States (1877-1890).svg United States Bannock
Shoshone
Paiute
Commanders and leaders
United States Oliver Otis Howard Buffalo Horn
Egan

The Bannock War of 1878 was an armed conflict between the U.S. military and Bannock and Paiute Tribal warriors in Southern Idaho lasting from June to August 1878. The Bannock-Paiutes totaled about 500 warriors and were led by Chief Buffalo Horn and later Chief Egan. The U.S. military, consisting of the 21st Infantry Regiment and volunteers, was led by Brigadier General Oliver O. Howard. The conflict ended when the remaining scattered Bannock-Paiute forces surrendered in August and September 1878.

BackgroundEdit

The Bannock peoples originated from the Northern Paiute tribe of northern Idaho. During the 18th century these Paiutes travelled south to the Snake River Plain of Idaho, enticed by the prospect of an alliance with the linguistically similar and equestrian Shoshone peoples. It was during this period that these Paiutes became known as Bannocks. The Bannocks quickly adopted the Shoshone’s equestrian culture and fastened cultural ties with the Shoshones through marriage. The Bannocks, in turn, provided increased security and population for the disease-battered Shoshones.[1]

Arrival of WhitesEdit

By the time of Lewis and Clark’s arrival in 1805, the Bannock-Shoshones were familiar with trading with foreign Europeans and quickly opened trade with Americans for firearms and horses, a practice they had done with other European traders safely for years. The Shoshone-Bannocks remained independent, despite their continued reliance on American trade and prosperous participation in the Rocky Mountain fur trade ending in 1840.[2] This era of positive cooperation with American trade declined along with the fur trade in the 1850s and the sudden migration of Euroamericans to the Snake Valley Plain. The discovery of gold in the Boise Basin and the Beaverhead country of Montana had attracted the movement of prospectors and traders through the Snake region. The American traders and migrants were an established presence in the Snake region by the mid-1860s, affecting a vast majority of the Shoshone-Bannock inhabitants.[3]

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Snake River Plain

The Shoshone-Bannocks were dramatically influenced by arrival of Euroamericans and the rapid expansion of the trade-based economy. On a cultural level, the Euroamericans’s way of life challenged the values and seasonal traditions of the Shoshone-Bannocks. New practices of agriculture, livestock, and production replaced the traditional resources the Shoshone-Bannocks survived on and made the tribe dependent on Euroamerican methods and products.[4] American leaders began to make efforts to trade the Shoshone-Bannocks for titles to the Snake River Plains in the 1860s, and the land trade brought about new infusions of migrants to the Idaho territory, specifically the Boise region of Snake Valley. In 1866, in order to protect the Shoshone-Bannock groups in the Boise Snake Valley region from fearful and aggressive settlers, Governor Lyon created a refugee camp for a few hundred people near Boise City. The camps lack of sufficient resources forced the inhabitants to depend once again on the local settlers for work and food. Many Shoshone-Bannocks voiced the desire to be given their own reservation land.[5]

The proposed relocation challenged the Shoshone-Bannocks religious connection to the land, with their cultural practices directly dependent on local seasonal changes in the Snake Valley as well as the belief that their ancestors’ spirits still resided in the land.[6] Furthermore, leadership amongst the Shoshone-Bannocks was directly connected to the land these ancestors inhabited, granting the chief his position. After complex and controversial deliberation, the Shoshone-Bannock leaders and American government officials formally agreed to relocate the Boise refugees to the Fort Hall Reservation. The replacement occurred in 1869.[7]

Life at Fort HallEdit

The Fort Hall reservation was a 1.8 million acre plot by the Upper Snake River in eastern Idaho, on the river's southeastern banks. The region had potential for irrigation and agriculture. Nevertheless, the Shoshone-Bannocks faced immediate survival challenges due to their subsistence-based lifestyle, a lifestyle the region did not support. The population was very dense for the land, numbering 1,037 in 1872, and the Shoshone-Bannocks struggled to live by subsistence. The government provided sizable appropriations to purchase the supplies necessary to feed the community. Food crises arose during the winters of 1874-1875 and 1876-1877, resulting from diminished game for hunters and a lack of food storages. Many Shoshone-Bannocks left Fort Hall to attempt survival on their own.[8] Simultaneously, the 1877 Nez Perce War drove many officials to crack down on the tribe, requiring them to remain on the Fort Hall Reservation.

The Bannock War of 1878 was the result of many contributing factors.[9] The terrible conditions caused divisions within the Shoshone-Bannock communities. The Bannocks began to view the Shoshones as intruders and committed theft and other crimes against the group. Friction between the Indians and the Euroamericans increased as well, resulting in violence when Pe-tope, a Fort Hill Indian, shot and wounded two teamsters in August 1877. Agent William Danilson, the government appointed administrator of the Fort Hall reservation at the time of the incident, pressed the tribal leaders to charge Pe-tope for the crime. In response to the crack down, a friend of Pe-tope named Nampe-yo-go killed a beef contractor for the reservation named Alexander Rhodan.[10] Agent Danilson again called for the tribe to capture the killer but met resistance with the Shoshone-Bannocks who placed that duty on the family of Nampe-yo-go, not on the entire tribe. The violence between the Indians and the Euroamericans, the conflicts between the tribes and the subsequent actions taken by the reservation administration to crack down on the Shoshone-Bannocks resulted in the exodus of a large number of the Shoshone-Bannocks from the reservation that summer. This exodus of the Shoshone-Bannocks from Fort Hall would spark the Bannock War of 1878.[11]

The BattlesEdit

Violence in the Camas Prairie and the Initial U.S. Military ResponseEdit

In May 1878, Chief Buffalo assembled 200 Bannock Warriors from Fort Hall at Payne’s Ferry on the Snake River and moved the army to the Big Camas Prairie to set up camp. At that time the region between the Big Camas Prairie and the Snake River was occupied by a few white Settlers, 2500 cattle, and 80 horses.[12] On May 30 the first blood was shed as a result of the movement when the Bannock group, after attempting to sell a buffalo skin robe to cattle drivers on the plane, shot two of the herders. The herders, Lou Kensler and George Nesby, survived the wounds and traveled with the third member of their party, William Silvey to the nearby Baker’s camp.[13] Not long after this incident another attack occurred on a camp near the Lava Beds, between the Big Camas Prairie and the Snake River, resulting in the death of another settler and the loss of the camp’s resources.

The news of the increased violence spread to Idaho's state capital in Boise City. Governor Brayman notified the commander of the Military Department of the Columbia Brigadier General O. O. Howard. He mentioned in the May 30th letter to the General that he dispatched Col. Bernard’s cavalry from Boise to the plains just that evening as a show of force with no intent to provoke further conflict with the Bannocks.[14] Col. Bernard’s cavalry met the Bannock camp on June 2 and drove them to retreat from their camp to the Lava Beds, considered by the military to be a better position for defense.[15] The Bannock group moved west and raided Glenn’s Ferry and King Hill station, both on the Snake River. Next, they moved along the Snake River, killing several settlers along the way.[16] Col. Bernard’s cavalry travelled by road to Rattlesnake station where they joined with more military cavalry as well as local militia volunteers from Alturas.[17] At this time Bernard claimed that there were three hundred Bannock Warriors in the Lava Beds as well as two hundred more who had raided Glenn’s Ferry and King Hill Station. The Bannocks were rushing westward to meet with their Paiute allies, traveling down the Owyhee River to the Juniper Mountains and Lava Canyon.[18]

Conflicts between Military and BannocksEdit

The first violent conflict of the Bannock war happened on June 8 between a group of twenty-six volunteer military men from Silver City led by Captain J.B. Harber and Chief Buffalo Horn’s warriors. The two groups met when the volunteers caught up with the Bannocks in South Mountain, a small mining village, resulting in violent conflict and the deaths of two Silver City volunteers and several Bannocks, among them Chief Buffalo Horn.[19] The Bannocks selected a new leader, Chief Egan, and headed to Juniper Mountain in Idaho and Steens Mountain in Oregon to meet with the Paiutes.[20] Other state militias began sending troops, including California, Nevada, and Utah.[21] As the Bannocks traveled westward, they continued to raid camps, resulting in the deaths of settlers and rising fear among people in Idaho and neighboring states that the violence would soon spread their way.[22] Col. Bernard arrived in Silver City on June 9 and quickly headed out to the Jordan Valley. The troops then moved to meet the Bannocks at Steens Mountain. Col. Bernard’s cavalry followed Chief Egan’s Bannocks west into Oregon, eventually meeting them in battle on June 23 by Silver Creek.[23] The fight resulted in the deaths of three U.S. soldiers, the wounding of three others, and an unknown number of Indian casualties. Col. Bernard moved to nearby Camp Curry to meet with General Howard on June 25.[24]

On June 29, nearby Canyon City was host to a skirmish between the Bannock warriors and the city’s volunteer militia shortly after the Silver Creek fight. Col Bernard and his cavalry of 350 arrived shortly after and secured the city. The Bannocks were now travelling towards Fox Valley, numbering between 350 and 400, and intending to travel further north to possibly join the Cayuses and other Indian groups in that region who shared their discontent.[25] Gen. Howard encountered the Bannocks at the junction of Butter Creek and the Columbia River on July 7 resulting in conflict. Five U.S. soldiers were injured, and one died from his wounds. The fight resulted in an unknown number of casualties on the Bannock side and their flight from the area to the southeast.[26] The next fight occurred when Captain Miles of the Umatilla agency, a reservation near the Umatilla River and a potential ally of the Bannock band accidentally encountered a large band of Umatilla warriors.[27] The Umatillas, feeling threatened by the increased movements of state militias around their territories rode out in defense and accidentally encountered Capt. Miles troops on July 12.[28] The Umatilla’s, who were allied with the Bannocks at first, quickly surrendered and offered to aid in the fight of the nearby Bannocks. The reason for the change of heart is contested, but it is argued the large bounty on Chief Egan’s head was a factor.[29] The conflict resulted in the deaths of five Bannock warriors and their eventual flight. That night, Umatilla leaders pursued the Bannocks and killed Chief Egan and several other warriors during their attack.[30] Another blow was dealt to the Bannock when on July 20 one of Col. Bernard’s battalions under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Forsyth met the Bannock forces in the canyon of the North Fork of the John Day River.[31] The conflict did not result in many casualties but broke up the Bannocks even further and forced their hasty retreat.[32]

By July 27, Gen. Howard's strategy changed from one against a united enemy to a strategy of pursuing the now fractured Bannock groups.[33] The strategy often resulted in wandering pursuit by many army units in Idaho.[34] Most of the concluding conflicts between the remaining bands and the military were led by Col. Miles in August and September. The rest of the Bannocks returned to the Fort Hall Reservation or pursued peaceful hunting on their own in groups.[35] More skirmishes between the fleeing and scattered Bannocks and military forces followed, such as on August 9 in Bennett’s Creek by the Snake River.[36]

The AftermathEdit

After the Bannock War of 1878, the American government took action to place restrictions on the movements of Fort Hall Indians in and out of the reservation. Connections with other tribal groups were restricted, as well as their ability to use local resources. Realizing that they could not retake Snake Valley through force or attempt to create alliances with other tribes, the Fort Hall Indians focused their efforts on constructing community within the reservation.[37]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0700614028. 
  2. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0700614028. 
  3. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 37. ISBN 0700614028. 
  4. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0700614028. 
  5. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 41. ISBN 0700614028. 
  6. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 43. ISBN 0700614028. 
  7. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 45. ISBN 0700614028. 
  8. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 48–49. ISBN 0700614028. 
  9. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 50. ISBN 0700614028. 
  10. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0700614028. 
  11. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 51. ISBN 0700614028. 
  12. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 74. 
  13. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 75. 
  14. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 80. 
  15. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 81. 
  16. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 187. 
  17. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 82. 
  18. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 88. 
  19. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 91. 
  20. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 189. 
  21. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 93. 
  22. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 94. 
  23. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 190. 
  24. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 125. 
  25. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 129. 
  26. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 143. 
  27. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 191. 
  28. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 149. 
  29. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 192. 
  30. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 151. 
  31. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 192. 
  32. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 152. 
  33. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 193. 
  34. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 193. 
  35. Madsen, Brigham D (1948). The Bannock Indians in Northwest History. California: University of California. p. 197. 
  36. Brimlow, George Brimlow (1938). The Bannock Indian War of 1878. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers Ltd. p. 159. 
  37. Heaton, John W. (2005). The Shoshone-Bannocks : culture & commerce at Fort Hall, 1870-1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0700614028. 

Further readingEdit

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