It Was Fight Or Die eBook #21
By Raymond Cook
© 2014 (All Rights Reserved)
Word Count: 67,000
Author’s Note: This eBook includes Native American, Wildlife & Pioneer Poetry.
Historical Background Of Native Americans in Colorado In The 1890’s.
Before the coming of white people to land that would be called the ‘Colorado Territory,’ many groups of Indians inhabited the land. The Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Kiowa, Paiute, Pueblo, Shoshone, Sioux, and the Ute tribes relied on vast hunting and fishing grounds, not only for food but also clothing. Some tribes lived peacefully near each other, traded, and sometimes inter-married. Other tribes though were bitter rivals and attacked each other.
Like all Indian tribes, the animal hides were used to make clothing, moccasins, bags, and carriers for various things including their children. The hides were also cut into thin strips to bind the material together. They used leather to make snowshoe webbing, knife sheaths, drum skins, smoke hole and door flaps for their tepees and more. Bones and antlers were made into various utensils, tools, knife handles, fish hooks, and spearheads.
Tendons were made into bow strings and cords. The stomach of large animals made a handy water container for bringing water from a river, stream, or pond back to their village. Even the brains of deer, elk and buffalo were used for tanning hides. Hunting was important for the survival of the entire tribe. Indians hunted deer, antelope, rabbits, elk, buffalo, mountain sheep, marmots, geese, pheasant, duck, rabbits and other small game.
Fish were also an important source of food to the Indian. The meat was cooked fresh or smoked, dried and stored for the long winter months ahead. Indian women and children gathered edible roots, pine nuts and many kinds of berries, including, wild blueberries, huckleberries, blackberries and honey, seeds, herbs, and fruit too. They also took advantage of abandoned homesteads with apples or other fruit trees. Indian women were skilled at basket weaving and cradleboards for their babies.
Some Indians turned to stealing a rancher’s cow now and then to feed their people. If a rancher knew an Indian had stolen a cow, often times he’d exaggerate the incident, saying his ranch was attacked. His goal was to get other ranchers stirred up and hunt the Indians down. Aside from the grizzly bear, the most feared thing to a family was Indians.
The ‘Homestead Act of 1862’ signed by President Lincoln, was the main driving force for hundreds of thousands of people back east, wanting to own their own land out west. Each married couple was eligible to own 160 acres of land, if they built a home, lived on the land, and farmed it for five years. Land could be bought outright for $1.25 per acre. The discovery of gold in Colorado brought thousands of men to the rugged Rocky Mountains, in hopes of striking it rich.
Thousands of families traveled 640 miles by covered wagon to reach Colorado to stake their claim. People prospected for gold, silver, built a ranch, or started a business. As more and more wagon trains brought setters to Gunnison County, Indian conflicts occurred frequently, and the settlers demanded the U. S. cavalry remove the Sioux, Paiute, Shoshone, and Ute Indians.
Many battles large and small were fought. Some villages were attacked by the U. S. cavalry, killing every man, woman, and child. The Shoshone people became bitter enemies of the white man. With the use of the Gatling gun and cannon, most of the Indian tribes were forced to surrender. Indian tribes that were forced to sign peace treaties were relocated the Unitah Valley Reservation in 1881, with the promise of an annual allotment of cattle to feed their people and good land to live on.
Often times the U. S. government failed to deliver the annual cattle allotment promised to the tribes who gave up their lands, hunting grounds, and way of life. The soil was also poor for growing crops. Blankets shipped to the reservations sometimes contained cholera or smallpox. Their children were spit upon, forced to cut their hair, give up their language, and customs, and learn the English language. If the Indians tried to flee the reservation, they were either killed trying to escape or fled to the mountains.
The town of Marble, in Gunnison County, was prosperous by 1900. Cattle ranchers needed ranch hands and the Yule Quarry outside of Marble needed workers to work at the quarry. Nearly 400 people lived in or around Marble. The town even had its own newspaper and a dentist. Not only that, but they were about to have hand pumps in their houses and businesses, so they wouldn’t have to go outside to fetch water.
The railroad would soon come to Marble too. That would open the area up to even more settlers. But the families in and around the town of Marble needed food, lots of food. Elk, buffalo, deer, and antelope were free for the taking, but cattle cost 15 cents a pound. As settlers killed more game to feed their families, meat for the Indians dwindled. Losing game for the Indian meant not just a loss of food for their people but clothing and much more. In Gunnison County, there were scattered bands of Shoshone, Paiute, Sioux, and Ute Indians who refused to go to reservations. They traveled the mountains and valleys. As hunting parties returned to their villages with less game, they knew they faced starvation in the winter ahead.
If they didn’t fight back against the settlers, and try to reclaim their lost hunting and fishing grounds, the Indian people would surely die. The Shoshone, Sioux and Paiute people had no choice but to join forces, and fight back, or die trying after they discover an entire Ute village massacred.
This is their story.
I’ve made this comment section so those of you who have read this emotion filled eBook can comment on what you thought about it. Amazon will send you an e-mail, asking if you’d like to leave a comment on this eBook.
It Was Fight Or Die Amazon Comment…
Kindle Customer on January 16, 2016 by Samuel Mejorado Though this author’s book, It was fight or die isn’t available in printed form, I would have loved the story in DVD format. It was a great, realistic portrayal of the conflict between native americans and white settlers during that era of history. It’s certainly not a part of history we white people are proud of. I found it accurate and a true reflection of how the native american indian, every man, woman and child would have felt being forced off their lands, held prisoner on reservations that gave them little hope as they starved.
I enjoyed the long comment made by LAS Reviewer too. His or her comment gives us much to reflect on historically. Young people could use this story for example as a ‘extra credit’ project as to what they felt about what they have read. Many tribes are not recognized even now by our government. Yet their people, every man, woman and child lives, breathes and exists as real as you and I. How sad!