Black Kettle and other Cheyenne chiefs conclude successful peace talks with
Major Edward W. Wynkoop at Fort Weld, Colorado, in September 1864.
Based on the promises made at this meeting, Black Kettle led his band
back to the Sand Creek reservation, where they were massacred in late November.
The speech given below was made October 12, 1865, at a council on the
little Arkansas River, when the United States government was negotiating
a treaty with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes. General J. B. Sanborn was
the president of the peace commission and conducted the council.
The Mrs. Wilmarth to whom Black Kettle refers was the interpreter for
On November 29, 1 864, the Cheyenne village on Sand Creek near the
reservation was attacked by the forces of Major John M. Chivington and
the action became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. Although he was
reported killed, Black Kettle was one of the survivors and his speech
at the Little Arkansas indicated compliance with the white man’s wishes.
Nevertheless, things did not go smoothly for the Cheyennes, and they
continued depredations over much of their territory.
1Mrs. Margaret Wilmarth was the former wife of the late Major Thomas
Fitzpatrick, who died while serving as agent for the Arapahoes. Fitzpatrick
was a noted western explorer, guide, hunter, trapper and friend of the indians.
He was often referred to as "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick following the
explosion of a rifle barrel which caused to lose three fingers of his right hand.
While he participated in many skirmishes against many tribes of Indians,
the speeches by Indians at this council in 1865 attest to the high regard
the Arapahoes had for Major Fitzpatrick, and they transferred their respect
to his widow.
Black Kettle moved with many of his people to a location on the Washita
River in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). There, on the morning of November 27,
1868, in an attack led by General George A. Custer, the village was obliterated,
and Black Kettle was among the large number of Indians killed.
Here is Black Kettle’s reply to the Indian commissioners at the Little
"We Want the Privilege of Crossing the Arkansas to Kill Buffalo"
The Great Father above hears us, and the Great Father at Washington will
hear what we say. Is it true that you came here from Washington, and is
it true what you say here today? The Big Chief he give his words to me to
come and meet you here, and I take hold and retain what he says. we believe
all to be true, and think it is all true. Their young white men, when I meet
them on the plains, I give them my horse and my moccasins, and I am glad
today to think that the Great Father has sent good men to take pity on us.
Your young soldiers I don’t think they listen to you. You bring presents,
and when I come to get them I am afraid they will strike me before I get
. When I come in to receive presents I take them up crying. Although wrongs
have been done me, I live in hopes. I have not got two hearts. These young
men, (Cheyennes) when I call them into the lodge and talk with them, they
listen to me and mind what I say. Now we are again together to make peace.
My shame (mortification) is as big as the earth, although I will do what my
friends advise me to do. I once thought that I was the only man that
persevered to be the friend of the white man, but since they have come
and cleaned out (robbed) our lodges, horses, and everything else, it is
hard for me to believe white men any more.
Here we are together, Arapahoes and Cheyennes, but few of us, we are
one people. As soon as you arrived you started runners after us and the
Arapahoes, with words that I took hold of immediately on hearing them.
From what I can see around me, I feel confident that our Great Father
has taken pity on me, and I feel tbat it is the truth all that has been told
me today. All my friends-the Indians that are holding back-they are afraid
to come in; are afraid they will be betrayed as I have been. I am not afraid
of white men, but come and take you by the hand, and am glad to have
an opportunity of so doing. These lands that you propose to give us I
know nothing about. There is but a handful here now of the Cheyenne Nation,
and I would rather defer making any permanent treaty until the others come
. We are living friendly now.
There are a great many white men. Possibly you may be looking for some
one with a strong heart. Possibly you may be intending to do
for me better than I know of.
Inasmuch as my Great Father has sent you here to take us by the hand,
why is it that we are prevented from crossing the Arkansas? If we give you
our hands in peace, we give them also to those of the plains. We want the
privilege of crossing the Arkansas to kill buffalo. I have but few men here
, but what I say to them they listen, and they will abide by their promise
whatever it may be. All these young soldiers are taking us by the hand,
and I hope it will come back good times as formerly. It is very hard to
have one-half of our nation absent at this time; we wish to get through
at once. My friends, I want you to understand that I have sent up north for
my people, and I want the road open for them to get here. I hope that which
you have said will be just as you have told me, and I am glad to hear such
good counsel from you. When my friends get down from the north I think
it will be the best time to talk about the lands. There are so few here it would
not look right to make a treaty for the whole nation, and so many absent.
I hope you will use your influence with the troops to open a road for my
men to get here. You may mark out the lands you propose giving us, but
I know nothing about them; it is a new country to me.
I have been in great hopes that I may see my children that were taken prisoners
last fall, and when I get here I do not see them. I feel disappointed.
My young men here, and friends, when we meet in council and come to the
conclusion, it is the truth, we do not vary from it.
This lady’s husband (Mrs. Wilmarth, formerly Fitzpatrick) Major Fitzpatrick,
when he was our agent and brought us presents he did not take them into
forts and houses, but would drive his wagons into our villages and empty
them there. Every one would help themselves and feel glad. He has gone ahead
of us, and he told us that when he was gone we would have trouble, and it has
proved true. We are sorry. But since the death of Major Fitzpatrick we have
had many agents. I don’t know as we have been wronged, but it looks so.
The amount of goods has diminished; it don’t look right. Has known Colonel Leavenworth
for some time; he has treated me well; whether it will continue
or not I do not know. He has got a strong heart, and has done us a great deal
of good. Now that times are so uncertain in this country I would like to have
my old friend Colonel Bent with me.
This young man, Charles Wrath, does not get tired. He is always ready to go
and meet them and give them whatever news he has to send to them. There
be wrongs done, but we want to show who does these wrongs before you censure
us. I feel that the Great Father has taken pity on us, and that ever since we have
met Colonel Leavenworth’s words have been true, and nothing done since that
time but what is true.
I heard that some chiefs were sent here to see us. We have brought our women
and children, and now we want to see if you are going to have pity on us