Wednesday, February 8, 2017

CHANGES IN INDIAN-WHITE RELATIONS IN IDAHO FROM 1805 TO 1877

History 4423: History of Idaho
Idaho State University

The region that we know as Idaho was full of great resources: clear sparkling rivers, land of rich soil, plenty of fish, variety of plants and animals, multitudes of unique gems, miles of peaceful flat lands, and rugged mountains. Indians from many tribes: Kootenai, Kalispel, Coeur d’ Alene, Palouse, Nez Perce, Shoshone, Paiute, and others were extremely blessed to be living in this place without disruption. That is until the white men, along with their influences, began to arrive; seeking exploration, missions, trade deals, refuge, and more. During 1805 to 1877, Indian-white relations in Idaho experienced several changes; amidst the unmet societal, economical, spiritual, and political expectations.
     Indians in the region of Idaho had a strong societal structure in which they formed to sustain peaceful relations among the many different tribes that inhabited the land. This structure was one that the white men could not comprehend; as it was severely diverse to their own in which the Indians could not understand. Elliot West, author of “Real People” in his book, The Last Indian War: The New Perce Story, states “The mutual misperceptions fouled communication and frustrated honest efforts to harmonize relations between the peoples, which made the Nez Perce social arrangement, as it was in fact and how it was misunderstood.”[1] Indian-white relations in Idaho experienced several changes; first, unmet societal expectations.
Elliot West explains this failed societal expectation among the white men and the Indians in the following quotation:
Whites responded by projecting onto the Nez Perces and others what they expected to be there – or in some cruder cases, what suited their needs at the time. Generally they assumed they were dealing with a rough equivalent of a state or nation, with parts knit into a whole that was firmly bounded and governed by a descending order of power. The gap between the society white authorities expected or needed to find and the subtle, multilayered society that was actually there relentlessly plagued the relations between whites and Nez Perces. [2]

     In the land of plenty, within their informal societal structure, the Indians had a mutual understanding of trade and their ability to provide a variety of resources to each and every tribe within the region. While Lewis and Clark were on their expedition they spoke with the Indians in expanding their resources through trade with white men. Elliot West, writes in “Marks of Friendship” in his book, The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, “The Nez Perces were leveraging what they had most of to get more what they lacked and embracing the chance that a widespread peace brokered by Lewis and Clark might give them power and material gain in a changing world. All indications are that they considered this an arrangement between equals calculated for the advantage of both.”[3] Indian-white relations in Idaho experienced several changes; second, unmet economical expectations. West describes this disastrous economical expectation, “The captains’ promised outlet on the plains never materialized, neither did their brokered peace, but their reports of abundant game brought an immediate response.”[4] During this time of arrangement, business was quite successful within fur trading, until all of the fur providing animals were caught and skinned on the East Coast. American Fur Company leader, John Jacob Aster drew up an incredible plan to benefit from this broken promise and sent Donald McKenzie to set up post.[5]
Elliot West shares this unfortunate encounter in the following quotation:
He brought a large load of goods, and the Nez Perce leaders he met were eager to deal – until he told them that he would swap only for beaver skins. The Nez Perces had no interest in trapping beavers; their annual round of fishing, gathering, and hunting left no time for it. McKenzie grew frustrated and angry; so did they. This was not the equal accommodation they had anticipated. Relations worsened.[6]

     Similar to their strong societal structure and economical means, the Indians also had a firm foundation in their own spiritual beliefs. Elliot West tells us in “The Place of Butterflies” in his book The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, “Nez Perce religion differed profoundly from Christianity.”[7] Indian-white relations in Idaho experienced several changes; third, unmet spiritual expectations. In meeting with different missionaries and spiritual leaders, like Spokan Garry, West also tells us, “They embraced some practices, such as Sabbath observance, while grafting other ideas and rituals onto their own traditions.”[8] This opened up the Indians to a variety of missionaries in between the years of 1825 and 1837: among them were Presbyterians Samuel Parker and Marcus Whitman and Protestants Jason and Daniel Lee. The Indians were welcoming of their visitors until trouble arose as they began to overstay their welcome and strongly place their beliefs against the ideals and values of the Indians. West explains, “The essential problem, however, was the gap between what Nez Perces and missionaries expected of each other… Above all, the Nez Perces expected the new spiritual presence to enrich their worldly well-being, to make their good life better…Missionaries meant them to be reborn out of their old lives into utterly new ones.”[9]
     As the United States grew west, Indians still held their ground in the region of Idaho. Elliot West reveals in “God Named This Land to Us” in his book The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, “The Nez Perces were prosperous and powerful and reasonable secure, living behind their mountains in country Coyote had given them, out of the way of forces that were breaking the others and transforming the West. That, however, was about to change.”[10] That change did come, after years through the Gold Rush, many major Indian conflicts, and the government’s inability to uphold promises; Indian-white relations in Idaho experienced a complete transformation; last, unmet political expectations. Elliot West explains the final change in “Conquering by Kindness”, “In the emerging new America, Indians would rapidly lose what political independence they had managed to keep before the Civil War. As for particulars, the Peace Policy relied on reservations, precisely bounded areas where a particular native group would live and be assigned a government agent.”[11]
     In conclusion, unmet societal, economical, spiritual, and political expectations were the causes in which Indian-white relations experienced changes in Idaho during 1805 to 1877. Misunderstood social structures that were perused to be fixed, business arrangements with one sided benefits, extremely different spiritual beliefs, and influentially enforced political values are some of the identifiable themes among the several characteristics and causes that divided the white men and the Indians towards a long-lasting separation in Idaho as well as in the United States.

Bibliography

West, Elliot. “Real People” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 386, 467.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition.

— . “Marks of Friendship” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 608, 625,
642, 650. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition

— . “The Place of the Butterflies” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 879,
888, 947, 956. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition

— . “God Named This Land to Us” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 1554.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition

— .  “Conquering by Kindness” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc.
2069. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Kindle Edition



[1] West, Elliot. “Real People” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 386. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition.
[2] West, Elliot. “Real People” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 467. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[3] West, Elliot. “Marks of Friendship” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 608. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[4] West, Elliot. “Marks of Friendship” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 625. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[5] West, Elliot. “Marks of Friendship” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 642. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[6] West, Elliot. “Marks of Friendship” In The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 650. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[7] West, Elliot. “The Place of the Butterflies” In the Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 879. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[8] West, Elliot. “The Place of the Butterflies” In the Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 879, 888. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[9] West, Elliot. “The Place of the Butterflies” In the Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 947, 956. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[10] West, Elliot. “God Named This Land to Us” In the Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 1554. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition
[11] West, Elliot. “Conquering by Kindness” In the Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, Loc. 2069. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, Kindle Edition

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