This Date in Native History: On October 21, 1867 the Medicine
Lodge Treaty was signed in Kansas. Michael Stewart, a Native history
expert with Haskell Indian Nations University, said the treaty was
important to the U.S. and development of the railroads because of
Westward Expansion. "The question was, How do we isolate the
tribes?' The tribes had released their treaty lands to the railroads,
which needed a 20-mile leeway, and the railroad cut through the
hunting areas. The lines followed the traditional routes to California,
and brought in more immigrants, building hostilities with Indians,
and that's where politics came into it... if you get the railroad
in your state, your state becomes more important."
At the end of the Civil War, Westward Expansion pushed into
Kansas, where reservations had already been established, but not
enforced. Poor land quality kept the settlers out until new farming
techniques and the Union Pacific Railroad brought an onslaught of
immigrants, intent on holding onto the land against any claims by
Newspaper reports exaggerated "Indian depredations" and the
governor of Kansas led the pack by demanding that the U.S. Department
of War send military assistance to deal with an almost imaginary
Pacific Railroad also complained that the attacks by Indians
were so bad, no one could work on the railroad. However, according
to a 1932 report by the Kansas
Historical Society, it was later revealed that work had halted
on the railroad because the soil was so muddied after heavy rains,
and the Union Pacific was willing to pay copy million to get out
of their contract.
Gen. William T. Sherman, of Civil War fame, found the claims
of the Kansas governor and Union Pacific hard to believe. In his
opinion, every western settlement was nervous about Indians and
asking for assistance. He refused to send troops to Kansas, but
against his better judgment, agreed to send massive amounts of ammunition
to arm the locals and form the 18th Kansas Cavalry.
The Kansas Historical Society report said that Sherman had been
touring Kansas and Colorado in the fall of 1866 and had not heard
of any complaints about Indians aside from rumors. He reportedly
said, "These are all mysterious, and only accountable on the supposition
that our people out West are resolved on trouble for the sake of
the profit resulting from the military occupation."
later expressed that except for a few raids by youthful warriors,
"almost every Indian agent says his particular Indians are at home
and at peace."
At the same time, two newspapers, in a rally of competition
and a ruse to gain readership, printed rumors of Indian attacks
as fact. Stories from the newspaper, The Leavenworth Commercial
were republished by eastern papers as true, furthering negative
attitudes against the tribes.
Anderson said the tactics were not unusual. "A lot of it was
manufactured crisis in the name of progress or profit. It definitely
had a bigger hand in shaping what actually happened."
After Kansas Governor Samuel J. Crawford had amassed 11,000
rounds of ammunition, four regiments of 358 officers and enlisted
men set out to defend their towns based on fears, phobias, and perhaps
a desire to make a name for themselves. Four years after the Sand
Creek Massacre, theses troops approached a quiet band of Cheyenne
and Sioux who had waved a white flag and requested peace. Still,
perhaps in a move of intimidation, the troops set up their camp
near the tribes and caused them to flee in the night, the Kansas
Historical Society report noted.
Sherman held his opinion that no actions should be taken against
the tribes until they met with the Cheyennes, and finally the U.S.
Peace Commission established a treaty meeting with the tribes, even
as General Sherman knew it would take years to meet the treaty obligations.
Estimates of between 5,000 to 15,000 Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Comanche,
Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache camped in the area, and on October 21, the
first treaty was signed by the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache. A week
later the Cheyennes and Arapaho agreed to sign as well.
The two treaties required that there be no opposition to the
railroads and that the tribes relinquish many of their land claims
and return to the already established reservations, and the tribes
would receive a large reservation and supplies, and the right to
hunt south of the Arkansas River as long as buffalo was plentiful
The U.S. promised that no white settlements could occupy the
area of the Arkansas River and the southern boundary of Kansas for
three years. But, "There were a lot of violations of the treaties,
and for different reasons," Anderson said. "This new rush of re-settlers
came into the area competing in a hostile way to the Indians who
remained. There was corruption among the Indian agents and there
was a re-removal. They were not only dealing with indigenous Kansas
groups who had been free ranging on the Plains, but there were other
groups who had been pushed out of the east, like the Pottawattomi
and the Sac and Fox. This process of treaty making went back to
the 1850s and trying to figure out what to do with them."
In the end, the treaties were not recognized by other Plains
tribes, and while there were no real large-scale revolts, the result
was that previous peace had been disturbed and tensions again flared
throughout the Plains.
The 1932 report by the Kansas Historical Society is surprisingly
balanced for that period of time. Eric Anderson, Ph.D. of American
History, specializing in American Indian history and instructor
at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas, said, "In 1932,
that's only four years after the Meriam Report. There was sympathy
in the country, and in 1864 the Sand Creek Massacre, then dial it
back to Medicine Lodge; 70 years later there was a cry among the
eastern elite about the treatment of the Indians."