Carr_ Kathy - MIDVALE CENTENNIAL by mifei


Middle Valley and the Indian Wars
by Kathy Carr
Reprinted from the News Reporter, August, 1981
                                               the ancient, long-stemmed medicine pipe,
        When Middle Valley settlers awoke      with full ceremony and total silence.
early that morning in 1878 it was just too             To their credit the white men were
quiet. Not a sound came from the little        apparently able to tolerate the dreadful-
Bannock village down by the river bottom.      smelling weed used in the pipe, without
 No barking of dogs, no neighing of horses,    becoming too queasy - until perhaps later.
no happy babble of voices.                       So far I can find no source of
        Gradually, it dawned on the whites     identification for the nauseous substance.
that something was wrong. Not only were        Does anyone know?
the usual village noises absent, but when              The chief in the little village was
somebody piled on a horse and galloped         called Bannock Joe. Villagers bartered
down to investigate, he found the clearing     back and forth with the settlers,
as bare as if it had been swept with a         exchanging moccasins and hides, food and
broom.                                         flour.
        Sometime during the night the                  As long as a white family respected
Indians had left without any warning           Indian codes of ethics, gave a gift for a gift,
whatsoever.                                    had respect for the land and its wildlife,
        And never again did they come          and maintained the honor of one’s word,
back to live in Middle Valley.                 the Indians were loyal friends.
        Panic spread among valley                      When John McRoberts left his
residents about as rapidly as did the news.    family on their isolated Middle Valley
 Did this mean war? Were they all going to     homestead for several months to work in
be massacred?                                  Boise, Indian women came every day to
        During the years of early              stand guard over Mrs. McRoberts and the
settlement, Idaho had seen its share of        children. This was one of their ways of
bloody Indian wars.         Massacres and      returning a favor.
scalpings, skirmishes and ambushes                     H.P. Linder made friends with his
enlivened the annals of the 50's and 60's.     Indian neighbors. One day while he was
        But during the early Middle Valley     away, his wife was startled to see a big
years, Indians and white appeared to live      Indian hurrying up the path to the house.
compatibly enough.          White children     He urgently tried to tell her something, but
mingled in play with                           she couldn’t understand. Finally he
Indian youngsters of the village by the        shrugged, and went out to the woodpile.
river, and white men often sat for hours in    There he sat for hours.
the councils of the village elders, to smoke
        Mrs. Linder’s housework must                   It wasn’t, although he enjoyed the
have suffered that day, as she peeked          meal.
through the curtains to see if he was still            He stayed all day until Mr. Linder
there.                                         returned. He told Mr. Linder that a grass
        Finally she decided to feed him,       fire was burning out of control and coming
and after cooking a huge meal, she served      toward the Linder home. He had stayed
it up to him in a dishpan, hoping this is      there to protect Mrs. Linder in case the fire
what he wanted.                                came too close.
        As more and more whites poured         began to understand the principles of
into Idaho territory in the 1870's, some of    ecology, the balance of nature, and gave
them considered an Indian no better than a     warning. But not many really cared.
wild animal.      Class-conscious settlers     What mattered were roads and farms and
perpetrated some terrible things upon          good clapboard houses, fruit trees,
Indians as well as immigrant Chinese, who      gardens and irrigation ditches, hay fields
came to work in the mines. White               and good stout barbed wire fences.
supremacy died hard in the hearts of                   In 1877 resentment among even
many, in spite of the Civil War.               Indians who had tried to co-exist with
        The apparently limitless abundance     settlers encroaching on their ancestral
of game and forage led to wanton killing of    lands, erupted hotly all over the Pacific
anything that moved. The land was over         Northwest, and for 3 years, Idaho territory
utilized. The vast fields of camas and         settlers took to forts as rumors of
couse, staples of the Indian diet, were        massacres spread from village to farm.
plowed under, or otherwise plundered and       Indians were herded into reservations.
destroyed. The hills, waving head-high         But Indians knew no boundaries. Had not
with bunch grass, were soon bare and           the whole land been theirs for thousand of
trampled by vast herds of cattle. Only the     years? Small bands of them tried to
sagebrush and a few other herbs survived,      maintain their summer wanderings for
simply because they weren’t edible.            many years.
        And how much did the whites                    Others took matters into their own
care? “Let them raise a garden, like we do -   hands, and fought back. Settlers fled to
take off that heathenish beadwork and          hastily built log forts as they heard talks of
dress like white folks, and go to church.”     skirmishes, pillage and murder along the
        How could the whites understand        Salmon River from White Bird to Mt.
the deep respect in Indian hearts for Earth    Idaho.
Mother, who had furnished them for                     There followed the Nez Perce, the
thousands of years with what they              Bannock, and finally the Sheepeater wars.
needed? Their very religion forbade them       Indians who had set out to reclaim their
to violate the earth with a plow, to kill an   camas fields and hunting grounds were
animal without need.                           themselves very nearly exterminated.
        To most white men in those days                At Indian Springs that summer of
such a concept was heathenish, and should      1878, H.P. Linder, James Sutton and
be uprooted.                                   several others flushed out a thieving band
        A few far-seeing, discerning men       of Indians bent on stealing horses.
who had studied the westward wave of                   Three Indian Valley men were
destruction as the emigrations increased,
killed and one wounded, after they trailed     no time to reach the fort, families would
a band of Indian horse thieves across the      hide in the willows along the river.
mountains to Long Valley that summer.                  Elizabeth Wiggins, the third white
This was about as close as Middle Valley       child born in the valley, recalled that her
ever got to real strife with Indians. Their    family went to the fort at Mann’s Creek,
attempts at peaceful co-existence had          before Fort Growler was built. But during
apparently paid off. But this meant            the summer of 1878 the family slipped out
nothing to them. The scare was on. They        after dark and waded to an island in the
made hasty, galloping trips to Salubria’s      Weiser River and slept in a big hole.
“Fort Growler” at a moment’s notice.           Elizabeth learned to walk, there on the
        At times when they felt there was      island, by holding on to the brush.
        The Keithleys, Levi and John, hid
bedrolls for their families in the willows by
the creek. After dark they carried their
beds to a low-lying meadow, where no one
could sneak up on them, and there they
slept, with guns and dogs.
        By 1880 the scare was over, and
within a few years the Indians had
reluctantly accepted a new way of life, at
least outwardly.
        And settlers, without a twinge of
conscience, accepted a good night’s sleep
as their due.

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