500 Nations (1995) s01e07 Episode Script

Roads Across the Plains

Welcome back to 500 Nations.
I'm Kevin Costner.
For a lot of us, the most vivid picture of the Indian world has come from movies screen heroes fighting armies of hostile Indians.
The tide has changed in moviemaking, thankfully but the image of Indian warriors riding across the Great Plains still remains the universal symbol of all American Indians.
Yet even with this vivid image, we know little about the people and the legendary individuals who led them.
Men who fought and sacrificed everything for their nations.
In this hour, we'll see the people of the Plains in a different light.
But first, we'll travel farther west to a place where hundreds of thousands of Indian people lived in one of the most beautiful and peaceful regions of the continent: California.
Welcome to part seven of 500 Nations: "Struggle for the West.
" The Other Coast California Three hundred thousand people lived in the diverse environments of California.
They spoke 80 languages worked, worshiped and raised children on lands occupied by their ancestors since before the dawn of European civilization.
Many California nations had evolved into highly structured societies.
Among them, one of the largest, was the Chumash living on the coastal islands and along the coast in the area of present-day Santa Barbara.
Large Chumash towns supported a professional class of astrologers, priests government leaders and healers.
Workers belonged to centuries-old craft guilds of basket- and canoe-makers.
Workers also manufactured the flat shell beads that were the currency of the region.
Production and control of the money supply placed the Chumash nation at the center of the Southern California economy.
In the late 18th Century this complex world of the ancient Chumash and their coastal neighbors would be changed forever.
In 1772, Spanish missionaries led by Father Junîpero Serra, arrived in Chumash territory.
"Believe me, when I saw their general behavior their pleasing ways and engaging manners my heart was broken to think that they were still deprived of the light of the Holy Gospel.
" Father Junípero Serra, Spanish missionary.
Ignoring the beauty and complexity of Chumash society the Spanish set out to convert them to Christianity by whatever means necessary.
"I and two of my relatives went down to the beach to catch clams.
We saw two men on horseback coming rapidly towards us.
My relatives were afraid.
They fled with all speed.
It was too late.
They overtook me and lassoed and dragged me for a long distance their horses running.
When we arrived at the mission they locked me in a room for a week.
The father told me that he would make me a Christian.
One day, they threw water on my head and gave me salt to eat, and with this the interpreter told me that now I was Christian that I was called Jesus.
" The building up of the mission into a coerced labor force didn't happen overnight.
It was gradual, but eventually they forced Indians to remove from their free way of life in their home villages and to be reduced to one central mission site to be controlled.
Once a family was taken into the missions the missionaries separated children from their parents.
All the little boys and little girls at age of 6 were locked up in children's barracks.
So it was work, religion and work all day long.
Highly structured, highly supervised.
Indian people were put to work tanning, blacksmithing and caring for the mission herds.
They made candles, bricks, tiles shoes, saddles and soap.
Labor was strictly enforced under the discipline of the lash.
"And thus, I existed till I found a way to escape.
But I was tracked.
They caught me like a fox.
They lashed me until I lost consciousness.
For several days, I could not raise myself from the floor where they had laid me.
I still have on my shoulders the marks of the lashes.
" Janitil, Kumeyaay.
For over 50 years, the mission system backed by Spanish arms, exerted control over the California coast crushing every revolt.
Inside the missions disease and harsh living conditions contributed to a genocidal death rate.
The average life of a mission Indian was less than 12 years.
For children, it was less than six years.
So there was a constant need to feed this beast with laborers.
And one of the sad legacies of the missions of California is that when people go to them today, they don't think about Indians.
They say the padres built the missions.
That's nonsense.
The California Indians built the missions.
At the Santa Barbara mission alone over 4000 Chumash names filled the burial registry their bodies discarded in large pits near the church.
In 1821 control of California transferred to Mexico after it gained its independence from Spain.
The Mexican government secularized the missions.
Indian people were free to leave.
But 50 years had completely transformed their world.
Old villages were gone.
In their places were large Mexican estates.
Even the mission lands they had worked and lived on became parts of vast private ranches.
"To stand by and watch these men take over the missions which we have built the herds we have tended to be exposed incessantly, together with our families to the worst possible treatment and even death itself is a tragedy.
" Mission San Luis Rey, neophyte.
Homeless and left with few choices for survival mission Indians were forced to exchange one master for another becoming peasant workers on the rancherías.
"Many of the rich men of the country had from 20 to 60 Indian servants whom they dressed and fed.
Our friendly Indians tilled our soil, pastured our cattle cut our lumber, built our houses, made tiles for our homes ground our grains, slaughtered our cattle, dressed their hides for market while the Indian women made excellent servants took good care of our children, made every one of our meals.
" Salvador vallejo, Mexican landowner.
In 1848, after the Mexican-American War California passed from Mexican to American hands.
Soon after, gold was discovered in the north bringing a rush of miners onto the lands of interior nations who had been out of the reach of coastal missions and Mexican ranches.
"The majority of tribes are kept in constant fear on account of the indiscriminate and inhuman massacre of their people.
They have become alarmed by the increased flood of immigration much spread over their country.
It is just incomprehensible to them.
" Adam Johnson, Indian agent.
Miners came into Indian communities looking for women.
Vigilante parties opened fire on men, women and children wiping out entire villages.
It was open season on Indian people derisively referred to as "diggers.
" The Humboldt Times, Eureka, April 11.
Headline, "Good Haul of Diggers.
One White Man Killed.
Thirty-Eight Bucks Killed.
Forty Squaws and Children Taken.
" January 17th.
Headline: "Good Haul of Diggers.
Band Exterminated.
" In the 1850s while the American nation was on the verge of civil war over the issue of slavery demand for agricultural labor in California was so high that the state legislature passed an act legalizing Indian slavery.
"A company of United States troops attended by a considerable volunteer force has been pursuing the poor creatures from one retreat to another.
The kidnappers follow at the heels of the soldiers to seize the children when their parents are murdered and sell them to the best advantage.
" W.
P.
Dole, Indian agent.
Only 30,000 native Californians survived the gold rush 10 percent of what had been the most densely populated Indian area north of Mexico.
"Upon my last visit to ventura I saw the last of the ventura Indians.
They were living in a tiny hut east of the mouth of the river.
One of the old men told me they were very glad that I was not ashamed to talk the Indian language.
They told me to continue in the use of it and keep the beliefs.
If I did so, I would live a long time.
" Fernando Librado, Chumash.
Fernando Librado lived to be 111 years old.
"I once went over to Donaciana's house.
I wanted to learn the Swordfish Dance.
After the meal, I asked her to teach me the old dances, saying: 'For you are the only ones left who know the old dances.
' Donaciana began to cry and I left, saying nothing more.
" Fernando Librado, Chumash.
The Southern Plains For thousands of years the buffalo thundered across the Great Plains a vast sea of grassland rising from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.
Living off the herds were a scattering of nomadic Indian nations.
"My grandmother told me that when she was young the people themselves had to walk.
In those times, they did not travel far nor often.
" In 1680, the Spanish were driven out of the Southwest by the Pueblo nations.
As they fled, they left behind their horse herds an animal that would change the way of life for Indian nations across the continent.
"When they got horses, they could move more easily from place to place.
Then they could kill more of the buffalo and other animals.
And so they got more meat for food and gathered more skins for lodges and clothing.
" Iron Teeth, Cheyenne.
A new culture developed based on the relationship between man and horse.
"My horse fights with me and he fasts with me because if he is to carry me into battle he must know my heart, and I must know his or we shall never become brothers.
I've been told that the white man who's almost a god, and yet a great fool does not believe that the horse has a spirit.
This cannot be true.
I have many times seen my horse's soul in his eyes.
" Plenty Coups, Crow.
With the coming of the horse the nations of the Plains would become legendary: The Crow, Cheyenne, Sioux, Blackfeet Arapaho, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche.
And for generations, their way of life flourished.
Then, in 1858 gold was discovered at Pike's Peak, Colorado.
Four years later the Homestead Act opened the region to white settlement.
Almost instantly, the invasion became a flood.
In one year alone 100,000 emigrants swarmed across the Plains over two main roads spreading a wide swath of destruction.
To protect travel on the emigrant roads the United States erected a network of forts across the Plains and churned out cadets at West Point specially trained for Indian warfare.
It was the Army's mission to force mobile nations who hunted over large territories onto confined areas: Reservations.
Indian people were faced with only two options: To give up their homelands and way of life or fight the American Army.
Although some chose armed resistance, many Indian leaders responsible for the protection of large villages of women, children and elderly saw little hope in fighting.
Among these were two Cheyenne leaders: Black Kettle and White Antelope.
They were willing to give up lands to maintain peace and bring their people safely through the dangerous era.
Black Kettle & White Antelope The Path of Peace White Antelope and Black Kettle had a duty to their people to try to protect them.
And to do this, they had to maintain peace.
So they felt that it was their duty to go out and make peace with the United States, so they did.
Black Kettle and White Antelope ceded vast Cheyenne lands to the United States in 1861 and agreed to confine themselves to a reservation in exchange for protection from soldiers and settlers and assistance of food and money to replace lost hunting lands.
They then traveled to Washington to meet with President Lincoln.
Lincoln presented Black Kettle with a large American flag and White Antelope with a Medal of Peace.
But over the next three years continued unrest on the Plains fanned rumors of an impending Indian war.
In Denver, Governor John Evans inflamed public opinion by fabricating stories of Cheyenne hostilities and encouraged civilians to take up arms against them.
Seeking protection for their peaceful bands Black Kettle and White Antelope undertook the dangerous trip to Denver to meet with Governor Evans.
"All we ask is that we may have peace with the whites.
I want you to give all the chiefs of the soldiers here to understand that we are for peace and that we have made peace that we may not be mistaken by them for enemies.
" Black Kettle, Southern Cheyenne.
Black Kettle and White Antelope were promised safety for their people if they camped near Fort Lyon in southern Colorado.
But the military commander of Colorado Colonel John Chivington had no plans for peace with any Indian people.
"Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians.
I have come to kill Indians and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill them.
" Colonel John Chivington.
Black Kettle and White Antelope had been told where to camp and that they had nothing to fear from the U.
S.
Army.
Why would they worry? They were under the protection of the American flag.
They were under the protection of the international peace sign, the white flag.
At dawn on November 29, 1864 Chivington's Colorado Volunteers rode through the snow toward Black Kettle and White Antelope's sleeping camp at Sand Creek.
Two women were out picking up wood when they seen what they thought was buffalo.
But it wasn't.
They threw down their sticks and started screaming and running towards the camp.
Cheyenne George Bent was startled awake.
"I heard shouts and the noise of people running about the camp.
I jumped up and ran out of my lodge.
From down the creek, a large body of troops was advancing at a rapid trot.
I looked toward the chief's lodge and saw Black Kettle had a large American flag tied to the end of a long lodge pole and was standing in front of his lodge holding the pole.
" Chief Black Kettle, he was out in front protecting his people to show them that he wasn't afraid.
And he was trying to tell them that we made peace.
"We're at peace.
" "Then the troops opened fire from two sides of the camps.
The women and children were screaming and wailing the men, running to their lodges for their arms and shouting advice and directions to one another.
White Antelope saw the soldiers shooting the people and he did not wish to live any longer.
" My great-great-grandfather, White Antelope he felt heartbreak that another treaty had been broken.
The peace that they had been seeking for a long time had been shattered had been broken.
"White Antelope stood in front of his lodge with his arms folded across his breast singing the death song.
" And he cried.
He sung his song: "Nothing lives long.
" He raised his arms.
"Nothing lives long but the earth and the mountains.
" White Antelope wearing the peace medal given him by President Lincoln was shot dead in front of his lodge.
Black Kettle and his wife ran toward the creek bed where people were desperately digging into the sand for protection.
Before they could reach it Black Kettle's wife was shot.
Believing her dead, he ran on without her.
"Most of us who were hiding in the pits had been wounded before we could reach the shelter.
And there we lay all that bitter cold day from early in the morning until almost dark with the soldiers all around us keeping up a heavy fire most of the time.
They finally withdrew about 5:00.
As they retired down the creek, they killed all the wounded they could find.
That night will never be forgotten as long as any of us who went through it are alive.
Many who had lost wives husbands and children or friends went back down the creek and crept over the battleground among the naked and mutilated bodies of the dead.
Few were found alive for the soldiers had done their work thoroughly.
" George Bent, Southern Cheyenne.
Over 500 Southern Cheyenne people died.
Black Kettle found his wife with nine bullet wounds in her body.
But miraculously she was alive.
The survivors straggled into another Cheyenne camp while Chivington returned to Denver with over 100 Cheyenne scalps.
My people were massacred.
Terrible thing.
Their spirits are still there at the massacre site.
They'll never rest.
Despite his loss Black Kettle saw no hope in resistance.
In 1868 his beleaguered band was camped along the Washita River on a government reservation.
At dawn on November 27, 1868 almost four years to the day after the Sand Creek massacre U.
S.
Army troops, under the command of George Armstrong Custer attacked the sleeping village.
Black Kettle, his wife and over 100 of his people were killed.
The Cheyenne leader's quest for peace had come to a final, bitter end costing him his lands, his freedom and the lives of the people he had tried so desperately to protect.
Southern Plains Kiowa Resistance "I was born upon the prairie where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun.
The white man has the country which we loved.
We only wish to wander on the prairie until we die.
" Ten Bears.
South of the Cheyenne the Goi'gu, or Kiowa nation lived on lands including parts of present-day Texas Oklahoma and Kansas.
They were also being pushed onto reservations by treaties and the United States Army.
But the message of Black Kettle's betrayal resounded across the Plains.
"The good Indian he that listens to the white man, gets nothing.
The independent Indian is the only one that is rewarded.
" Satanta, Kiowa.
To many, the only path open was armed resistance.
A growing number of Kiowa rallied behind an uncompromising leader: Satanta.
"A long time ago, this land belonged to our fathers.
But when I go down to the rivers, I see camps of soldiers on its banks.
These soldiers cut down my timber kill my buffalo and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting.
" Satanta, Kiowa.
Satanta was a deepening thorn in the War Department's side.
In 1871 after leading a raid on a mule train in Texas he was brought before General Sherman.
Satanta defiantly accepted responsibility for the raid.
"I led about 100 men to Texas to teach them to fight.
This is our country.
We have always lived in it.
We were happy.
Then you came.
We have to protect ourselves.
We have to save our country.
We have to fight for what is ours.
" Satanta was placed under arrest shackled and held in the crawlspace below a Fort Sill barracks for 12 days.
Finally, he was taken to Texas for trial.
There, he was imprisoned.
It would be two years before the Kiowa nation was able to barter his release by surrendering their guns and horses.
When Satanta returned to the reservation where his people were confined he found that the money, food and supplies promised by the government as payment for their lands had not come through.
And the lifeblood of the nation the buffalo, were fast disappearing.
Everything the Kiowas had came from the buffalo.
Our tepees were made of buffalo hides.
So were our clothes and moccasins.
We ate buffalo meat.
The buffalo were the life of the Kiowas.
The U.
S.
Recognized that without the buffalo, the Plains nations could not survive and would have little choice but to remain on reservations and live off the meager government rations.
White buffalo hunters with high-powered Sharps rifles were encouraged in and the slaughter began.
"Has the white man become a child that he should recklessly kill and not eat? When the Kiowa slay game they do so that they may live and not starve.
" Satanta, Kiowa.
The slaughter proceeded at an astonishing pace.
Thousands of animals were killed every day.
"The buffalo hunters have done more to settle the vexed Indian question than the entire regular Army.
For the sake of lasting peace let them kill, skin and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated.
" General Phil Sheridan, U.
S.
Army.
In a desperate struggle for survival the Southern Plains nations went to war to save the buffalo.
In the summer of 1874 thousands of Indian people flooded off the reservations.
And in that moment of freedom Satanta and others led an allied Indian force in an attack on a buffalo hunters' camp at Adobe Walls, Texas.
But they were no match for the hunters with their powerful buffalo guns.
Defeat was followed by massive military expeditions by the United States Army to force the Southern Plains nations back onto reservations.
In the fall, Satanta was forced to surrender and was returned to the penitentiary at Huntsville, Texas.
Later, it was reported that he had committed suicide by leaping out of a window.
The Kiowa believed he was murdered.
They killed Satanta.
They killed him.
He didn't kill himself.
He's too much of a man to do anything like that.
He's too much of a chief.
Chiefs don't do that.
By winter, all Kiowa bands had been forced back to the reservation.
The following spring, the last of the Cheyenne surrendered followed soon after by the last free Comanche.
Determined to break the Southern Plains nations forever the Army rounded up Almost 1000 were shot the rest sold at auction.
By 1890, the buffalo population of 50 million had been reduced to fewer than 1000.
The war to save the buffalo and a way of life had been lost.
The Kiowas were camped on the north side of Mount Scott those of them who were still free to camp.
One young woman got up very early in the morning.
The dawn mist was still rising from Medicine Creek and as she looked across the water peering through the haze she saw the last buffalo herd appear like a spirit dream.
Straight to Mount Scott, the leader of the herd walked.
Behind him came the cows and their calves and the few young males who had survived.
As the woman watched the face of the mountain opened.
Inside Mount Scott the world was green and fresh as it had been when she was a small girl.
The rivers ran clear, not red.
The wild plums were in blossom chasing the red buds up the inside slopes.
Into this world of beauty, the buffalo walked.
Never to be seen again.
Sometimes at evening, I sit looking out.
The sun sets, and dust steals over the water.
In the shadows, I seem again to see our Indian village with smoke curling upward from the lodges.
And in the river's roar, I hear the yells of the warriors the laughter of the little children, as of old.
It is but an old woman's dream.
Again I see but shadows and hear only the roar of the river.
And tears come into my eyes.
Our Indian life, I know is gone forever.
Sitting Bull & Crazy Horse Standing Against the Tide "What treaty that the whites have kept has the red man broken? Not one.
What treaty that the white man ever made with us have they kept? Not one.
" Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa.
The Northern Plains mirrored the South with Indian nations being driven onto reservations.
Yet a handful of leaders refused to sign treaties and were determined to remain free at any cost.
These defiant leaders became heroes to Indian people across the Plains.
Among them, two men from the Sioux nations stood alone: One was the venerated Hunkpapa holy man, Sitting Bull.
The other was a young Oglala fighting man whose fierce military genius struck fear into his enemies and inspired fervent followers.
His image would never be captured by photographers or artists but his spirit of pride and resistance would be carried on by his people.
His name was Crazy Horse.
In the summer of 1876, thousands of Cheyenne, Arapaho and people from many Sioux nations fled the reservations to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in a great encampment along the Little Bighorn River in present-day Montana.
The gathering, possibly the largest in Plains history swelled to 8000, with camp circles stretching for miles.
The Indian people were well aware that this could be their last great celebration of freedom.
There, far from any white settlements they would hunt the last remaining buffalo feast, race ponies, visit with old friends and relatives and join in a massive sun dance that would be remembered for generations.
On June 25, 1876, as the United States prepared to celebrate five companies of the 7th Cavalry under George Armstrong Custer advanced on Sitting Bull's camp.
It was not until the dust from the 7th Cavalry rose over the hills that the startled encampment learned of the troops.
Two Moons, leader of the Northern Cheyenne, was swimming in the creek.
"I looked up the Little Horn toward Sitting Bull's camp.
I saw a great dust rising.
It looked like a whirlwind.
Women were screaming, and men were letting out war cries.
We could hear old men calling, 'Soldiers are here! Young men, go out and fight them!"' Crazy Horse rode through the camp gathering his men as Custer's surprise attack stirred panic among the women and children.
"Children were hunting for their mothers.
Mothers were anxiously trying to find their children.
The air was so full of dust, I could not see where to go.
" Wooden Leg, Northern Cheyenne.
While the young men rode into battle, Sitting Bull rallied the men still in camp to protect the women and children.
The Hunkpapa, under Gall, and the Oglala, under Crazy Horse quickly rode out and counterattacked.
"Many hundreds of Indians on horseback were dashing to and fro in front of a body of soldiers.
The soldiers were on the level valley ground and were shooting with rifles.
Not many bullets were being sent back at them but thousands of arrows were falling among them.
" Wooden Leg, Northern Cheyenne.
"A big dust was whirling on the hill and then the horses began coming out of it with empty saddles.
" Black Elk, oglala.
The battle was over in less than half an hour.
Custer, 260 men of the 7th Cavalry and as many as 150 Indian people lay dead.
Cheyenne survivors of the massacre of Black Kettle's people along the Washita River exalted in the death of Custer the man they called "woman killer.
" But that night, Sitting Bull was reflective: "My heart is full of sorrow that so many were killed on each side.
But when they compel us to fight, we must fight.
Tonight we shall mourn for our dead and for those brave white men lying on the hillside.
" Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa.
The next day, firing the grass as cover the Indian forces broke camp and headed toward the Bighorn Mountains.
News of the battle reached the outside world on July 4, 1876 dampening a giddy U.
S.
Centennial celebration.
The next morning's newspapers, ignoring all evidence, called it a "massacre.
" "We felt that it was a great battle, not a massacre.
The soldiers were going to compel us to stay on our reservation and take away from us our country.
We were trying to get away from them.
" Runs the Enemy, Cut Head Sioux.
Outraged by what was seen as an affront to their national pride the American public cried out for immediate reprisal.
Punitive expeditions were sent out, mercilessly hunting down the last free bands of the Northern Plains.
Sitting Bull's Hunkpapa escaped into Canada where they received political asylum.
Crazy Horse's Oglala took refuge in the Black Hills where the full force of the United States Army was turned on them.
For months, the army was unable to defeat or capture the Oglala leader.
Finally, the U.
S.
Made peace overtures to Crazy Horse promising land, generous subsidies and protection if he and his starving people turned themselves in.
On May 5, 1877 after nearly a year of successfully eluding the all-out manhunt Crazy Horse led nearly a thousand followers to surrender at Camp Robinson.
Oglala, already at the agency, lined the route, singing and cheering.
One U.
S.
Army officer marveled that it was: "A triumphal march, not a surrender.
" The leader, who had known nothing but the freedom of the Plains was stripped of his horse and gun.
Then, four months later, on September 5, 1877 believing he was going to a meeting with the commander of Fort Robinson Crazy Horse was led past an armed guard to the doorway of a building.
Inside was a small barred cell, Crazy Horse resisted.
A soldier thrust a bayonet into his back.
That night, as Crazy Horse lay dying, he told his father: "Tell the people it is no use to count on me anymore.
" Crazy Horse was laid to rest near the creek called Wounded Knee.
When we return with our final hour we'll follow the struggle for the hearts and minds of Indian people in the late 1800s.
Please join us for part eight Feel free to translate this to your language and place your name here as translator.