The government was
trying to arrange a treaty with the Indians in the northern part, around
Fort Laramie, as it did not want to fight with them.
Coburn, a Mark Code and several other ranchmen had a number of horses
stolen. Coburn and Code went after them and found a large bunch of horses,
and counted seventy-four that had their brand on them.
to the officers at the fort and asked them to help recapture the horses.
The officers refused to do so, saying that an attempt to get the horses
would interfere in making the treaty; but Coburn and Code could put in
their claim to the government for the amount at which the horses were
In April, 1866, the government succeeded in making the
treaty. A slip of paper, with the Indian's name on it, stating that he
belonged to the band that had made the treaty, and no white man should
molest him, was given to every Indian who made the treaty.
as the treaty was made, the Indians divided into small bands and scattered
all over the country. Some had not gone twenty-five miles from the fort
until they made fun of the treaty and started in on their depredations.
A band of eight hundred crossed the river near Watson Coburn's
ranch. He did not know for certain if the treaty had been made, so as soon
as he saw them approaching, he threw the sand bags in the gate to close up
the entrance and got his hired men in readiness for defense, should it be
The fence around Mr. Coburn's buildings was of sod and
stood eight feet high and was two feet thick. He had several portholes in
it; these were two or three feet square in the inner side and sloped to
about four inches on the outer. This allowed the men behind the fence to
be able to range their rifles over a larger territory and at the same time
leaving the outer opening too small for the enemy to shoot through from
On this occasion, just as he had everything in
readiness, he noticed the Indians tying white rags on the end of their
arrows and holding them up in plain view of the ranchmen. Coburn at once
realized that they were trying to show the flag of truce, so he went out
to meet them. They exchanged friendly greeting with him and asked
permission to make their camp near his place for a few days. Coburn said
they could, and also get water from the stream running through his place.
The Indians soon wanted to begin to swap and trade buffalo robes
and furs for coffee, sugar and other supplies that Coburn happened to
Every Indian that came to him would reach down in the pocket
of his blanket and bring out a small bundle and begin to unwrap it. The
process generally took about ten minutes. After they had taken off several
feet of rawhide string and some old rags, they would hand out the paper
given them by the officers. The Indians prized these passes very highly
and were proud of them, which was the cause of such care being given them.
After a few hundred of the Indians had shown Coburn their passes,
it was growing tiresome to him, so he began to tell them that he could not
He noticed an extra large and distinguished looking Indian,
all dressed in gay colors and a magnificent headpiece of feathers,
accompanied by a fine looking young squaw, who had two hundred and twelve
silver dollars sewed to her blanket. Coburn thought they must be important
members of the band and was curious about them, so when they offered to
show their passes he was able to read. He discovered that his
distinguished caller was Chief Standing Elk, the head chief of all the
Cheyenne tribes, and his daughter.
Coburn asked the chief how long
the treaty was to last. Standing Elk replied by signs, "One moon, grass so
high, so long time (measuring off on his finger); me get heap scalps, heap
ponies." He meant that in about time for a new moon the grass would be
good and their ponies would get in good condition, then he would be ready
for another raid, so break the treaty. Close observation shows that most
of the treaties were made by the Indians in the time of the year when
their ponies were poor and weak and the Indians were not prepared for
fighting. But as soon as spring opens up and the ponies fatten and plenty
of wild game could be had, so they need not depend on their stored goods,
and when the weather is warm so they can rove around without being
burdened with blankets, tepees, etc., they always break their treaties and
start on their depredations.
The uncivilized inhabitants of the
western plains were shrewd enough when it came to looking after their own
Some of the Pioneers of Colorado
Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss
Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909
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