Addison Erwin Sheldon.

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and the latter as they toiled against the current saw its
summit with joy, for they knew great springs of cold water
gushed from the sandstone rock at the foot of the hill and
there were rest and food and friendship for the white man in
the lodges of the Omaha village. On the top of this hill
Blackbird desired to be buried, seated on his favorite horse



so that his spirit might overlook the entire Omaha country
and first see the boats of the white men as they came up the

The dying chief's command was carried out. The horse
was led to the summit of the hill with the dead chief firmly
fastened upon his back. Then the sod and dirt were piled
about them in a great mound until both were buried from
sight. A pole was set in the mound and upon it were hung


(From Thwaites's "Early Western Travels." Arthur H.
Clark Co., Cleveland, Ohio.)

scalps Blackbird had taken in battle. From time to time
food for the spirit of the dead was placed upon the mound by
the few Omahas who survived the smallpox scourge of 1800.
When Lewis and Clark came up the river in 1804 the
mound and pole were yet there. All the other early writers
mention the mound. It was the great landmark of the
Nebraska shore. In 1832 George Catlin, the painter and
traveler who spent years among the western Indians paint-
ing their pictures and learning their life, came down the



(From photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)

Missouri and climbed up on Blackbird Hill. There was a
gopher hole in the side of the mound. He dug into it and a
skull dropped down. He quickly wrapped it in a blanket

and carried it to Wash-
ington where it was
placed in the Smithson-
ian Museum.

These are some of the
stories told about Black-
bird by the old Indians
and early white men;
told around the camp-
fires in the long cold
winter nights or in the
circle of story tellers
which sits on hot July days beneath the shade of a great
tree in the Omaha country. Stories told in this way
are often changed in the telling. We cannot say how far
they are changed, but whether much or little, they are all we
are ever likely to know of the life of the first noted Nebraska

Blackbird Hill stands close by the side of the great river
to-day as it did a hundred years ago. Great springs gush
from the sandstone cliffs at its base. Upon the walls of these
cliffs are deeply cut pictures of wild animals and strange
Indian signs mingled with the names of early explorers. The
mound seen by Lewis and Clark has long since gone. The
spirit of Blackbird looks in vain to-day for the boats of the
fur traders beating up the river. But the living eye sees
from the summit a most wonderful Nebraska landscape,
thirty miles of river shining in sunlight; the whole range of
lesser Blackbird hills buried in a beauty of grass and flowers
and foliage; great fields of grain; the homes of a hundred
Omahas living in the land of their forefathers in white men 's
houses, and far below in the valley a thin thread of smoke


where, faster than elk or buffalo, dashes the Omaha evening
mail headed for the city of the Sioux.


1. Was Blackbird a good chief? Why?

2. Why was the smallpox more deadly to the Indians than to white men?

3. Do you think the Omaha Indians obeyed Blackbird's dying request?

4. Which would you prefer, the landscape Blackbird saw or the one now

seen from Blackbird Hill? Why?



N the year 1803, Nebraska was sold by Napoleon Bona-
parte, Emperor of France, to Thomas Jefferson, President
of the United States. It was sold as part of the great coun-
try between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains,



all of which was then called Louisiana and owned by France.
The price paid was $15,000,000, which was about three cents
an acre.

As soon as the United States had bought this country,
President Jefferson sent Captain Meriwether Lewis and
Captain William Clark with forty-five other men to explore
it. They were to go up the Missouri River as far as they
could, then cross the Rocky Mountains and reach the Pacific
Ocean. They were to make maps, bring back reports of the



land and make friends with the tribes with which they came
in contact. It was a wild land of which white men knew
very little. Indians and wild animals had their homes there.
No one knew the way across the mountains to the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark started from the mouth of the Missouri
on May 14, 1804. They had one large boat with a sail and
twenty oars, and two smaller boats with oars only. They
had powder, lead, tools and trinketsto trade with the Indians.
They had two horses for their hunters to ride in order to help
them to carry the game which they killed for the party.

The Lewis and Clark party made about twenty miles a
day up the Missouri River. Part of the time they used the
sail and part of the time the oars and a great part of the time
they pulled the boats with long ropes which the men held
while they walked along the shore. It was two months be-
fore they reached Nebraska, at the mouth of the Nemaha
River, not far from the village of Rulo, in Richardson County.
Here they found Indians, wild plums, cherries and grapes.

On July 15th they were at the mouth of the little Nemaha
River and on July 20th they were at the mouth of the Weep-
ing Water in Cass County, where they killed a large yellow
wolf. The next day they reached the mouth of the Platte
River and camped a little way above it. They sent out
runners to the village of the Otoes near the place where the
Elkhorn flows into the Platte.

After resting and repairing their boats they went on past
the site of Omaha and on July 30th reached a high bluff near
the present town of Fort Calhoun in Washington County.
Here they camped. The hunters brought in deer, wild
turkeys and geese. Catfish were caught in the river and the
men tamed a beaver. Here on August 3d they held the first
council ever held by the United States with the Nebraska
Indians. Fourteen Otoe and Missouri Indians came to the
council. The principal chiefs were Little Thief, Big Horse
and White Horse. They promised to keep peace with the
United States and were given medals and presents of paint,



powder and cloth. They gave the white men presents of
watermelons. The place where this council was held was
named Council-bluff and is now a part of the town of Fort
Calhoun. A hundred years after this a large rock was placed
on the schoolhouse grounds in memory of this first council
held with the Indians west of the Mississippi River.

On August llth the party reached Blackbird Hill in
Thurston County, where it found the grave of the great

photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)

Omaha chief who died of smallpox about four years before.
On August 16th the party was at the mouth of Omaha
Creek in Dakota County. Here the men made a net of wil-
lows and with it pulled out over eleven hundred fish from
a beaver pond in the creek.

Sergeant Charles Floyd, a member of the party, died on
August 20th and was buried on a high bluff on the Iowa side
of the river near Sioux City. This is called Floyd's Bluff


to this day. It is a landmark which may be seen for many
miles across the Missouri valley in Nebraska.

On the 28th of August they camped at Calumet Bluff in
Cedar County, where they held a great council with the
Sioux Indians under a large oak tree. First the pipe of peace
was smoked. Then Chief Shake Hand said: "I see before
me my father's two sons. You see me and the rest of our
chiefs. We are very poor. We have no powder nor ball nor
knives and our women and children at the village have no
clothes. I went formerly to the English and they gave me
a medal and some clothes. When I went to the Spanish
they gave me a medal, but nothing to keep it from my skin ;
but now you give me a medal and clothes. Still we are poor
and I wish, brothers, you would give us something for our
squaws." Then White Crane and Struck-by-the-Pawnee
spoke, approving what the old chief had said, and asked for
some of the great father's milk, which was their name for
whisky. Presents were given these Sioux and peace was
made between them and the United States.

On September 4th Lewis and Clark camped just above the
mouth of the Niobrara River. Here for the first time they
met the Ponca Indians, who had long made their home in this
part of Nebraska. A little beyond, they saw great herds of
buffalo and also elk, deer and villages of prairie dogs. Soon
after they crossed the Nebraska line into South Dakota.

Two years later, in September, 1806, Lewis and Clark
came back from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska. They had
suffered great hardships on the journey. Many times they
had nearly lost their lives from hunger and thirst, from war-
like Indians and wild animals, from rocks in the rivers and
from pathless woods and mountains. But they had lived
through them all and carried the flag of the United States
for the first time across the mountains and plains to the great
ocean on the other side. And now they came back with
honor and glory for they had found a way to the Pacific Ocean
and they had written the story of their travels in a book



which they kept every day, telling all about the tribes of
Indians they had seen and the rivers and mountains and the
land they had crossed. They made a path for white men

into the great West and
after them came hunters,
trappers, traders and em-
igrants until the West
was explored and settled.
Captain Clark for
many years lived at St.
Louis and was governor
of the great West which
he explored. He was tall,
very strongly built, with
piercing gray eyes and red
hair. His appearance made a deep impression on the Indians,
who had never before seen a red-haired man. The Omaha
Indians to this day call St. Louis the town of red-haired men.
Here the Indians came to hold councils with him. Here he
met the traders, trappers and early emigrants, and here he
died in September, 1838, beloved by all who knew him.

Captain Lewis lived only three years after the return of
the expedition, dying in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1809.

The names of Lewis and Clark are forever linked together
in the history of the West.

(From photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)


1. With what tribes of Nebraska Indians did Lewis and Clark meet?

2. Show on the map the location of each place mentioned in this story.

3. Why did Chief Shake Hand say his people were very poor?

4. Which did more for Nebraska, the Mallet Brothers or Lewis and Clark?

5. How much of Nebraska did Lewis and Clark explore?

6. What do the pictures of these two men tell you of their characters?


ON July 15, 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike with
twenty-one men left St. Louis on an expedition to
explore the plains and find a road to Santa Fe. After a long
march across Missouri and Kansas he arrived, September
25th, in the Republican valley near the border of Nebraska.
Here he found the great village of the Pawnee republic num-
bering nearly two thousand people. He also found that a
party of three hundred Spanish cavalry from Santa Fe had
visited the village three or four weeks before. The Spanish
commander had given the Pawnees presents, had promised
to open a road for trade and had left with them a Spanish
flag, which was flying from a pole in front of the Pawnee
chief 's lodge.

Lieutenant Pike held a grand council with the Pawnees
on September 29th, and told them that they must haul down
the Spanish flag and in its place raise the Stars and Stripes, for
their land no longer belonged to Spain but was a part of the
United States. The chiefs were silent, for the Spaniards had
come with a great force on horseback bringing many presents,
while the American lieutenant had only twenty-one men on
foot. All around were hundreds of Pawnee warriors ready
for battle. The young American lieutenant, pointing at the
Spanish flag, said that the Pawnee nation could not have two
fathers, they must either be the children of the Spanish king
or acknowledge their American father.

After a long silence an old Indian rose, went to the door
of the lodge, took down the Spanish flag, brought it to Lieu-
tenant Pike and laid it at his feet. He then took the Ameri-
can flag and raised it on the staff where the Spanish flag had

It is believed by some that the place where this took place



is about eight miles southeast of Hardy, Nebraska, just
across the Nebraska line in Kansas. Here is the site of a
large Pawnee village, stretching for several miles along the
banks of the Republican River, and here in September, 1906,
the state of Kansas raised a flag and erected a monument to
mark the spot where, one hundred years before, the Spanish
flag came down and the Stars and Stripes were raised.

There are others who believe that the Spanish flag came
down in what is now Nebraska, and that the site of an
ancient Pawnee village some miles farther up the Republican
river is the place where Lieutenant Pike and his little com-
pany of soldiers saw the American flag raised over the Pawnee

Whether the spot where the Spanish flag came down is in
Kansas or in Nebraska is not important. The Spanish flag
came down forever and in its place rose the Stars and Stripes.
This brave deed of the young lieutenant and his men deserves
to be honored in history.


;ripes become the

: in Lieutenant Pi!

3. Why might not the Spanish flag continue to wave over the Pawnee village?

1. When did the Stars and Stripes become the flag of this nation?

2. What was especially brave in Lieutenant Pike's action here?


ATEBRASKA, when first made on the map, included all the
* country from the present Nebraska-Kansas line north
to Canada. In this first Nebraska of the early days, in the
part that is now Montana, there occurred the remarkable
escape of John Colter.

John Colter was a trapper who crossed the continent to
the Pacific Ocean with Lewis and Clark. Oh their way back,
in 1806, Colter saw so many signs of beaver on the head-
waters of the Missouri that he got leave of Captain Lewis to
stay there and trap. This was in the heart of the country
of the terrible Blackfoot Indians. Captain Lewis had killed
a Blackfoot warrior who was trying to steal horses and from
that time the tribe hated white men and killed them without

Colter knew all this, but he loved to trap and with another
hunter named Potts he plunged into the wilds of the best
beaver streams of the
Blackfoot hunting
grounds. The two men
knew the great risk they
ran and they knew also
the ways of the Indians.
They set their traps at
night, took them up
early in the morning,
and hid during the day.


"Early Western Travels." Arthur H.

Clark Co., Cleveland, Ohio.)

Early one morning
they were softly pad-
dling up a small creek
in their canoe to take in some traps when they heard a
trampling on the bank. Colter said, " Indians," and wanted



to go back. Potts said, "Buffalo," and kept on. A few
more strokes of the paddle and they were surrounded on
both shores by hundreds of Blackfoot warriors who made
signs to the trappers to come to them. Since they could not
escape Colter turned the canoe toward shore. As they came
to land an Indian seized Potts' rifle, but Colter, who was a
very strong man, wrested it from him and handed it to Potts.
The latter killed an Indian with it, but was himself shot full
of arrows.

The Indians now took Colter, stripped him, and began to
talk about how they would kill him. At first they were go-
ing to put him up as a mark to be shot at, but the chief,
desiring to have greater sport, asked Colter if he could run
fast. Colter understood enough of their language to tell him
that he was a very poor runner, although he was one of the
swiftest runners among the hunters. Then the chief took him
out on the prairie a few hundred yards and turned him loose
to run for his life. The Indians gave their war-whoop and
started after him. Colter ran straight across an open plain
toward the Jefferson River six miles away. The plain was
covered with cactus, and at every jump the bare feet of the
naked man were filled with cactus thorns. On Colter ran
swifter than he had ever before run in his life with those hun-
dreds of Blackfoot warriors after him. He ran nearly half
way across the plain before he dared to look back over his
shoulder. He saw that he had far outrun all the Indians
except one who carried a spear and was not more than a hun-
dred yards behind him.

A faint hope now rose in Colter 's heart, but he had run so
hard that blood gushed from his nose and covered his body.
He ran on until within a mile of the river, when he heard the
steps of the Indian with the spear close behind him and,
turning his head, saw he was not more than twenty yards
away. Colter stopped suddenly, turned around and spread
out his arms. The Indian, surprised, tried to stop also, but
was so exhausted that he fell to the ground and broke his


spear. Colter at once picked up the point of the spear and
with it pinned the Indian to the earth. He then ran on while
the other Indians came up to their dead comrade and yelled
horribly over his body. Colter, using every moment, soon
gained the shelter of the trees on the bank and plunged into
the river.

A little below was an island, at the upper end of which
was a great raft of driftwood in the water. Colter dived
under this raft and after some trouble got his head above the
water between large logs which screened him from view. He
had hardly done this when the Indians came down the river
bank yelling like fiends. They hunted the shores, walked
out on the raft of driftwood over Colter's head, pulling the
logs and peering among them for hours. Once Colter thought
they were about to set the raft on fire. Not until after dark,
when the Indians were no longer heard, did Colter dare to
venture from his hiding place. He swam down the river a
long distance, then came out on the bank. He was alone in
the wilderness, naked, without a weapon and with his feet
torn to pieces by the sharp cactus thorns. He was hundreds
of miles from the nearest trading post on the Yellowstone,
in a country of hostile savages. But he was alive and fear-
less and strong.

A week later he reached the trading post, sunburnt and
starving, but saved.


1. What knowledge of Indian ways did John Colter show?

2. Describe the man who would be a successful trapper.

3. What is the most striking incident of this story?


MANUEL LISA was the founder of Old Nebraska. Old
Nebraska was the Nebraska of one hundred years
ago. It was, first of all, a narrow strip of country along the
Missouri River where the white men came to trade with
the Indians and where they built log cabins in which to live

and store their goods. Back
of this narrow strip were the
great plains and valleys of
Nebraska with herds of buf-
falo, elk, deer and antelope,
whose skins the Indians
brought in from their summer
and winter hunting trips. In
the streams and lakes were
plenty of beaver, mink and
otter and their pelts were
taken by the Indians and
eagerly bought by the trader.
All the traders in Old Nebraska
came up the river from St.
Louis in open boats. Some-
times these boats were canoes
hollowed out of a great tree
and sometimes they were made
out of plank. These boats
had oars and sometimes a mast and small sail. It was
easy to go down the river hi them, but to come up
against the swift current was very hard and slow. Each
boat was pulled up the river by a long rope called a
cordelle, the men walking along the bank or splashing across
the sand bars and shallows with the rope over their shoul-


MANUKL LISA. (Drawing by Miss
Martha Turner.)


ders. It took them fifty days to drag a boat from St. Louis
to the mouth of the Platte. The trip down was made in ten

The men who pulled these boats and those who traded
with the Nebraska Indians in those days were nearly all
Frenchmen, but the greatest leader among them was Manuel
Lisa, a Spaniard. He was born in New Orleans, came to St.
Louis when a very young man and at once began trading
with Indians. When the exploring party of Lewis and Clark
came back in 1806 from its two years' trip to the Pacific
Ocean with news of the rich fur country it had seen, Manuel
Lisa was the first man to act. Early in 1807 he went far up
the Missouri River and established trading posts. The next
year he came down to St. Louis. Every year for the next
twelve years he made long journeys with his men and boats
up and down the river. He carried the white man 's goods
to Indian tribes which had never dealt with traders before.
He made friends everywhere and gathered great cargoes of
fur which he sent down to St. Louis every summer. All the
hardships and dangers of the frontier were nothing to him,
helping his men to pull the boats, sleeping on the ground,
going without food. In the twelve years he traveled over
twenty-five thousand miles and spent three solid years on the
Missouri River. In all Nebraska and far up the river ' ' Man-
uel" was most widely known as the great white man and

Trouble was brewing between the United States and
Great Britain. The Hudson 's Bay Company wished to get
all the furs from the Missouri River. It sent agents from its
posts to all the tribes on the Missouri and the Mississippi
stirring them up to attack the American settlers and making
them presents of rifles and powder and lead. Tecumseh, the
great Indian war chief of the west, was going from tribe to
tribe urging all the Indians to forget their quarrels with each
other and before it was too late to join in driving the white
men from the country. Most of the tribes on the Mississippi


River joined the league of Tecumseh and fought with the
British against the United States. The tribes beyond the
Missouri were four tunes as numerous as those on the Missis-
sippi. If they had joined the British and poured their
thousands of warriors against the white settlements it is
likely that St. Louis would have been taken and the frontier
driven back five hundred miles. But though every effort

BRITISH FLAG ON NEBRASKA ROCKS, 1906. (From -photograph by A. E.


was made to have them do so the Indians beyond the Mis-
souri remained true to the United States. On the cliffs of
Blackbird Hill deeply cut in the rock is a British flag. It
was covered with moss when found and photographed in
1906. It was probably cut there a hundred years ago and
may have marked a council held between the British and the
Omaha Indians, whose village was close by. It is the only
place in Nebraska where the British flag is displayed.


Manuel Lisa was given chief credit for holding the Indians
of the west at peace with our country. He was made sub-
agent of the United States for all the tribes above the mouth
of the Kansas River. He built Fort Lisa on the Missouri
River ten miles above where Omaha now stands. Under his
care all the great tribes of the plains, the Pawnee, Sioux,
Omaha, Otoe, Ponca, Cheyenne, Mandan, Crow and
Arikara, kept faith with the United States. Not only did
they remain friends, but the Nebraska Indians crossed the
Missouri River and attacked the loways, who were helping
the British. Fort Lisa was the great trading post for all the
plains region. Its influence was felt as far away as the moun-
tains. When the war ended Lisa had made a league of forty
chiefs and was preparing to lead them the next year against
the British and their Indian allies on the upper Mississippi.

Manuel Lisa was the first white farmer in Nebraska. He
had a hundred men in his employ and around each of his
posts he had a small farm with cabins for the helpers. He
had hundreds of horses, cattle, hogs and fowls. He brought
to Nebraska the seed of the great squash, the lima bean, the
potato and the turnip and gave them to the Indian tribes.
Ever since that time these vegetables have been grown by
the Nebraska Indians, and the great field squash, which Lisa
said he had seen weighing 160 pounds, grown from the seed

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Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 3 of 20)