Arikara War

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Arikara War
Part of the American Indian Wars
An Arrikara warrior 0027v.jpg
An Arikara warrior, by artist Karl Bodmer
Date 1823
Location South Dakota
Result inconclusive[1]
Belligerents
United States
Sioux
Arikara
Commanders and leaders
William Ashley
United StatesHenry Leavenworth
Joshua Pilcher
Chief Grey Eye
Chief Little Soldier[2]
Units involved

Rocky Mountain Fur Company

  • "Ashley's Hundred": 70

Missouri Legion[3]

Arikara

  • at least 600 warriors[1]
Casualties and losses
12 members of Ashley's company killed[1] Likely more than 10 warriors and villagers, among them chief Grey Eye.[4]

The Arikara War was an armed conflict between the United States, their allies from the Sioux (or Dakota) tribe and Arikara Native Americans that took place in the summer of 1823, along the Missouri River in present-day South Dakota.[5] It was the first Indian war west of the Missouri fought by the U.S. Army and its only conflict ever with the Arikara. The war came as a respond to an Arikara attack on trappers, called "the worst disaster in the history of the Western fur trade".[6]

History[edit]

When Lewis and Clark reached Arikara settlements in 1804, the inhabitants did not show hostility to the expedition. In 1806, during a trip to the United States capital, an Arikara leader died, and many Arikara believed that Americans were involved in his death.[7] Later, as a result of the growing activity of fur trading companies, contact between Arikara and white merchants became more frequent, and skirmishes eventually followed. In the start of 1823, the Arikaras "attacked the Missouri Fur Company's Fort Recovery [a trading post for the Sioux] and killed two traders".[8]

The Sioux, both Yankton and Yanktonai east of the Missouri and Lakota on the west side, had for long been at war with the Arikara, interrupted by short truces on Sioux terms.[9] The Arikaras in question were living in a double village on the west shore of the Missouri, six or seven miles upstream from the mouth of Grand River. A small creek separated the two fortified villages of earth lodges, each with a heavy frame of wood.[10]

The assault and the Arikara war[edit]

On 2 June 1823,[11] Arikara warriors assaulted trappers working for General William Henry Ashley's Rocky Mountain Fur Company on the Missouri River, killing about 15 people. This attack is depicted in the 2015 film The Revenant. The surviving trappers retreated down the river and hid in shelters, where they stayed for more than a month. The United States responded with a combined force of 230 soldiers of the 6th Infantry, 750 Sioux allies, and 50 trappers and other company employees[12] under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Leavenworth,[5] Fort Atkinson, present-day Nebraska. "The forces thus organized, including regular troops, mountaineers, voyageurs and Indians, were styled the Missouri Legion".[13] The 750 warriors were part Yankton and Yanktonai Sioux, part western Sioux from the Brule, the Blackfeet and the Hunkpapa divisions. The Lakotas "... appeared anxious to join us".[14] The Indian force received promises of Arikara horses and spoils,[15] and with the enemy's villages fallen new ranges would open for the Sioux.

Leavenworth arrived at the Arikara villages on 9 August and commenced the attack using his Sioux cavalry, but this was held off by the Arikara. On 10 August Leavenworth ordered an artillery bombardment. This was largely ineffective, the shots falling beyond the villages, so Leavenworth then ordered an infantry attack. Like the Sioux auxiliaries, the regular infantry also failed to break into the villages. The Sioux saw the fruitless efforts of the whites. They left the battlefield with some conquered horses and loaded down with corn taken in the farming Indians' fields.[16] On 11 August Leavenworth negotiated a peace treaty. "In making this treaty, I met with every possible difficulty which it was in the power of the Missouri Fur Company to throw in my way".[17] Fearing further attacks, the Arikara left the village that night. Leavenworth set off to return to Fort Atkinson on 15 August. The Arikara village was burned behind him by a few wound up members of the Missouri Fur Company, much to his anger.[11][18]

The causes and the aftermath[edit]

The causes of the war are not well recorded, but the trading relationship of the Arikara with white traders was certainly a factor. The Arikara lived in permanent settlements for most of the year where they farmed, fished and hunted buffalo on the surrounding plains. However, this was insufficient to sustain them and they relied on being a center of trade with neighboring tribes to survive. Ashley's expedition to directly acquire furs and pelts cut out the Arikara in their role as trading middle-men and was thus a direct threat to their livelihood. There was also the issue of their desire to have a trading post on their territory so that they could have easy access to manufactured goods. They resented the fact that their long-time enemies, the Sioux, had such posts, but they did not. Ashley had been asked to set up a trading post when he was in the area in 1822. Not wishing to limit his operations by having to maintain a permanent base, Ashley instead promised the Arikara that he would have the goods they asked for shipped to them directly from St. Louis. Ashley had not made good this promise at the time of his 1823 expedition, and possibly never intended to.[19] A further source of resentment, although probably not a direct cause of the war, was the death of the Arikara chief Ankedoucharo during a visit to Washington in 1806. Ankedoucharo died of natural causes, but it was widely believed among the Arikara that he was deliberately murdered.[20]

The initial episode at the Arikara villages on 2 June reached international level when some hinted, that the British Hudson's Bay Company was the mastermind behind it all. The plot, so some believed, was to put a wedge between the American fur traders and the Arikaras. The British denied.[21]

Afterwards[edit]

The Arikara refugees were back next spring, restoring the villages.[22]

The hostility between the United States and the Arikara ended officially on 18 July 1825, when the two opponents signed a peace treaty.[23] The U.S. Army and the Arikara never engaged in battle again.[24]

As for the Sioux, "the result of the [Leavenworth] expedition ruined the reputation of all whites in the eyes of the Indians".[25] The Sioux continued to attack the Arikaras and press them north, from one village to another. In 1851, the western Sioux claimed the 1823 battleground as Lakota territory and got treaty on this former Arikara land (Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851).[26]

Although brief, the conflict was noted for two reasons. First, it was the first military conflict between the United States and Native Americans in the West, setting the tone for future encounters between whites and other Native American groups. Second, Leavenworth did not completely defeat the Arikara; his leniency toward them sparked a great debate between white Americans demanding subjugation of the natives and those advocating for peaceful cohabitation.

The Arikara eventually settled with the Mandan and Hidatsa on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. Many Arikara and Crow people became Indian scouts during the height of the Sioux Wars.

Archaeological work at the location of the Arikara villages (Leavenworth site (39CO9)) in 1932 gave a clue to the futile shelling of the earth lodges more than 100 years earlier. The upper stratums of earth hid a number of unexploded shells.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c History.com "Ashley’s fur trappers attacked by Indians"
  2. ^ Serial 89, 18th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 1, pp. 94-95.
  3. ^ Backdrop for Disaster: Causes of the Arikara WAr of 1823 by Roger L. Nichols
  4. ^ Serial 89, 18th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 1, pp. 94-95.
  5. ^ a b Marley, David (1998). Wars of the Americas: a chronology of armed conflict in the New World, 1492 to the present. ABC-CLIO. pp. 464–465. ISBN 978-0-87436-837-6. 
  6. ^ Meyer, Roy W.: The Village Indians of the Upper Missouri. The Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras. Lincoln and London, 1977, p. 53.
  7. ^ Viola, Herman J.: Diplomats in Buckskins. A History of Indian Delegations in Washington Ciry. Washington, D.C., 1981, p. 159.
  8. ^ Jensen, Richard E. & James S. Hutchins: Wheel Boats on the Missouri. The Journals and Documents of the Atkinson-O'Fallon Expedition, 1824-26. Helena and Lincoln, 2001, p. 18.
  9. ^ Meyer, Roy W.: The Village Indians of the Upper Missouri. The Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras. Lincoln and London, 1977, pp. 39-40.
  10. ^ Meyer, Roy W.: The Village Indians of the Upper Missouri. The Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras. Lincoln and London, 1977, p. 38.
  11. ^ a b Nichols, p. 143
  12. ^ James A. Crutchfield, Candy Moutlon, Terry Del Bene, The Settlement of America: An Encyclopedia of Westward Expansion from Jamestown to the Closing of the Frontier, p. 62, Routledge, 2015 ISBN 1317454618.
  13. ^ Robinson, Doane: Official Correspondence Pertaining to the Leavenworth Expedition into South Dakota in 1823 for the Conquest of the Ree Indians. South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. 1 (1902), pp. 179-256, quote p. 212.
  14. ^ Robinson, Doane: Official Correspondence Pertaining to the Leavenworth Expedition into South Dakota in 1823 for the Conquest of the Ree Indians. South Dakota Historical Collections, Vol. 1 (1902), pp. 179-256, quote p. 211
  15. ^ Serial 89, 18th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 1, p.100.
  16. ^ Serial 89, 18th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 1, p. 94 and p. 103.
  17. ^ Serial 89, 18th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 1, p. 95
  18. ^ Jensen, Richard E. & James S. Hutchins: Wheel Boats on the Missouri. The Journals and Documents of the Atkinson-O'Fallon Expedition, 1824-26. Helena and Lincoln, 2001, p. 19.
  19. ^ Nichols, pp. 149-150
  20. ^ Nichols, p. 147
  21. ^ Nasatir, A.P.: The International significance of the Jones and Immell Massacre and the Aricara Outbreak in 1823. Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 30 (Jan. 1939), pp. 77-108.
  22. ^ Meyer, Roy W.: The Village Indians of the Upper Missouri. The Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras. Lincoln and London, 1977, p. 276, note 61.
  23. ^ Kappler, Charles J.: Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. Washington, 1904. Vol. 2, pp. 237-239.
  24. ^ Meyer, Roy W.: The Village Indians of the Upper Missouri. The Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras. Lincoln and London, 1977, p. 276, note 61.
  25. ^ Jensen, Richard E. & James S. Hutchins: Wheel Boats on the Missouri. The Journals and Documents of the Atkinson-O'Fallon Expedition, 1824-26. Helena and Lincoln, 2001, p. 20.
  26. ^ Kappler, Charles J.: Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. Washington, 1904. Vol. 2, p. 594.
  27. ^ Strong, William Duncan: From History to Prehistory in the Northern Great Plains. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 100. Washington, 1940, pp. 353-394, unexploded shells p. 366.
  • Roger L. Nichols, The American Indian: Past and Present, University of Oklahoma Press, 2014 ISBN 0806186143.

Further reading[edit]

  • Roger L. Nichols. Warrior Nations: The United States and Indian Peoples. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.
  • Nester, William R. The Arikara War: The first Plains Indian war, 1823. — Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2001. — 257 p.

External links[edit]