We Have Had A Lot of Them

Snake War

The people of the United States have warred a lot.

(Who were the snakes in this case?)

They seem easily lead to it. During their Civil War(1861 to 1865)they found time and resources to drive a lot of Indians from ancestral lands. At the end of that civil war they began to "pacify" Indians from the Mississippi river to the Pacific coast, in earnest.

By 1850 powerful and influential men from around the world became interested in the American West. We might blame that on the 49er's gold fever. The name California became a sort of magnet which drew men from east of the Mississippi to the Pacific coast. That same magnet drew men around the horn and the Straights of Magellan; Some even crossed the Pacific ocean from the Far East. That magnet drew men and their capital all during the Civil War and drew more strongly after that war of Americas killing Americans.

In 1864 the Snake War began and then continued until 1868. There were other U.S. wars during this same time. There were Texas-Indian Wars, a Colorado war, Apache wars, California Indian Wars, and a Cheyenne Campaign! Americans and new immigrants to America were making "good Indians. Some were sure that a "good Indian" was a "dead Indian." Indians were to put their heads down in a dirty corner of what had been their America the Beautiful, or die.

Historians have called the Snake War an irregular war which Americans fought against the Northern Paiute, Bannock, and Western Shoshone. Some of that fighting was along the Snake River. So, were the snakes in this case Indians or not? This War took place in what became the states of Oregon, Nevada, California, and Idaho. Most agree that the U.S. won.

The war began when many small bands of tribes, including the ones I have mentioned above, were disturbed by the activities, of newcomers of mining interests and of new road building interests, across lands from which they were accustomed to take their substance. Significant numbers of these Indians were made "good." Some were able to make a few interlopers "good" too.

Powerful and influential persons were interested in these western lands. Wealthy people in California and on the U.S. East Coast and elsewhere were interested in lead, copper, silver, and gold; They were interested in the prime lands of the Far West. They were interested in the resources between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. A few saw the Pacific Ocean as a new road to riches.

There were those who had resources to apply pressure where needed to see that the natives of the land did not hinder their plans. California interests brought pressure to bear on, among others, general George Wright, commander of the Department of the Pacific, to provide better protection for those building the new roads from Red Bluff and Chic to Silver City and Boise. "Do something about those Indians," they were demanding. It would take a book to cover half the powerful pressures brought to clear the way to wealth for wealth. The pressures had much to do with capital, power, and the growing craft of public relations, the selling of ideas to move the public.

In "The States" growing pressures were being felt by men in positions to act, by men with the power to manipulate those pressures. Pressures acted on Congress, large contractors, railroad men, world wide mining interests, capitalists from the East Coast, the West Coast, and around the world. There were high hopes and a great deal of pushing and shoving. The people felt it.

The war consisted mostly in hunting Indians. Volunteers hunted Indians, interested citizens hunted Indians, immigrants hunted Indians, and the Army hunted Indians. Some said that the Indians were "in the way of destiny."


by Richard Sheehan

for Mago Bill III