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Pawnees Meet Pioneers, Warn Mormons to Stay Off Their Land
Harold Schindler
Published: 04/21/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor's Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon pioneers' original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

Wednesday, April 21, 1847

Ox teams moved from the Camp of Israel at 7:00 a.m. in a light sprinkle of rain. The horse teams followed by an hour. Just before 9:00 a.m., an Indian mounted on a pony was seen on a small rise five miles distant. He disappeared briefly, and then came into view again riding at full speed toward the wagon train. He was met by scouts and Stephen Markham and shook hands all around. Not long afterward, six or eight other Pawnees came running from the timber on the left.

At 10:00 a.m., the wagons approached a fork in the road; the trail to the left led across the Loup River to the new Pawnee Village, the trail to the right led to a smaller village some distance to the south. At half-past noon, the pioneers spotted seventy Indian ponies and mules and within minutes came in sight of the new village sprawled on an open plain on the south bank of Loup Fork. The wagon masters made midday camp in a half-moon perimeter facing the river.

From this vantage point, the pioneers could see more than 100 lodges in the village. Several hundred Pawnees on the south side of the Loup came down to the embankment and seventy-five or so began wading across; among them were the grand chief of the Pawnee Nation and several of his war chiefs. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball gave them presents of four pounds of tobacco, fifteen pounds of lead, gunpowder, fishhooks, flour and salt. The old chief was dissatisfied with the amount, and when Young offered to shake hands with him, the chief refused, angrily shouting that the presents were too few. The whites were rich, he said, and had tea, coffee and sugar and an abundance of everything. The pioneers would kill and drive away the buffaloes, he said, so he wanted them to turn back and not cross Pawnee land!

This display convinced Young that Peter Sarpy and his traders had used their influence with the tribe against the Mormons. It was apparent that while the grand chief was sulking and acting hostile, other chiefs were eager to shake hands with the pioneers. While this was going on, Sarpy was spotted among the Indians, trading with them, exchanging trinkets and tobacco for buffalo robes.

The pioneers broke camp about 1:30 p.m. and journeyed another eight miles before pulling in at the mouth of Looking Glass Creek, the place where that stream empties into Loup Fork. Once an encampment had been established, Young ordered the cannon brought forward and, because of the Pawnee chief's seeming animosity, 100 men were called to stand sentinel in two shifts this night. There also was a picket guard of four men and mules. "We had a hard wind & rain in the afternoon, which continued through my turn at guard, then I rolled myself in my buffalo robe & let the wind & rain beat onto me. No Indians appeared during the night," Woodruff wrote in his diary.

Distance traveled during the day: 20 miles

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