“They told us the Indian ways were bad.” (US Indian Policy: Violence, Displacement, and Assimilation)



Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania, c. 1900 (public domain)

There were eight in our party of bronzed children who were going East with the missionaries. Among us were three young braves, two tall girls, and we three little ones, Judéwin, Thowin, and I. We had been very impatient to start on our journey to the Red Apple Country, which, we were told, lay a little beyond the great circular horizon of the Western prairie. Under a sky of rosy apples we dreamt of roaming as freely and happily as we had chased the cloud shadows on the Dakota plains. We had anticipated much pleasure from a ride on the iron horse, but the throngs of staring palefaces disturbed and troubled us … children who were no larger than I hung themselves upon the backs of their seats, with their bold white faces toward me. Sometimes they took their forefingers out of their mouths and pointed at my moccasined feet. Their mothers, instead of reproving such rude curiosity, looked closely at me, and attracted their children’s further notice to my blanket. This embarrassed me, and kept me constantly on the verge of tears.

“The School Days of an Indian Girl” by Zitkála-Šá

For decades, before they were forced onto reservations, Native Americans had friendly and even intimate contact with non-natives.  But as settlements increased, so did the violence, and death.  Eventually, the US government calculated that it was cheaper to kill the Indian way of life than to kill Indians.

Music:

“Allah-u-abha” by Roman Orona

“Prayers” by Darren Thompson

Further reading and listening:

Carlisle Indian School Research Podcast

Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamations (Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Susan D. Rose)

“Indigenous People in Wyoming and the West” (wyohistory.org)

Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry H. Sibley listing the Dakota who were to be hanged, December 6, 1862

Letter by Captain Silas Soule to Major Edward W. Wynkoop describing Sand Creek atrocities (Scroll down the page for the letter.)

Life of George Bent: written from His Letters

Personal Stories from the US Dakota War of 1862

Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast (Jim Thorpe)

Zitkála-Šá: Trailblazing American Indian Composer | Unladylike2020 | American Masters | PBS


“Horse-thieves and desperate men seemed too remote…” (Elinore Rupert, Part 9)



Image credit:  Adam Jahiel Photography

Elinore continues her awe-inspiring descriptions of the Wyoming frontier.  Her signature humor is also alive and well.  This time, Elinore gets a little taste of cowboy living, and of cackle-berries.   And though she doesn’t mention the race of the cowboys she meets, it is worth mentioning that at least one in five cowboys was African American.   Two of the most famous were Nat Love and Bass Reeves, but there were hundreds of other black men who made their living wrangling cattle on the American plains.

5 African American Cowboys Who Shaped the American West

African American Cowboys on the Western Frontier (Library of Congress)

Black Cowboys (Texas State Historical Association)

The True Story of the Black Cowboys of Philadelphia Depicted in Concrete Cowboy (Time Magazine)

Rupert’s letters are in the Public Domain.


“See that shack over yonder?” (Women Homesteaders)



“Miss Mary Longfellow holding down a claim west of Broken Bow, Nebraska
(image credit: nps.gov)

“In about a week we had a cabin ready to move into. It had a dirt floor and dirt roof, but I tacked muslin overhead and put down lots of hay and spread a rag carpet on the floor. I put the tool chest, the trunks, the goods box made into a cupboard, and the beds all around the wall to hold down the carpet, as there was nothing to tack it to. The beds had curtains and there was a curtained alcove between the beds that made a good dressing room. So we were real cozy and comfortable.”

–Emma Hill

Under the Homestead Act of 1862 and its revisions, over 1 million applicants received a plot of land from the Federal government.  Thousands of the homesteaders were women.   They were black and they were white.  Some were recent immigrants from Europe.   Some were looking for husbands, others had left husbands, or lost them to death, divorce, or desertion.  Quite a few had no interest at all in a husband.  But they all worked hard to “prove up” their homesteads.

And most of them realized that the land they were claiming had been home to Native people for centuries.

Further Listening and Reading:

Pre-Columbian Cultures and Civilizations, The History of North America Podcast

Women of the Frontier : 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, And Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller

Before Wyoming: American Indian Geography and Trails

African American Homesteaders in the Great Plains

Journals, Diaries, and Letters Written by Women on the Oregon Trail 1836-1865

Land of The Burnt Thigh: A Lively Story of Women Homesteaders on the South Dakota Frontier by Edith E. Kohl

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Mark Soldier Wolf: Northern Arapaho Past and Present


“… We were almost starved.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 8)



image credit:  goodreads Leatherstocking Tales, James Fenimore Cooper

February, 1912

Dear Mrs. Coney,—…Soon we started again, and if not quite so jolly as we were before, at least we looked forward to our supper with a keen relish and the horses were urged faster than they otherwise would have been. The beautiful snow is rather depressing, however, when there is snow everywhere. The afternoon passed swiftly and the horses were becoming jaded. At four o’clock it was almost dark. We had been going up a deep cañon and came upon an appalling sight. There had been a snow-slide and the cañon was half-filled with snow, rock, and broken trees. The whole way was blocked, and what to do we didn’t know, for the horses could hardly be gotten along and we could not pass the snow-slide…”

Today, Elinore gives us a peek inside her humble abode, and then tells us about a literature-inspired dinner.  Once again, there’s snow involved.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“A very angry Aggie strode in.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 7)



Black and white image of a railroad station
Rock Springs, Wyoming Railroad Depot Train Station (image credit: hippostcard.com)

October 6, 1911

Dear Mrs. Coney,

… Aggie was angry all through. She vowed she was being robbed. After she had berated me soundly for submitting so tamely, she flounced back to her own room, declaring she would get even with the robbers. I had to hurry like everything that night to get myself and Jerrine ready for the train, so I could spare no time for Aggie. She was not at the depot, and Jerrine and I had to go on to Rock Springs without her. It is only a couple of hours from Green River to Rock Springs, so I had a good nap and a late breakfast. I did my shopping and was back at Green River at two that afternoon. The first person I saw was Aggie. …”

In this episode, the Edmonsons and their sweet Cora Belle make another appearance. Some new characters–big and small–also join the group.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“The wind was shrieking, howling, and roaring.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 6)



image credit: homesteader.org

September 1, 1910

Dear Mrs. Coney,

—It was just a few days after the birthday party and Mrs. O’Shaughnessy was with me again. We were down at the barn looking at some new pigs, when we heard the big corral gates swing shut, so we hastened out to see who it could be so late in the day. It was Zebbie. He had come on the stage to Burnt Fork and the driver had brought him on here…. There was so much to tell, and he whispered he had something to tell me privately, but that he was too tired then; so after supper I hustled him off to bed….

Zebulon Pike Parker shares his story from home, then a frightening storm is followed by a beautiful sunrise.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“The ‘rheumatiz’ would get all the money …” (Elinore Rupert, Part 5)



image credit: homesteader.org

August 15, 1910.

Dear Mrs. Coney,—

… Grandma Edmonson’s birthday is the 30th of May, and Mrs. O’Shaughnessy suggested that we give her a party. I had never seen Grandma, but because of something that happened in her family years ago which a few narrow-heads whom it didn’t concern in the least cannot forgive or forget, I had heard much of her. The family consists of Grandma, Grandpa, and little Cora Belle, who is the sweetest little bud that ever bloomed upon the twigs of folly …

The Elinore Rupert series continues with a family tragedy, a young girl’s industry, and a sewing bee.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“I had a confession to make …” (Elinore Rupert, Part 4)



image credit: homesteader.org

“June 16, 1910

My Dear Friend,

Your card just to hand. I wrote you some time ago telling you I had a confession to make and have had no letter since, so thought perhaps you were scared I had done something too bad to forgive. I am suffering just now from eye-strain and can’t see to write long at a time, but I reckon I had better confess and get it done with.”

In this fourth episode in a multi-part series, Elinore shares big news with Mrs. Coney, her former employer in Denver.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“I am making a wedding dress.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 3)



Image credit: homestead.org

November 22, 1909

My dear Friend,—

I was dreadfully afraid that my last letter was too much for you and now I feel plumb guilty. I really don’t know how to write you, for I have to write so much to say so little, and now that my last letter made you sick I almost wish so many things didn’t happen to me, for I always want to tell you. Many things have happened since I last wrote, and Zebulon Pike is not done for by any means, but I guess I will tell you my newest experience …

In this third episode of a multi-part series, Elinore Rupert meets a pair of twins with interesting names, and helps arrange a family reunion.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“Such a snowstorm I never saw!” (Elinore Rupert, Part 2)



Image Credit: N.C. Wyeth, Letters from a Homesteader

September 28, 1909

Dear Mrs. Coney,—

… it was still snowing, great, heavy flakes; they looked as large as dollars. I didn’t want to start “Jeems” until the snow stopped because I wanted him to leave a clear trail. I had sixteen loads for my gun and I reasoned that I could likely kill enough food to last twice that many days by being careful what I shot at. It just kept snowing, so at last I decided to take a little hunt and provide for the day. I left Jerrine happy with the towel rolled into a baby, and went along the brow of the mountain for almost a mile, but the snow fell so thickly that I couldn’t see far ….

Sincerely yours,
Elinore Rupert

In this second episode of a multi-part series about Elinore Rupert, the author and her daughter Jerrine venture out into the great wilds of Wyoming.  When their explorations take a scary turn, a new friend helps them find their way.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.