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Wild West - August 2014 - Letters From Readers

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: May 29, 2014 
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Chief Joseph
I read Candy Moulton's article ["Chief Joseph's Guiding Principle], in the April 2014 issue, with appreciation. I am fifth generation from missionaries Henry and Eliza Spalding, who in 1836 went west with the Whitmans. The Spaldings settled with the Nez Perces, the Whitmans with the Cayuses. The Spaldings' older daughter was at the Whitman school when the massacre occurred in 1847. Chief Joseph's father was a friend to the Spaldings, and Joseph spent time at the mission, until the white people soured the relationship. The tragedy of Chief Joseph dying of a broken heart, being forbidden to return to this beloved Wallowa, is poignant. At the time, for $200,000, the land could have been purchased for the small group of surviving non-treaty Indians, giving back the land that was stolen away. An excellent read: Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy, by Kent Nerburn.

Mary Appel
Amery, Wis.

Since Chief Joseph is one of my heroes in life, I read with great interest all of the information pertaining to him in your April edition. Since I live in the area and am familiar with his history, I was able to discover only one discrepancy: In Candy Moulton's Top 10 list on P. 6, item 10 has him spending his last years and dying in Colville, Wash. The city of Colville is outside the Colville Indian Reservation. Chief Joseph lived and died in Nespelem, Wash., the tribal headquarters of the Colville reservation. It's within the reservation, about 120 miles southwest of the city of Colville.

Bill Bialkowsky
Spokane, Wash.

Concerning the April 2014 issue, just a small correction: The great chief is not buried in Colville, Wash. He's buried in Nespelem, a small community on the reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes. A small road stop along Highway 155 tells the story about him in brief and satisfies the drive-by tourist. You'll have to do your homework to visit his gravesite in the Nez Perce cemetery. Do so quietly and respectfully.

Rodney A. Fosback
Colville, Wash.

I picked up the April 2014 issue in Colville because the cover had a picture of Chief Joseph. I appreciated the article about the Washington Redskins mascot and, as the world's largest publisher of history magazines, your policy and sensitive commitment to not use "redskins" in your articles. Using a bird, mammal or reptile instead of an Indian as a sports mascot is preferred by most people I know.

I found Candy Moulton's article historically accurate and well written, with an emphasis on fact-based research. In her Top 10 list Moulton says Chief Joseph is buried in Colville, Wash. Whenever I visit Nespelem, Wash., I visit Chief Joseph's grave. I visit the grave due to his honesty, bravery and love for his people and their future. My family are Sinixt (Arrow Lakes), and we honor and respect honesty, bravery and the ability to provide for one's tribe and family.

James Gordon Perkins
Colville, Wash.

Editor responds: Thanks to the readers above and several others as well for pointing out our mistake about where Chief Joseph is buried. A few readers also noted that the map on P. 28 of the April issue shows Oregon as a territory in 1877. It has been a state since 1859.

Discovering Wild West
I am one of those people that just bought her first copy of Wild West and am hooked. Hooked because I grew up in Dodge City, Kan.; had a great-aunt from Kinsley, Kan., who married a cowboy named Charles Lewis Bourne in Dodge City; just discovered that an angry mob in 1894 lynched my husband's great-grandfather William Gay in Russell, Kan.; had a great-uncle who was friends with Doc Holliday and was killed robbing a bank in New Mexico Territory; and even the land I live on in Wichita was owned by Catherine McCarty, mother of the lad who became known as Billy the Kid. I love all the connections. Where have you been all my life?

Connie Leonard Volkman
Wichita, Kan.

'He told the committee he did not want them to hang him, but that he would do it himself'

Self-Lynching
I believe information on hanging, either by the law or otherwise, has always been of interest to those interested in the history of the Old West. I came across a story of a feller who was taken out to be lynched but wound up lynching himself, thereby saving the good citizens of his area the effort. It occurred in Pond City, Kan., on August 25, 1869. John Langford, age 22, was taken out by a vigilance committee to be hanged for crimes he had committed. He told the committee he did not want them to hang him, but that he would do it himself. According to a story on August 26, 1869, in The Times and Conservative, a newspaper in Leavenworth, Kan., "He pulled off his boots, put the rope around his neck, climbed the tree and jumped off." Before this act he told the committee he had killed six men, and if they would let him go a few more days, he would kill as many more. He sure must have been a tormented feller, as the last sentence in the newspaper account said, "He had led a desperate life all over the border." Pond City is now an extinct town.

Jay L. Warner
Mountainair, N.M.

Finding Fort Snelling
As a Western history buff I always enjoy Wild West and frequently learn something new. Such was the case with the April 2014 Seth Eastman article [Pioneers and Settlers, by John Koster]. I had the opportunity to tour Fort Snelling [see photo above] a few years ago while visiting my son in Minnetonka, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. Imagine my surprise to discover that Fort Snelling is "near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers." As anyone who has been there, or read of the Lewis and Clark expedition, knows, such confluence is near St. Louis, over 400 miles south of Minneapolis. I must surely have had one foot in the carburetor to make the round-trip from Minnetonka to Fort Snelling and back in a day and still had time for a leisurely tour of the fort!

Colton Meyer
Somerset, Calif.

The editor responds: Thank you and several other readers for the correction. That line should have read "near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers." And please do drive safely.

How Many Indians?
I am interested to know how many Native American tribes there have been in America, and how many different languages were spoken by them.

Charles J. Holy
Kingsville, Mo.

Editor responds: In August 2012 the Federal Register listed 566 tribes eligible to receive services from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. More than 3 million people in the United States today are American Indians. Back in 1900 the Indian population—due to war, disease, etc.—probably numbered less than 240,000. Go back to 1500, though, and there might have been as many as 10 million Indians in North America. There have been about 300 distinct Indian languages; some have been lost forever.

Send letters to Wild West, 19300 Promenade Dr., Leesburg, VA 20176 or by e-mail.



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