Little Bits of History

Cowboys and Indians

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 23, 2014
 Marias or Baker Massacre

Marias or Baker Massacre

January 23, 1870:  The Marias Massacre takes place. Also known as the Baker Massacre, it involved the US Army and Piegan Blackfeet Indians during the Indian Wars. The Blackfoot Confederacy was comprised of Blackfoot, Blood, and Piegan tribes in the Montana Territory. Relations between the tribes and the influx of white settlers has been strained for years. Both sides behaved badly and hostilities escalated.

Owl Child was a young Piegan Blackfoot. In 1867 he stole some horses from Malcolm Clarke, a white trader in the area. Owl Child claimed they were payment for horses he had lost. He blamed the loss on Clarke. The trader and his son tracked Owl Child and found him with a group of Blackfeet. They beat him up. On August 17, 1869 Owl Child and a group of Piegan warriors found Clarke and killed him and seriously wounded his son. There were legends stating that Clarke had also raped a Blackfoot woman who was both a relative of his own wife and Owl Child. Oral history claimed that the woman gave birth as a result of this rape.

Clarke’s death infuriated white settlers of the area who called for the US Army to do something. Mountain Chief was the local leader and the army sent an ultimatum to him. In two weeks he would produce the corpse of Owl Child, or the US Army would attack. The time passed without a corpse being delivered. General Philip Sheridan sent in a squadron of cavalry to take care of the problem. It was led by Major Eugene Baker a known alcoholic. He was to find Mountain Chief.  Baker left Fort Ellis on January 6, 1870 and arrived at Fort Shaw to pick up two more companies of cavalry as well as two scouts, Joe Kipp and Joseph Cobell, who were both familiar with the Piegan bands. By order, non-hostile bands were to be left alone.

They left Fort Shaw on January 19. Three days later they saw a small band of Piegan (5 lodges) and were told others considered to be hostile were farther upriver. The company moved along and found a larger camp with 32 lodges. They positioned themselves and Kipp, the scout tried to warn that this was Heavy Runner’s camp and peaceful. Kipp was arrested, Heavy Runner appeared with his document from the Indian Bureau guaranteeing safe conduct. He was killed. Most of the men were out hunting. The US Army Cavalry attacked and killed 173 people – 15 of them warriors and the rest women and children. Later investigation showed that fifty of those killed were under the age of 12.

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. – Pythagoras

We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry, because we didn’t think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre. – Dick Gregory

When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin. – Winston Churchill

There was never a good war, or a bad peace. – Benjamin Franklin

Also on this day: Shaanxi Earthquake – In 1556, the deadliest earthquake on record strikes central China.
More Than Vases – In 1368, the Ming Dynasty came to power in China.
Greenbriar Ghost – In 189, Elva Zona Heaster was murdered but did not leave this mortal coil.
Poppies – In 1912, the International Opium Convention was signed.

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