May 21, 1841

Friday, 21st. Our oxen left us last night, and it was 9 o’clock before we were all ready to start, passed a considerable stream called Vermillion, a branch of the Kanzas. On its banks were finer timber than we had heretofore seen, hickory, walnut, &c. &c. The country was prairie, hilly and strong; we passed in the forenoon a Kanzas village, entirely deserted on account of the Pawnees, [we] encamped by a scattering grove, having come about 15 miles.

On the 19th the emigrants had met some well-armed Kansas (Kaw or Kanza) Indians. who were expecting an attack by the Pawnees, in retaliation for an attack by the Kansas on a Pawnee village a short time before. The Kaw and the Pawnee were traditional enemies whose hostility had been intensified by pressure from the westward movement of American settlers.

KanzaChief-239x300

Kanza chief

The fear of meeting hostile Indians was one of the chief concerns of the members of the Bidwell-Bartleson party. Under the guidance of Thomas Fitzpatrick, who was well-acquainted with the Plains Indian tribes, they were able to avoid coming between rival native bands.

PawneeIndianGeorgeCatlin-248x300

Pawnee Indian by George Catlin

Pictures were taken from the Legends of Kansas website.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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