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.


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.


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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