June 11, 1841 — The Fear of Indians

Friday 11th. The oxen had wandered about 1/2 mile from the camp this morning, when a man was sent to bring them in; he soon came running back in great haste, crying “the Indians are driving the oxen off!!” In less than half an hour the oxen were at camp and not an Indian seen–-all this is easily accounted for when we consider how timidity and fear will make every bush, or stone, or stump an Indian, and 40 Indians, thousands. Vast herds of buffalo continued to be seen on the opposite side of the river. Distance today about 20 miles.

No Indians in reality, but fear had created the illusions that they were driving off their cattle. Bidwell is harking back to the Indian scare of June 4th, when “Cheyenne” Dawson came running back, declaring he was being chased by swarms of Indians.

During this period the emigrants lived in fear of attack by hostile Indians. Actually the Bidwell-Bartleson Party had almost no problems with natives. Later, as emigration increased and the plains became crowded with covered wagons, the Indians reacted to this incursion into their lands by becoming wary and unfriendly. Their lands were overrun, the buffalo herds were depleted, and their way of life threatened. But in 1841, with the help of Captain Fitzpatrick, this group had little to worry about.

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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