I read with interest Jon Guttman’s “Hunting Big Bear,” in the February 2020 issue of Wild West. There are a few sentences in his article that refer to the motives of the Crees based on the history created by the Canadians (soldiers, survivors, politicians, etc.). I am the author of biographies of Wandering Spirit and Fine Day and the 2015 book Defending Frog Lake: An Analysis of the Frog Lake Massacre, 2 April 1885, which has new information that fills out the Cree side of the story.
‘I am the author of biographies of Wandering Spirit and Fine Day and the 2015 book Defending Frog Lake: An Analysis of the Frog Lake Massacre, 2 April 1885, which has new information that fills out the Cree side of the story’
The Crees had reason to believe they might be attacked (documented in my book). Even minutes before the actual massacre Wandering Spirit was in the act of moving everyone, Canadians and Crees, to a new location that could be better defended. Because Cree warriors would consider anyone outside the camp as an enemy, the Canadians had to be brought into the new camp for their own safety. The massacre occurred because the Indian agent, Thomas Quinn, would not cooperate; his refusal closed the door on any peaceful resolution. If Wandering Spirit hadn’t killed him, someone else would have, and with his death there was no longer any point to sparing the other Canadians. The killing of Quinn meant war. History has also spread the false story that 40-year-old Wandering Spirit and other young men usurped power from Big Bear. Power is always transferred from the chief to the head warrior in times of danger. This legitimate transfer of power occurred at Frog Lake from Big Bear to Wandering Spirit, who had been the head warrior since the late 1870s and would probably have his finest hour in the May 28, 1885, Frenchman Butte fight [depicted above]. If the transfer had not been legitimate, no one would have followed Wandering Spirit. Also, the motivation history has given us—that the Crees were starving and desperate—is false. The Crees would not kill their neighbors for food. I’ve dealt with this and other false motives in my book, which several history buffs have told me has changed their view of what happened at Frog Lake.
I particularly enjoyed Kurt House’s Guns of the West article “Guns of the Johnson County War,” in the April 2020 issue. This episode in Wyoming history holds a special interest for me, as my father knew one of the participants. Nate Champion’s siege diary was found by Chicago reporter Samuel Clover. Some sources state Nate had trouble with literacy. I’ve wondered about the legitimacy of the dairy. It seemed to be more good copy than last testament of a doomed rustler.
I was aware of the existence of “Wolcott’s List,” enumerating by serial number descriptions of weapons seized by authorities from the Invaders. Some years ago on an episode of Pawn Stars a man brought in an engraved Peacemaker, claiming it had been carried by an Invader. Rick Harrison declined the offer, as there was no supporting documentation. Too bad he was unaware of Wolcott’s List.
In your August 2019 Go West there is reference to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas. You list its size at nearly 11,000 square miles. In fact, it is nearly 11,000 acres. The preserve is well worth visiting, as it offers splendid views of the Flint Hills from its trails. It also has several dozen bison in a fenced area. The federal presence is a few acres around a gift shop and interpretive center; the Nature Conservancy runs the rest. A much larger conservancy property is the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northern Oklahoma, just below the Kansas line. It is nearly 40,000 acres, with about 2,600 bison and assorted other animals and birds, and celebrates its 30th anniversary in October.
I really enjoyed reading the article “Buffalo Saviors,” by David McCormick, in the December 2019 issue. It reminded me of a photograph I took a while ago when a friend and I visited Jackson Hole, Wyo. We drove down a dirt road near Wilson, Wyo., and came upon a herd of buffalo roaming over an area that was not fenced. I leaned out the window of the car and snapped a photo of a buffalo just as it came over a small rise and paused with the Grand Tetons behind him. I think it makes a striking image.
I purchased your excellent October 2019 issue. That Theodore Roosevelt cover sure catches the eye on the newsstands. I plan on framing this issue on the wall beside my Old West library. This will be the 11th Wild West cover on the wall.
St. Thomas, Ontario
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