Indian History for Young Folks - Francis Drake

This book was considered the standard narrative of the history of the American Indians from the time its first version was published in the 1880's to the mid twentieth century. It was written for the general reader and is both thorough and well balanced. It gives fair treatment to the point of view of the Indians and early white settler, and dozens of anecdotes illustrate both the treachery and misdealing as well as faithful friendships between the two civilizations.

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[Book Cover] from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake


[Title Page] from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake


I have thought that a plain narrative of some of the more striking events in our Indian history might not prove uninteresting to my young countrymen.

It is the story of the heroic, but hopeless, struggle for self-preservation of a weaker against a stronger race; and as we read it we cannot help sympathizing in some degree with the Indian in his patriotic effort to preserve his country and to drive off the intruding white man. Though not inferior to him in bravery, sagacity, and cunning, the Indian was no match for his cool, steady, well-disciplined white opponent. Indeed, the great lesson of the struggle is that it shows conclusively the superiority of the civilized man over the savage, even in those warlike arts in which the latter most excelled.

One other thing must not be forgotten. The deadly perils to which the early settlers were daily and hourly exposed from the incursions of a savage foe—the ambush and the midnight surprise, their sufferings while undergoing the horrors of captivity or the agonies of torture; when we think of these things—they were common occurrences in those early days—we are enabled to realize in some small degree the cost and the value of the peaceful, happy homes we now enjoy.

With the exception of a few roving bands of Apaches and other wild tribes of the plains, the Indian pictured in these pages no longer exists. In ceasing to be a hunter and a warrior, he has lost much of his distinctive character. Civilization has taken hold of him, and one by one his old superstitions and savage customs will disappear. His children are being educated, he is turning his attention to farming, and, slowly it is true, but surely, he is acquiring the arts and modes of life of his civilized brother, "learning," as he expresses it, "to tread the white man's path."

Indian wars of any magnitude are, happily, no longer possible; and at no distant day the native race will be absorbed in the great mass of our population, clothed with all the rights and privileges, as well as with the duties, of American citizenship.


Roxbury, August, 1884.

Introduction to 1919 Edition

For more than three decades Indian History for Young Folks  has been considered the standard narrative of the Indian troubles of our country from the very beginning of the first settlements down to the year 1877, when the original edition of this book was concluded. Appearing first in 1885, this work was promptly accorded high rank by readers of Indian history, and in the intervening years its popularity has steadily increased. Its wealth of illustrations—reproductions of drawings by the famous artists of the day, Howard Pyle, Frederic Remington, Zogbaum, and others, of portraits of peculiar distinction and of interesting prints, appealing especially to younger readers and serving as they do as a historical and pictorial commentary to the narrative—gives to this work an added value to be found hardly anywhere else among books on the subject.

Indian History for Young Folks  having been recognized as authority, and having for so many years held its unique place in the regard of our young readers as the favorite story of the Indian wars of our country, its very popularity naturally suggests the importance of perpetuating the work and giving to it a new life by the preparation of an enlarged and revised edition, bringing the story of the Indians down to date.

This purpose, it is hoped, we have accomplished in the present volume. The narrative, in the original edition, extended only to the year 1877—to the close of the Nez Perce war. In the new edition the story, taken up at this point and continued through the intervening years, is brought to a conclusion with an account of the present condition of the Indians, whose progress and development in every direction have been so great that we may now feel assured that the near future will see the final solution of the "Indian problem"—in the merging of the race into the body politic of the nation. The new edition, taking up the story from the close of the Nez Percé war, recounts the series of wars which it unfortunately was necessary to wage against the Indians from that time until 1890-91 when occurred the outbreak of the ghost-dancing Sioux, the quelling of which, happily, brought to an end for all time the Indian wars of our country.

Following the Nez Perce campaign, in which occurred the wonderful retreat of Chief Joseph and his band, who resisted the pursuit of the soldiers under General Howard, retreating from Idaho Territory to Montana, a distance of more than thirteen hundred miles, until at last reduced in number, they surrendered to the troops under General Nelson A. Miles, there occurred in 1878 an outbreak among the Bannocks, who, due to the failure of the Government to supply sufficient rations, left their reservation in Oregon and went on the war-path. In the same year the Cheyennes, who were forcibly removed to the reservation set apart for them in the Indian Territory, soon yearned for their native lands and suddenly, under their chiefs, "Dull Knife" and "Little Wolf," with their women and children, broke loose from the detested Indian Territory, and in the course of their journey across Kansas committed depredations on the settlements, pillaging, murdering, burning, and striking terror into the inhabitants of that country before they were subdued and returned. In 1879 the Utes of Colorado, objecting to the attempts of their agent to force them to take up agriculture or starve, broke out into rebellion, which resulted in the massacre of Major Thornburgh and his immediate command, the killing of the Indian agent, and the destruction of the Agency itself.

These troubles were soon followed by the outbreak of the warlike Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona, who, always considered as wild Indians, under Chiefs Victoria and Geronimo, carried on a series of wars from 1878 down to 1886, in which year they were finally conquered by General Miles. The climax to our Indian wars, however, came in the winter of 1890–91 when the uprising of the Sioux tribes under the leadership of Kicking Bear, Big Foot, and Sitting Bull broke out. Threatening for a time to become the most stupendous of all Indian wars, this rebellion was fortunately "nipped in the bud" by the death of Sitting Bull and the subsequent terrible chastisement administered to the hostiles at the battle of Wounded Knee, where over three hundred Indians, including Big Foot himself, were killed. This battle and the subsequent campaign waged against the hostiles by General Miles put an end to hostilities, and it seems safe to say, ended for all time the Indian wars of our country. For most of the Indian wars recounted in this volume the whites, shame to say, were invariably to blame, the majority of our modern Indian wars being caused by the forced removal of Indian tribes from their native lands to locations on uncongenial and unhealthy reservations, and only too frequently these removals were dictated by the greed of the white men, who coveted the Indians' land.

These wrongs and bad dealings, however, are now things of the past, a more enlightened policy having been adopted under which the red man is making rapid progress along the path of civilization. Carrying out this policy, a wonderful system of education has been developed, and in the various reservation and industrial schools the Indian boys and girls are fast being reclaimed from their former wild life and fitted to take their places in the community and to compete successfully with their white brethren in the ways of modern life. Safeguards of every kind are now thrown about these wards of the nation, by which they are protected against the old injustices; their health is being carefully conserved by the Indian Department; as a result the Indian is no longer a vanishing race, but is increasing in number. Provisions have also been made for the competent Indians to control their own lands and manage their own affairs, with the result that there is a decided tendency in most of the tribes to engage in settled pursuits and accept citizenship. Never before has the Indian problem been in a better way of solution than at the present time and the near future is very likely to see the gradual merging of the Indian race, as has already occurred in many instances, into the body of the nation.


October, 1918.

[Contents] from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake
[Illustrations, Page 1 of 3] from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake
[Illustrations, Page 2 of 3] from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake
[Illustrations, Page 3 of 3] from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake
Indian Reservations--East


[Frontispiece] from Indian History for Young Folks by Francis Drake