Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

The Camp at Independence

The tents were hardly more than set up, and the women had but just got about their cooking, for the breakfast had been a hasty meal owing to our being so near the settlement, when we were visited by a dozen or more Kansas Indians, who are about as disreputable a looking lot as can be found in the country—dirty, ill-favored red men with ragged blankets cast about them, and seeming more like beggars than anything else.

To tell the truth, I would rather have seen around the camp a Blackfoot, a Cheyenne, or a Sioux, knowing that any of them would murder me if he had a fair opportunity, than those beggarly Kansas savages.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

It was the first time any of the women of our company, save my mother, had seen an Indian near his own village, and straightway all of them, with the exception of Susan, were in a panic of fear, believing harm would be done.

Even John Mitchell was undecided as to how he should treat them, until I told him that any attempt to drive the creatures away would be useless, and that if his people were so disposed they might give them some food; but it was in the highest degree necessary that sharp watch be kept, else we would find much of our outfit missing after the visitors had taken their departure.

The men and the boys of our company were so disquieted because of having come thus suddenly upon the Indians, that they kept good watch over the camp during this first day, and it would have been well for all of us if they had continued to stand as honest guard over their belongings.

It was found that we were needing extra bows for the wagons, meaning those bent hoops over which the canvas covering is stretched, that the supply of shoes for the horses and mules was not sufficient, and, in fact, there were half a hundred little things required which the women believed necessary to their comfort.

Therefore John Mitchell and I went into the settlement to get what was wanted, and, like the good comrade she gave promise of being, Susan insisted on going with us.