History as Literature | September 01, 1989

In the spring of 1873 a New York-born attorney named Elish Steele sent the following letter to the Commisioner of Indian Affairs for Oregon, and by the Oregon newspapers. The letter was a copy of one Steele had written to his brother, who had seen the newapaper articles that accused Steele of inciting the Modoc Indian War the previous year, of spying for the Indians and providing them with guns and ammunition, of sleeping with Indian women and of fathering a veritable tribe of half-breed children.

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Dear Brother, at your request I subjoion a brief statement of my recollection, knowledge, and intercourse with the Indians since my leaving the east in the spring of 1850. Crossing the plains that summer, whilst suffering much with other immigrants by short feed for my stock and loss of supplies in our train, I had no trouble with the Indians. Others did, but I saw or thought a cause was with themselves or with some that had shortly preceded them…

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