Lost Valley Online History History

THE EXILES OF CUPA

by Grant Wallace
[Out West Magazine, July, 1903]

(The actual removal of 98 Mission Indians from the Warner Ranch Hot Springs to Pala, their new home, May 12th, 13th and 14th, closed the first chapter in a celebrated case. Readers of this magazine are familiar with the record; how all prior courts, and finally the Supreme Court of the United States, decided against the Indians under a Mexican land grant, and dispossessed them of their immemorial homes; how Congress appropriated $100,000 to procure them a new home and remove them to it; how after the usual routine (thro’ an Inspector) the Government decided to pay $70,000 for a dry ranch of 2370 acres; how a campaign against this folly was made by the Sequoya League, and a commission appointed to select the best location possible; how that Commission, after examining 107 ranches, selected the Pala Valley, 3,438 acres with 140 miner’s inches of water for irrigation, for $46,300; how the Commission also secured the withdrawal from entry of all public lands contiguous to Pala (about 5,000 acres) to be added to the Reservation; how the Indians were stirred up by foolish and by malicious advisers to resist removal; and how their law-abiding spirit led them at the last, in spite of all, to go obediently. In this historic case it is of interest to record the accompanying notes made by Mr. Grant Wallace of the San Francisco Bulletin, and photographs made by Mr. Wallace and by Mr. Sawyer of the Los Angeles Herald. Besides the 98 Indians who were removed by Inspector James E. Jenkins, about two dozen more have drifted in, since, to Pala; and as none of the other villages under sentence of eviction have made any talk of resistance, except the Hot Spring pueblo, there is every reason to believe that the remainder of the 300 Indians will be transferred successfully. Those at Pala are rapidly becoming reconciled, and most of them are working steadily in preparing their new homes--for which the Government pays them $2 per day wages. This is in accordance with the recommendation of the Sequoya League, that instead of rationing the Indians (whom the Government is bound to support until their crops make them self-supporting) and letting the contracts for building homes, and constructing the irrigating system, to Americans, the Indians be set at this work, and paid for it--a suggestion which Commissioner Jones immediately and gladly adopted. A few of the oldest Indians, and a few irreconcilables, are still “unreconstructed;” but the younger and more progressive of the tribe realize how much better they are off materially; and having been able to understand that they had to leave their old home, are relieved to find the new one so much superior--instead of worse, as they know to be the case with other Mission Indians. The process of adjusting themselves to the new conditions, and rooting to the new soil, will need time and a lot of tact and patience and practical sense on the part of the officials in charge. So far as the Indians are concerned, there is every reason to believe that if given a fair chance by their official directors they will improve their new opportunity in good faith.--Ed. [C.F. Lummis])

While it would be too much to expect any one at all familiar with the Spanish or Mexican laws to believe that the decision of the United States Supreme Court was based on full familiarity with those laws, all that is past and cannot be recalled. It is a pity for the Warner’s Ranch Indians to have to lose homes dearer to them than any others, no matter how much more valuable or more comfortable; but as a matter of fact the Warner’s Ranch Indians are now far better off than almost any others of the thousands of Mission Indians. These are safely settled in a beautiful and fertile valley; their fellows are half starving on barren mountain sides and the inhospitable desert.

Last month the removal of the Warner’s Ranch Indians threatened to result in bloodshed, thanks to a few fool “friends” of the bedeviled Cupeños, who had long cheated them with vague hopes of reversing the decision of the Supreme Court. Happily that danger is passed. Had not Cibimoat and a few irreconcilables been sorely bedeviled and muddled by evil advisers, they would have gone peaceably to Pala a month earlier; but through the efforts of these “friends” they had been wrought up to believe, themselves, that they would offer armed resistance to the eviction. It is only fair to say that a large proportion of the Indians--the younger element--accepted the inevitable and urged all their people to do likewise; but the hard-heads listened only to what they liked to hear, and their real friends--those who urged them to obey the government and go peaceably to the new home--were considered their enemies. The sense of justice is strong in all Indians, and they saw only the injustice of losing their old home, as we do; but could not see, as we see, why even if unjust it was inevitable.

Three of the leading irreconcilables--Juan Maria Cibimoat, Ambrosio Ortega and Cecilio Blacktooth (the last year’s captain) spent nine days, and rode their broncos nearly 200 miles the round trip, to San Bernardino on a fruitless errand to beg President Roosevelt to “intervene.” They had been coached by lawyers too ignorant to be aware that even the President cannot set aside the decision of the Supreme Court. While they were absent, chasing rainbows, James E. Jenkins, one of the eight Government Indian Inspectors, arrived from Oklahoma to supervise the eviction. By his tact, firmness and kindness he succeeded in inducing most of the villagers to reconsider their new determination--for a few months before, they had no thought of disobeying the Government--”to say and die in their homes.” With the return of the above trio, however, chaos came again. The 44 teamsters employed by Inspector Jenkins, after waiting all day among the 30 adobe houses of the Hot Springs, drove back to their four-day camp below the barbed wire fence which kept intruders from Agua Caliente.

More juntas (councils) were held, both in Pancho’s house and in the chaparral south of town. A few leading malcontents came to the final junta, Monday night, fully expecting to be ironed. John Brown, the San Bernardino lawyer, who had all along advised the Indians not to go, and not to obey the Government, came driving in at breakneck speed. After an interview with the grim Inspector, he showed his change of heart, and tried, by doing yeoman service in council and out, to induce them to remove peaceably. Miss Laura Cornelius (Neoskalita) also, an Iroquois Indian girl of nearly pure blood, daughter of a long line of chiefs, author of “Legends of the Oneidas,” and now teacher in the Riverside Government Indian School, in a strong speech helped to break the deadlock. But it was due chiefly to the tact and firmness of Jenkins that the Cupeños bowed to the inevitable. It must not be forgotten, however, that the way had been paved for 14 months by the quiet, straightforward work on their behalf of the Warner’s Ranch Indian Commission. It is due to these friends that, for the first time in a century of dishonest dealings with American Indians, a tribe has been given superior lands to those filched from them. And while the Indians hated to hear what the Commission had to tell them, they were fain, in spite of themselves, to trust the men who always told them the truth.

I was informed by some San Ysidro and Mesa Grande Indians that the evicted ones had at least forty modern repeating rifles and a new supply of ammunition, and that many were in a mood to use them. I camped for several days with the waiting teamsters, and found all those in my vicinity armed with heavy revolvers, with which they whiled away the tedium of the hours by shooting at crows and targets. I saw four rifles among them, and was told that there were many more rolled up in their blankets. Inspector Jenkins, however, was unarmed, nor is it believed he had anything to do with the arming of the teamsters. I was present when Inspector Jenkins, calling his four dozen teamsters together at the dead-line on the way in, warned them to say nothing to inflame the Indians; that an outbreak was imminent, and that the old women, armed with butcher knives, were likely to fight rather than be moved. The Cupeños could never forgive the government officers who had suggested bringing troops “carrying their warrants on their backs,” to remove them. Yet these facts suggest the query, whether, had an outbreak occurred, a lot of armed and undisciplined teamsters would have accomplished the removal with less of discredit and bloodshed than a platoon of disciplined and respect-compelling soldiers.

Night after night, sounds of wailing came from the adobe homes of the Indians. When Tuesday (May 12) came, many of them went to the little adobe chapel to pray, and then gathered for the last time among the unpainted wooden crosses within the rude stockade of their ancient burying-ground, a pathetic and forlorn group, to wail out their grief over the graves of their fathers. Then hastily loading a little food and a few valuables into such light wagons and surreys as they owned, about twenty-five families drove away for Pala, ahead of the wagon- train. The great four- and six-horse wagons were quickly loaded with the home-made furniture, bedding and clothing, spotlessly clean from recent washing in the boiling springs; stoves, ollas, stone mortars, window sashes, boxes, baskets, bags of dried fruit and acorns, and coops of chickens and ducks.

While I helped Lay-reader Ambrosio’s mother to round up and encoop a wary brood of chickens, I observed the wife of her other son, Jesus, throwing an armful of books--spellers, arithmetics, poems--into the bonfire, along with bows and arrows, and superannuated aboriginal bric-a-brac. In reply to a surprised query, she explained that now they hated the white people and their religion and their books. Dogged and dejected, Captain Cibemoat [sic] with his wife, Ramona, and little girl, was the last to go. While I helped him to hitch a bony mustang to his top buggy, a tear or two coursed down his knife-scarred face; and as the teamsters tore down his little board cabin wherein he kept a restaurant, he muttered, “May they eat sand!”

Amid the shouting of the teamsters, the howling of dogs, the lowing of cattle, and the wailing of some of the women who rode on the great wagons, the caravan started. For nearly three days the long wagon-train, followed by a dozen of the younger Indians on their broncos, driving a small herd of half a hundred ponies and cattle, wound its dusty way over the mesa and around the mountain roads. Only 98 Indians accompanied the train, the San José villagers taking to the woods temporarily, and those from Puerta la Cruz trekking to Pala the next week.

At their first stop for dinner they lingered on the last acre of Warner’s Ranch, as though loath to go through the gates. At night, at Oak Grove, they drew the first rations ever issued to the Cupeños by the government--some at first refused to accept them, saying they were not objects of charity.

At Pauba cattle ranch the next night, where was a vast herd of cattle, a large number of rough-riding cowboys conducting an old time “round-up,” roped and shot a steer, and, with the assistance of the Indians, soon had it ready for broiling over the exiles’ campfires. The first disappointment on their arrival at Pala, due to the absence of any visible provision for their housing, soon gave way to a better feeling, with the erection of a tent village along the well-wooded banks of the San Luis Rey River. It may sound strange to those who cherish their misinformation concerning the habits of the “red man” (who is never red, but brown), to know that their bitterest complaint at Pala arose from what they thought (before they saw the stream) [was] the impossibility of keeping their clothes and persons clean. At Agua Caliente it had been a matter of pride with them to keep their linen spotless, and each person took a bath in the hot springs every day.

Only 98 Indians were actually removed, but some two dozen have since come in--among them a number of outside Pariahs who could not be given homes there.

At the end of my two weeks’ stay among them, I found that many of the older people were still “muy triste.” They had not yet ceased wasting fresh tears over old griefs. Every other tent or brush ramada was still a house of tears, and still their “sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things,” for their love of home is stronger than with us.

Although devout church members--scarcely a name among them being unwashed by baptism--they refused the first Sunday to hold services in the restored Pala Mission, or anywhere else, asking surlily of the visiting priest, “What kind of a god is this you ask us to worship, who deserts us when we need him most?” Instead, thirty of them joined some swart friends from Pauma in a “sooish amokat” or rabbit hunt, killing their game with peeled clubs thrown unerringly while galloping at full speed.

Monday, however, the principal men, better pleased after an inspection of the fertile and beautiful valley of Pala, had a flag-raising at the little school house--the only building now on the site of the projected village. An Indian girl played the organ, and a score of dusky children --who will compare favorably in intelligence with average white youngsters--joined in singing the praises of “America--sweet land of liberty.” School was opened, and later a policeman--young Antonio Chaves--was elected by popular vote.

At Pala they are to have a village similar to their old pueblo at Agua Caliente (though to be built of lumber). For the building of this village, and digging and cementing of irrigating canals, they are to receive $2 a day, besides rations, until they can subsist on their crops. They have the additional advantage of aloofness from elbowing whites--and the class that largely frequented the Hot Springs. There would seem to be no reason why these Indians should not soon be happier and more self-reliant at Pala than at Warner’s Ranch.


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