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RIGHT TO STAY ON INDIAN LANDS CHALLENGED

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Sunday, Nov. 1, 1846:

The Winter Quarters settlement continued to take shape. At a Sunday meeting, Brigham Young submitted to the Saints a plan for a tabernacle in which they could hold their meetings. It was also decided to move the site for the proposed flour mill to a location further downstream. Men were called to work on lengthening the mill race.Maj. Thomas H. Harvey, superintendent of Indian affairs, visited with President Young later in the day. Maj. Harvey reported that he had received instructions from Washington D.C. to see that the Mormons move off Indian grounds. Maj. Harvey was alarmed to see the extensive building effort taking place in Winter Quarters, which was situated on Omaha Indian land. He did not understand why the Saints stopped at the Missouri River. He wanted Brigham Young to move all the Saints off the Indian lands during the winter.

President Young patiently explained that the U.S. government asked for their best men to serve in the Mormon Battalion. It was impossible to move these families because of the shortage of men. When the battalion was raised, they had received permission from the Indians and the government to stay where they were. President Young stated firmly that they would not move from either side of the river this winter. It would be impossible to move all the families west until the battalion was discharged.

Monday, Nov. 2:

Col. Philip St. George Cooke, the commander of the Mormon Battalion, received discouraging news from a guide for Gen. Stephen Kearny. The battalion was instructed that they should not follow the route that Kearny took about a month earlier. Instead, they should take a better, and more lengthy route. This meant that they still had about 1,200 additional miles to go before reaching California. Col. Cooke decided to put the battalion on half rations to help the food last longer. The battalion marched about 11 miles and camped in an open grove near the Rio Grande. This camp was near the present-day town of Tiffany, N.M.

Tuesday, Nov. 3:

Letters were written to be taken across the river to Trader's Point by William Clayton the next day, requesting the latest government instructions from the Indian Affairs Department. The brethren wanted to read for themselves the government orders to Maj. Harvey.

The Quorum of the Twelve wrote a letter to Orval M. Allen, who was on the way west with a company of "poor Saints." He was advised to find a good location for these Saints near Mount Pisgah or Garden Grove. These places were close to settlements where supplies could be obtained. The provisions in the settlements near Winter Quarters were few and expensive.

Many men now had to travel east toward the Des Moines River to find goods. Rather than increasing the demand for supplies at Winter Quarters, it made sense for the Saints to stop at other places.

Orval Allen's company was nearing Mount Pisgah. After the company started its daily journey, it was discovered that someone had carelessly caused the prairie to be set on fire. Thomas Bullock wrote, "The crescent of fire was beautiful, as the smoke ascended on high and left naught but blackness behind it." That night, Capt. Allen issued a strong lecture, warning the camp against setting the prairie on fire.

The Mormon Battalion marched on for 14 miles. In the late afternoon, battalion member James Hampton died unexpectedly. Levi Hancock wrote, "When it was learned that he was dying, a halt of made for 20 minutes, and after his death his body was placed in a wagon.We traviled down stream 12 miles and as soon as we arrived at the camping ground James Hampton died thus we lose one here and one there. . . . I am called upon daily to lay hands upon the sick."

Wednesday, Nov. 4:

To the west of Winter Quarters, a prairie fire approached the settlement, causing great concern. When it reached the bluffs above the settlement, it died down and was extinguished.

Elder Wilford Woodruff was recovering from his serious accident of the previous month. He wrote, "I this day for the first time went out of the waggons with the assistance of two persons."

John M. Bernhisel returned to Nauvoo after traveling to many cities in Illinois seeking relief for the destitute Saints. He reported that many expressed sympathy for the treatment that the Mormons had received, but were still too prejudiced against them to provide relief. He was only able to collect about $100 of provisions that he took across the river. He wrote, "We found some very destitute indeed, and quite a number afflicted with chills and fever. The whole number of families now encamped over the river probably does not exceed 20; but they must all be removed before the cold weather set in."

The Mormon Battalion had a difficult 11-mile march over stony hills and sandy roads in today's southwest New Mexico. They camped near a large, adobe-colored, pyramid-shaped rock about 30 feet tall, which some thought was the remnant of an old Nephite structure. It stood on the edge of a bluff. Col. Cooke wrote that it "has a striking resemblance to the ruins of a church or other large building." (The rock has since fallen from its perch and is in pieces).

Thursday, Nov. 5:

Maj. Harvey wrote a letter for William Clayton to take back to Winter Quarters, where it was received the next day. He wrote: "No white persons are permitted to settle on the lands of the Indians without authority of the government. Your party being Mormons does not constitute the objection, but the fact of your being there without authority of the Government." On Oct. 26, Thomas L. Kane, friend of the Saints, had written to Brigham Young from Washington, D.C. The letter, received Dec. 5, indicated Col. Kane felt confident that he would soon be able to obtain official government sanction from President Polk, allowing the Saints to settle on the lands of the Omahas.

Friday, Nov. 6:

Another letter was written to Maj. Harvey. The brethren wanted to make it clear that their stay in Winter Quarters would be temporary. "Most of the fifteen hundred wagons now in camp will be off next season, for we are more anxious to be off than any people are to have us

stayT."

To further calm the fears of government officials, the letter concluded with words of loyalty toward the country. "It is well known to you, Sir, and to the U.S. that we have been driven from their borders, and yet have enlisted in her defense, and what can be a greater proof of friendship than for a people to lay down their lives for their country."

Brigham Young also wrote a letter to Omaha Chief, Big Elk. George D. Grant would deliver a barrel of gun powder and about 100 pounds of lead for their buffalo hunt. This act of kindness was meant to improve relations between the two peoples and put a stop to the killing of cattle by the Omahas.

Saturday, Nov. 7:

Lyman O. Littlefield met Orval M. Allen and his company of "poor Saints," about 18 miles west of Mount Pisgah. He showed them the letter from the Twelve instructing these Saints to spend the winter in settlements on the Iowa plains. The brethren in the camp met to discuss what they should do, given that they were already west of Mount Pisgah. It was decided to press on to the Nishnabotna River and then send a company of men to obtain further instructions from the Twelve.

Sources: Manuscript History of Brigham Young, pp. 435-43, 448-49; Wilford Woodruff's Journal 3:94; Mormons at the Missouri, 1846-1852, pp. 105-07; Philip St. George Cooke Journal in Exploring Southwestern Trails 1846-1854, pp. 83-93; A Ram in the Thicket: The Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, pp. 228-42; Carl V. Larson, Compilation of Mormon Battalion Journals, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Thomas Bullock Poor Camp Journal; John Doyle Lee, p. 103; Guy M. Keysor Journal.