Frail but invulnerable shield

February 9, 2010

 The following was printed in the Humboldt Times on March 23, 1859, and gives, as the writer generously notes,   “ a good illustration of the Indian character, and shows a spark of the old heroic fire, that the degeneration of a race could not wholly extinguish.”

This is why our history haunts me.  It was rare that a story like this one made the papers, though I’m sure incidents like this one happened often.   I could say so much about this event and the way the editor described it,  but today I’ll let the excerpt speak for itself.

“… At an attack upon one of the Indian ranches, a number of the braves were captured, who had, with squaws and children, deserted the ranch—an inglorious prey.  An old chief, the Moweema of his band, then took his stand in the centre of the ranch—his household goods shattered around him—deserted and alone, but armed and resolute and would not be taken…  The volunteers were brave men, but there were none that could be found to face the imminent muzzle of the old man’s leveled rifle.  A word given, and he might have been dropped, riddled like a colander; but, their orders were to take him alive, and thus one man held at bay, a score.

Nevertheless he was taken; he who would not yield to numbers—who feared not death—was taken by one of his own…. stratagems.

The only surviving wife of the old man—a young squaw, was brought forward and, taking her before him, Lient. Winslett, advanced, covering his body with this frail, but to him, invulnerable shield.  Afraid to fire upon the pair, the old man, after a moment’s hesitation, lowered his weapon, and was immediately surrounded and ironed.”  [Humboldt Times, 23 March 1859]