Category Archives: Native Culture

Review of The Hunt for Willie Boy: Indian Hating and Popular Culture

by James A. Sandos and Larry E. Burgess
Linda S. Parker – San Diego State University

Willie Boy - Desparado

Willie Boy – Desparado

The authors have written an enlightening historical ethnography of the Willie Boy episode. By illuminating the frontier myth and Indian-hating inherent in the dominant story of Willie Boy, and using Chemehuevi ethnographic literature and oral traditions, Sandos and Burgess have separated myth from fact. This permitted them to develop a new white version based on historical documents. Importantly, they also present a Chemehuevi version of Willie Boy’s tale. Additionally they present Willie Boy’s own story relating to the episode.

In examining the development of the Willie Boy tale, including the stories told in Harry Lawton’s book Willie Boy: A Desert Manhunt and Abraham Polonsky’s film Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Sandos and Burgess show how Indian hating “shaped” the talc into a “triumph” of civilization over savagery. The authors persuasively argue that Willie Boy was not drunk when he killed William Mike. The story of alcohol involvement was accepted because it fit the stereotype of Indians who turned to liquor to solve their problems. Sandos and Burgess also suggest that one of the Indian trackers accidently killed Carlota.

After determining that Willie Boy was a mixed blood Chemehuevi and raised in that culture, the authors were able to use Chemehuevi cultural data and oral tradition to explain certain elements of Willie Boy’s story. Knowledge of Chemehuevi culture and its impact on Willie Boy make his ability to outrun the posse understandable. Sandos and Burgess indicate that bride capture, an important component of the standard story, was not practiced by the Chemehuevi. They indicate that this practice and the alleged kidnapping of Carlota was an Anglo creation. Instead she accompanied Willie Boy as a free agent who loved him and was willing to break with her culture and family by violating the tribal kinship taboo prohibiting their marriage. Although both Lawton’s book and Polonsky’ film tell about the taboo and an earlier alleged abduction of Carlota, neither are seen as significant. Sandos and Burgess explain why.

Based on circumstantial evidence, Sandos and Burgess determine that Willie Boy was a Ghost Dancer. If one accepts their conclusion, which this reviewer found somewhat tenuous, then the authors’ reasoning that Willie Boy’s Ghost Dance beliefs influenced his behavior and the actions of William Mike is also plausible. In discussing the murder of William Mike, the authors suggest that one of the reasons Mike opposed the marriage of his daughter to Willie Boy was that Mike, a shaman, rejected the Ghost Dance. Acontest over spiritual power was involved. Sandos and Burgess also maintain that Willie Boy’s suicide is understandable given the influence of the Ghost Dance. Countering the myth surrounding the events occurring at Ruby Mountain, the authors convincingly argue that Willie Boy had no reason to surrender and that he that he could have easily escaped. They speculate that Willie Boy learned of Carlota’s death at Ruby Mountain and that he committed suicide that night in order to be with her. According to Ghost Dance teachings, the best time to join the dead was shortly before dawn.

Although the author’s historical analysis is critical to explaining Willie Boy’s story, the major contribution of The Hunt For Willie Boy is its integration of Chemehuevi culture and oral tradition.

Linda S. Parker, Department of American Indian Studies. San Diego State University.

The Hunt for Willie Boy: Indian Hating and Popular Culture. James A.
Sandos and Larry E. Burgess. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
Maps, photos, figures, and references. xviii + 182 pp. $21.95.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln
DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences Great Plains Studies, Center for

8-1-1994

Michael White (Miguel Blanco) & Rancho Muscupiabe

The Old Spanish Trail had become increasingly used as a pack mule trail between New Mexico and California, and with this traffic came the opportunity for those to take advantage of the distance and desperate nature of the land.

Map of some of the land grants and ranchos in southern California

The rich ranchos of southern California.

California horses were beautiful creatures, and the mules were taller and stronger than those in New Mexico and they were easy to steal.  The rolling hills and plains presented clear paths to the  Cajon where numerous hidden canyons and washes were available to slip into and prepare for the furious run across the desert. Horses would be stolen in herds from many different ranchos at once. Hundreds of horses, even thousands could be commandeered and driven by just a few experienced thieves.

Chief Walkara, ‘Hawk of the Mountains’ and the greatest horse thief in all of history along with his band of renegade Chaguanosos , and notables such as Jim Beckwourth and Pegleg Smith would work together in this illegal trade. During one raid they were said to have coordinated the theft of 3,000-5,000 horses, driving them to Fort Bridger to trade for more horses to run to New Mexico to trade again. Horses would fall from exhaustion every mile and the local bands of Paiute would feast on the remains.

Devore, ca. at mouth of Cajon Pass

From the piedmont between Devil and Cable canyons, Miguel Blanco could keep an eye out for horse thieves entering the Cajon.

 

In 1843 Michael White was granted one league of land at the mouth of the Cajon Pass called Rancho Muscupiabe. At a point overlooking the trails leading into and away from the canyon he was expected to thwart the raiders and horse thieves that were plaguing the Southern California ranchos. In theory it was a good plan but in practice it did not work so well.

Map of Muscupiabe Rancho, Michael White, Miguel Blanco

Muscupiabe Rancho

 

 

 

Crowder Canyon/Coyote Canyon along Old Spanish Trail/John Brown Toll Road

Hundreds and sometime even thousands of stolen horses from the ranchos would burst through Coyote Canyon beginning their ‘journey of death’ across the Mojave.

He built his home of logs and earth and constructed corrals for his stock. However, the location between Cable and Devil Canyon only served as a closer and more convenient target for the Indian thieves. His family was with him, but after six weeks until it became too dangerous. He left after nine months without any livestock, in debt and bitter.

Crowder Canyon map in Cajon Pass

Crowder (Coyote) Canyon – Initially named ‘Coyote’ canyon for Chief Coyote, a horse thief who was killed by Miguel Blanco within the narrow canyon walls.

As the late 1840s and 1850s rolled by wagon roads were being developed in the canyon minimizing the effectiveness of the maze of box canyons being used to cover the escape of desperadoes on horseback.

The Killer on the Colorado

Indian Queho hated white men.  It has been said he killed up to 35 of them.  I believe there were only about 17 murders he has been tied to. These were all brutal, violent killings.   Queho killed using shovels, clubs, knives, his bare fists.  He killed for revenge, money, and even just to kill in frenzied anger.  He probably could have expressed his bigotry well with maybe half of the number he killed. His deep hatred of white men could have been expressed with half of that; only 4 or 5 murders — or maybe even just 2 or 3 targeted, fatal beatings.

 

The Indian hunters figured they ran him to death, but he just knew how to hide well.  They never took him alive.  Queho’s mummy was discovered in a cave by prospectors searching for gold on the high walls of Black Canyon on the Colorado River. He died painfully by a snake bite to his leg.

Mojave War Club

 

Mojave bows, arrows and war club

The Mojave Indians were known as “the clubbers”, and their attacks were feared  as exceptionally brutal and violent.  Their war clubs were ball-shaped with a handle that could be held on to with both hands.  The warriors would run in close and thrust the club up and under their victim’s chin breaking their jaw then grabbing the club with both hands to bash the enemy in the head on the downswing.

The Origin of People

One day, Coyote went out to hunt rabbits. While he was hunting, he saw a large naked woman in the distance. This excited him. He said to himself, “Whew, I have never seen a woman like that. I will follow her.” He followed her for a long time, but could not quite overtake her. He followed her over many mountains. When he came to White Mountain [Fish Lake Valley], he was very thirsty. He saw that the woman was carrying a tiny basketry water jug, and he asked her for a drink. She gave him the little jug, and he drank and drank, but still there was water left in it. Then she walked on, and he followed her.

photo of coyote
Finally, they came to a large lake of water. The woman said, “My home is over there.” She crossed the lake on top of the water. Coyote said, “I cannot do that. I will walk around.” The woman turned and gave Coyote the legs of a water bug [skate?] that runs on the top of the water. Coyote followed her over to her house.

The woman lived in a house with her mother, who was called tsutsipü, “ocean,” maa’puts, “old woman.” She was like Eva, the first Woman. Eva had never seen a man before. In the morning, Eva got up very early and began to weave a fine, big water jug. Coyote stayed with the women for several days.

One day Coyote went hunting for deer. He wondered what was the matter [with the women] . . . He asked his stomach, his ears, his nose, and his foot what was the matter. None of them could tell him. Then a white hair on the end of his tail said, “You are just like a little boy. Take a neck bone . . . and use that.”

Coyote did this . . .

Coyote went out to hunt. The old woman had nearly finished her big water jug. The two women told each other that they were pregnant. When the jug was finished, they gave birth to many tiny babies, all like little dolls, and put them in the jug.

When Coyote returned, they said to him, “Maybe your brother, Wolf, is lonesome for you. We want you to go back home.” Coyote said, “All right, I will go.” Eva then said to the children, “You have no home here. You must go with Coyote.” She put the basket of children on Coyote’s back, and told him to carry it with him. It was very heavy, but Coyote said that he had carried deer down from the mountains on his back, so that he was strong and did not object.

The women instructed Coyote about the jug. They said, “When you come to Saline Valley, open the stopper just a little way, then replace it quickly. When you come to Death Valley, open it a little more. At Tin Mountain (Charleston Peak) open it half way. When you are in Moapa, take the stopper out all the way.” Coyote said he would do this.

Coyote carried the jug along, but soon became very tired and could scarcely hold it. When he arrived in Saline Valley, he opened the stopper a little way. Tall, dark, handsome men and girls jumped out and ran away. These were the best looking people in the jug. This frightened Coyote, but he put the stopper back, and picked up the jug. In Death Valley, he opened it again. Here, more handsome people jumped out and ran away. The girls all had long, beautiful hair. When he came to Ash Meadows, he opened it. The Paiute and Shoshoni came out. These people were fine looking, too. At Tin Mountain, Coyote let some fairly good people out of the jug. When he opened it in Moapa, very poor, short, ugly people came out. The girls here had short hair with lice in it. All the people had sore eyes. That is the way they are now.

This is the way Eva had her first children. Coyote was the father.

from:
Western Shoshoni Myths
By Julian H. Steward

A Story of Four Boys

Devil's Canyon, San Bernardino National Forest, Old Spanish Trail

Devil’s Canyon

One day a wagon train rolled in off the desert to San Bernardino. On this wagon train there were four sick and hungry Paiute Indian boys.

Each one of these boys was placed with separate families in San Bernardino, and each one of the boys, living in a good Mormon home, got better.

One boy went rabbit hunting with his foster brother. There they ran into the Thomas brothers who were also out hunting. One brother got into an argument with the Indian boy. They get louder and louder then the Thomas boy raised and aimed his pistol at the Indian and the Indian immediately raised his rifle and shot Thomas. He fell over dead.

Obviously, it was self-defense and no matter how they looked at it at trial it came out self defense. The Indian was acquitted and went free.

Sawpit Canyon. Old Spanish Trail

Sawpit Canyon

Life went on and things seemed as if things were forgotten and when it came time for the Indian boys to go home, an escort was provided for them. The escort was made up of one of the Thomas’ and several of his friends.

The party left San Bernardino and rather than going up the Cajon Pass, they took the old trail up Devil’s Canyon to the ridge then dropped down into Sawpit Canyon. The area was heavily forested and the young Paiute that had killed the Thomas boy figured out what was going on and slipped into the woods escaping.

Summit Valley, Las Flores Ranch

Summit Valley

The remaining three boys were brought down into what is now the Las Flores Ranch area and summarily murdered. Then they were decapitated and their heads placed on the top of long poles.

Not much was ever mentioned of the incident afterwards most, likely because the boys killed were Indian.

A few years later a caretaker on the property found two of the skulls. He took them and nailed one to each of the gate posts at the entry to the ranch. Being the braggart that he was, he would tell the story of the Indian skulls nailed to the gate and if an Indian wanted to know what that story was, they were welcome to come and an he would happily show them.

(retold from History of Victor Valley – Lyman)

Aphid Loaf

Reeds along Big Bear Lake
I have heard the Indians would go to the reeds in the riparian areas where aphids fed in large numbers, brush away the tiny bugs and scrape their shiny-sticky waste from the blades. En masse the material would be shaped into a large, heavy loaf with a hardness and sweetness similar to rock candy. In Jedediah Smith’s first expedition across the Mojave his guides recovered a cache of the sweet bread to supplement their then meatless diet.

“But men accustomed to living on meat and at the same time travelling hard will Eat a surprising quantity of corn and Beans which at this time constituted our principal subsistence.”
~ J.Smith, 1826

When the Cavalry Saves the Day

“Two men were in charge of a station at Egan Canyon in Nevada. One morning a band of Indians captured them, after a battle. The chief chose to make the prisoners feed his braves before murdering them, and compelled them to cook an immense quantity of bread.  The Indians gorged themselves during the day, while the captives toiled and sweated over their cooking, probably no more cheerfully because of a promise that they would be burned at the stake at sundown.  A wagon tongue had been driven into the ground to serve as a stake, and preparations for their roasting were in progress, when in true story-book style, a company of cavalry happened along and saved them. This was the narrative given out as absolute truth in after years given by one of the men.”

from Outposts of Civilization – W.A. Chalfant

Serrano Woman of Tejon

Serrano Indain woman, Edward S. Curtis

Serrano (Kitanemuk) woman

“The Serranos (Spanish, “mountaineers”), a Shoshonean branch comprising numerous local groups, occupied San Bernardino valley, San Bernardino mountains north of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, a portion of Mojave desert north of that range and east of Mojave river, and Tehachapi mountains. This last group, who lived principally on El Paso and Tejon creeks, were the Kitanemuk. In 1853 most of the resident Indians, including not only various Shoshoneans but many Yokuts, were taken to Tule river reservation. Tejon rancheria remains, however, a settlement of various Shoshoneans, but predominantly Kitanemuk

~ Edward S. Curtis

 

Indian Queho – Part II

Queho had killed before.  He killed a man named Bismarck in Las Vegas.  Bismarck was another Indian, so it didn’t matter.

I have heard Queho killed his half-brother, Avote.

Avote was a killer in his own right. Supposedly, Queho put his brother to the knife on Cottonwood Island.  The current in the Colorado was too strong for Queho to swim with the body across. So, to prove he killed him, Queho cut off his hand.  Avote was known to be missing a finger–lost to pay a drunken gambling debt.

The hand wasn’t proof enough.  Queho went back to the island and cut the head from the carcass.  Proof enough.

Queho expected a parade, but all he got was a job as assistant to the night watchman at the Goldbug Mine.  It was not much more than constant abuse from an alcoholic bigot.  Queho was fired after a month and cheated on his pay. He buried his rage deep.

Queho stole the watchman’s badge,  gun and horse.  He was on the run.  A renegade.  A killer.

continued

< Previous