Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1847 Companies

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Indian Relations in the Missouri Valley

In the Council Bluffs vicinity the Mormons in general had their first real and sustained contacts with Indians. Across Iowa the Mormons had been on Potawatomi lands since they left Mount Pisgah. At Council Bluffs they met the Potawatomi chief, Pied Riche, called "the clerk" by the French because of his education. The chief, who had been driven from his ancestral lands in Michigan by the Indian Removal program of the 1830s, felt some kinship with the Mormons. The Indian agent in Council Bluffs, Major Robert B. Mitchell, was also friendly to the Mormons. He reported, for example, to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis, "I am gratified to say that since their arrival I have seen nothing to which exception could be taken... They complain that they have been badly treated, but declare their intention to bear the American Flag to whatever country they cast their lot. And across the river at what became Winter Quarters, the Mormons were in close contact with the Oto and the Omaha.

The Omaha were a small tribe of only about 1,500 and were known for their consistent friendliness to the whites. The Oto, on the other hand, were considered by both Indians and whites to be a thieving people. They numbered about 1,000. Both tribes were basically farmers living in permanent earthen lodge villages.

Chief Big Elk and the Omahas were agreeable to the Mormons settling among them: the Indians might benefit from Mormon expertise and what the Saints would leave behind, and the whites might afford them some help against their ancient enemy, the warlike Sioux, who frequently raided Omaha villages.

Source: Historic Resource Study - Mormon Pioneer National By Stanley B. Kimball, Ph.D., May 1991. (The study focuses on the history of the trail from its official beginning in Nauvoo, Illinois, to its terminus in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the period 1846-1869. During that time, thousands of Mormon emigrants used many trails and trail variants to reach Utah. This study emphasizes the "Pioneer Route" or "Brigham Young Route" of 1846-1847. The sections on Mormon beliefs and motivations for going west have been omitted. Interested persons can find ample sources for that information. The footnotes, bibliography, maps, pictures, pioneer companies by name and dates for the 22-year period, and historic sites - about 2/3 of the book - have also been left out for space considerations. Thanks to Dr. Kimball and the National Park Service for the availability of this information.)