4. Major Powell’s Amateur Hour

THE REAL BEGINNING of field work would have to wait a year, until the summer of 1871. First there was unfinished business, loose ends of the 1869 trip and plans for the next one. Powell might not know as much as he would know later, but he knew that even if all the records from 1869 had been preserved instead of being partly lost to the river or to the Shivwits, the scientific results would have been thin. Before he could claim anything more than an exploit he had to run the river again and really survey it. And because much of the difficulty of the first expedition had been caused by the necessity of carrying tons of food, he would not run the river again until he had located points at which it could be reached by supply trains.

The Green was no problem. There boats, men, and supplies would all be fresh, and the river could be reached at Brown’s Hole, in the Uinta Valley, and at Gunnison’s Crossing (Greenriver, Utah). And anyway the Green was comparatively well known. But below Gunnison’s Crossing he knew of only two places of access, one at the Crossing of the Fathers in lower Glen Canyon, and the other only a few miles below, at the mouth of the Paria (Lee’s Ferry). Another point ought to be found, preferably somewhere near the mouth of the Dirty Devil, at the foot of Cataract Canyon.

Privately assured by Garfield and Salmon P. Chase, both regents of the Smithsonian, that he could probably depend upon funds for more than the immediate year,1 Major Powell dedicated 1870 to preparation. With Thompson in Bloomington he left the crudely meandered map and his own and Sumner’s journals from the 1869 trip, and while Thompson studied those, Powell took two assistants, Walter Graves and Frank Bishop, and in mid-August made his fourth trip west.

Preparation involved not only supply routes but an understanding with the Indians. He could not count on and did not want the military escort that was standard equipment with most western scientific parties. With the White River Utes he had maintained friendship simply by being friendly and harmless; he would hope to continue that policy. But the murder of the Howlands and Dunn was a trouble, and he wanted to dig out the true facts. The story that had come out to St. George said that the three men had been shot for molesting a Shivwits squaw. That story he did not believe, 2 but whatever the cause of their death, he had to be assured of safety both from the Paiute bands and from the Navajo with whom the Mormons of southern Utah were conducting an erratic guerrilla war. Because his own interests coincided with those of the Mormons, he went to headquarters for advice, and came out from a conference with Brigham Young armed with a letter for Jacob Hamblin, the Mormon Leatherstocking, the Apostle to the Lamanites, head of the Southern Mission and pathfinder and peace-maker for all the southern Utah settlements. Either for geography or for Indians, he could hardly have done better; when he finally started out from the fort at Pipe Spring in Jacob’s company he was in the best hands in Utah or Arizona.3

Hamblin knew the plateau and canyon country better than any man alive, for in the fifties when Brigham Young had projected an empire south and west and north from the New Jerusalem he had charged Hamblin with locating crossings of the hitherto impassable canyons across the southern frontier. Jacob had found a crossing below the Grand Wash Cliffs, at the lower end of the Grand Canyon, and another at the mouth of the Paria. He had been the first Anglo-American to use the Crossing of the Fathers, or Ute Ford, at the mouth of Padre Creek. He had navigated the lower Virgin and the Colorado from Grand Wash to Callville, had made his way across the wilderness of canyons south of the river and had visited the Hualpais, the Havasupais, the Hopi, the Navajo, the Coconinos. With them, as with the Santa Claras, Shivwits, Uinkarets, and Kaibabs north of the Colorado, his name was magic. It was magic also among his own people. A pious and orthodox Mormon with five wives, he had pioneered in Mountain Meadows, on the Santa Clara, and now at Kanab, below the Vermilion Cliffs, where an earlier village abandoned because of Navajo raids was about to be resettled. Though his ranch at Mountain Meadows was the nearest habitation to the scene of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Jacob’s name had never been tainted with complicity in that horror.4 Pure, slow of speech and above anger, he was a rock of strength among the Mormon colonists and a bulwark against the Indians, whose languages he knew. A revelation had told him that if he never shed Indian blood no Indian would ever shed his; his life had been a demonstration of the dependability of God’s midnight whisper. One of his wives was a Paiute.

Between them, Jacob and Powell were more effective than a punitive expedition, more salutary than a company of soldiers. Accompanied by a group of Kaibab Indians including the chief Chuarruumpeak, they rode out of Pipe Spring, west of Kanab, in September, 1870, and headed southwest toward the plateau the Indians called Uinkaret, Place of Pines, dominated by the great lava-capped butte, twenty miles north of the Grand Canyon and sixty-odd from Kanab, that Powell would name Mount Trumbull in honor of his friend the senator from Illinois. There, just a week or two more than a year after his three men had died in the dark beside a waterpocket on the Shivwits Plateau, they camped near a band of Uinkarets and sent a runner to the Shivwits, farther west, to come to a council.

Before the Shivwits came, Powell half satisfied his purpose of finding a pack route to the lower Grand Canyon. The Uinkarets showed him a dangerous and difficult trail, the last stretch impassable for horses, down which Indian packers might take supplies in a pinch.5

Settlement of the Howland-Dunn affair awaited the arrival of the Shivwits. But by the evidence of all his words and actions, Powell was diverted from that almost from the moment he arrived. He found himself among Indians more primitive and untouched than any he had ever seen, as primitive probably as any left in the continental United States. Waiting for the Shivwits was no trouble; it was one long ethnological picnic.

He must have cursed his failure to bring a photographer, for he went out of his way to get the Indians’ promise to be photographed the next year,6 as he went out of his way to be interested in their life. “An eminently magnetic man,” he worked his charm upon squaws and warriors and wise men as he had upon university regents or on editors encountered in Colorado parks. Knowing little Paiute, he made himself understood in Ute. Squaws showed him how they roasted seeds in wicker trays filled with hot coals, shaking the trays so dexterously that gradually roasted seeds collected at one side and coals at the other. Old women giggled, sitting with seed baskets between their knees and rolling out meal on mealing stones. Propped against trees, children wrapped in rabbit and wildcat skins stared from their wicker hoods. Even the young men were stimulated by the interest of Ka-pur-ats, One-Arm-Off, to extraordinary showing off. They set up a wide-winged net and put on a rabbit drive to demonstrate their way of catching game, and that evening while they feasted on the result Powell induced them to tell aloud the story of Stone-Shirt, though it was not the proper ritual season. That was a diplomatic request: he had found that one of the surest signs of friendship was an Indian’s willingness to talk about his religion. By the time the Shivwits arrived, Ka-pur-ats was almost as solid with the Uinkarets as Jacob himself. He had enriched his Paiute vocabulary and filled packs with rabbit-skin robes, papoose hoods, nets, seed baskets, and all the paraphernalia of the tribe, to be deposited ultimately in the Smithsonian.

In 1870 the day of the Indian as wild animal was by no means over. The hostiles of the plains were still unsubdued, the Custer Massacre and the Meeker Massacre and the Apache Wars and the brilliant and desperate campaign of Chief Joseph were still in the future, the subjugation of the Navajo at Canyon de Chelly still a recent memory. Wolves to be exterminated or curs to be kicked aside, verminous and beggarly and treacherous pests, Indians had had little enough of the consideration that Powell and Jacob gave them. Sam Carman’s fastidious disgust with Antero’s Utes was tenderfoot orthodoxy; the orthodoxy of the schooled frontiersman was of a bloodier kind.7 Though the Shivwits and Uinkarets were probably too innocent to realize it, they were being given a revolutionary treatment. Jacob respected Indians and was respected by them because he granted them souls and gave even the Lamanite a chance at Heaven. Powell respected them, and earned their respect, because he accepted without question their right to be what they were, to hold to the beliefs and institutions natural to them. To approach a strange culture and a strange people without prejudice, suspicion, condescension, or fear is common enough among students now; it was not too common in 1870, and it made his councils with the Shivwits an unqualified success.

The Shivwits admitted freely enough that they had killed Powell’s three men. But they had not understood who they were. The three had arrived worn out and hungry, and had been fed and shown the way to the Mormon towns. After them came a runner from another band saying these three must be the prospectors who had molested and then shot a squaw. The more the Shivwits talked over the story the white men had told of coming down the big water, the plainer it appeared that the three were liars. Eventually warriors followed the strangers and shot them with arrows as they lay asleep. But they would not have harmed them if they had known they were Ka-pur-ats’ men.

This was the point at which frontier orthodoxy would have demanded at least a token punishment, possibly even a hanging or two. Instead, Powell smoked with the Shivwits — something, as he described it, slightly more difficult than hanging a few of them.

Hamblin speaks their language well, and has a great influence over all the Indians in the region round about. He is a silent, reserved man, and when he speaks, it is in a slow, quiet way, that inspires great awe. His talk is so low that they must listen attentively to hear, and they sit around him in deathlike silence. When he finishes a measured sentence, the chief repeats it, and they all give a solemn grunt. But, first, I fill my pipe, light it, and take a few whiffs, then pass it to Hamblin; he smokes, and gives it to the man next, and so it goes around. When it has passed the chief, he takes out his own pipe, fills, and lights it, and passes it around after mine. I can smoke my own pipe in turn, but, when the Indian pipe comes around, I am nonplussed. It has a large stem, which has, at some time, been broken, and now there is a buckskin rag wound around it, and tied with sinew, so that the end of the stem is a huge mouthful, and looks like the burying ground of old dead spittle, venerable for a century. To gain time, I refill it, then engage in very earnest conversation, and, all unawares, I pass it to my neighbor unlighted.8

By such means must duplicity bend the processes of diplomacy. But with that small exception Powell’s acceptance of the Indians and their point of view was complete. He read them no scoldings for their murderous ways, made no. demands that the guilty be dragged forward for punishment, threatened no reprisals and asked no indemnity, required no assurances from the Shivwits beyond their word — and this despite the fact that the dead men had been his comrades and friends. He left his outfit scattered around without fear of their stealing, and nothing was stolen; he slept among the murderers without fear of harm, and none came to him. His experience with these Stone Age bands lost on an unvisited plateau not only whetted his appetite for discovery in regions of human geography already being rapidly obliterated, but reinforced his belief — which was Jacob‘s — that one who meant no harm could travel freely among Indians, at least within the territory of a single tribe, unarmed and unprotected, except when foolish or brutal white men stirred a tribe to revenge, when even the innocent could suffer. Perhaps Powell’s maiming was a protection of sorts, and he spoke always with a straight tongue, and his introduction by Jacob gave him great status. But his chief qualification for dealing with the tribes was his conviction that a naked Paiute shivering under a tree on the Place of Pines belonged as surely on the map of mankind as a patroon sitting down to dinner in his house above the Hudson, or a Boston Brahmin crossing the Common toward the Athenaeum. He arrived at this conviction without effort and without the sentimentality of many Indian advocates and without in any way regarding his attitude as remarkable. It was simply a natural product of his thirst for knowing and the incorrigible orderliness of his mind, which was as ready to reduce the tribes of man to systems and categories as to arrange the stratigraphic series in a cliff.

To the ethnological goldmine on the plateaus Powell would return as he promised, with a photographer to record Uinkaret and Shivwits before civilization destroyed them. But he had other temptations now. Seventy-five miles by trail southeast of Kanab, at the angle where the Echo Cliffs crossed the Colorado and the Paria added its dry-season trickle to the river, was one of the crossings that Hamblin had pioneered. Several days’ ride to the south and east across the river from there was Cárdenas’ ancient province of Tusayan, home of those Indians whom the Mormons called the Moki or Moquis, and whom we call the Hopi, whose towns had been discovered by the Spaniards almost a century before Plymouth Rock but who had stubbornly maintained themselves intact, aloof, and little known. The legends that had formed a deposit over the whole Plateau Province encrusted them: they were the descendants of the “Aztecs” who had left houses and granaries and hewn footholds among the cliffs, and crumbling towns and irrigation systems along the desert rivers all through the Southwest. They were inheritors of the culture of the Nephites who according to the Book of Mormon had been driven northward by their dark brothers the Lamanites toward the Mormon Armageddon at the Hill Cumorah. They were descendants of those “white Indians,” Welsh or otherwise, who have cropped up in American folklore from the beginning and have left among the Indians themselves the enigmatic story of the blue-eyed god.

As early as 1858 Jacob Hamblin and Thales Haskell had visited the Moki towns, escorting a Welsh Mormon named Durias Davis whose mission was to search for echoes of Welsh words in Moki mouths. Davis found none he could be sure of, but the three Hopis that Jacob took to Salt Lake for a visit of state in 1862 had barely hit town before some Welsh converts tried to make them admit they spoke Gaelic, and within seven years another Welsh Mormon, Llewellyn Harris, would start the Welsh legend all over again about the Zuñi. Verifiable knowledge makes its way slowly, and only under cultivation, but fable has burrs and feet and claws and wings and an indestructible sheath like weed-seed, and can be carried almost anywhere and take root without benefit of soil or water.

Whoever legend said they were, the Hopi were civilized Indians, town Indians, a kind Powell had not seen, and they were even more of a temptation than the primitive Paiutes. Jacob was going again this year to visit the Mold towns. One can almost watch Powell weigh this opportunity against the need of finding a way in to the mouth of the Dirty Devil. Though the route in was what he had primarily come to find, he let it go, and went with Jacob.

Joseph Henry, when Powell had first come to him back in 1867, had asked that Powell take advantage of the chance to study Indians on his western travels. The request could not have been made to a more responsive student. All of the western surveys except that of King studied the Indians to some extent; only Powell studied them with passion. So while Thompson back in Bloomington conned his maps and imagined that Powell was breaking a way in to the river, Powell was spending two delighted months among the Hopi, trading for artifacts, adding a Hopi vocabulary to his Ute and Paiute word lists and finding them related Sho shonean tongues. He watched the dances with which the Hopi marked every turn and change of the ceremonial year, recorded the intricate and devout ceremonial life, and listened to old men, living history books, tell the tribal myths.9 It is doubtful that Congress in granting him funds had in mind that a “geographical and topographical survey” included this particular variety of field work, or that it knew it was authorizing Powell to sit in almost as an official Washington representative on the talks Jacob held with the chief men of Shapalauvi, Mishonghovi, Oraibi, Walpi, Tewa, all the seven stone towns overlooking from their beaked mesas the sweep of the Painted Desert.

It is quite as doubtful that Major Powell had any business in the peace conference that Jacob arranged with the Navajo over at Fort Defiance — not that he could have resisted taking part. At the beginning of November, 1870, he and Hamblin and their party crossed the Navajo and Apache country to the powwow. As part of the attempt to dissuade war parties of Navajo from crossing the Colorado, Powell spoke as if for Washington, explained the reservation system and the government annuities as changes that the Navajo must accept, reminded them of what they had already learned from the harsh schooling of Kit Carson: that resistance or continued raiding could only bring disaster to themselves. Those warnings were reinforced by the agent, Captain Bennett, and then Jacob spoke for peace. On November 5 he signed a non-aggression pact that outlawed raiding but welcomed the Navajo to the Mormon settlements on trading expeditions, and turned back toward the Moki towns and home, while Powell and his two men went on to the end of the stage line at Santa Fe.

One half-comic episode marked the end of his summer’s work. At Oraibi he had made a friend of a Hopi, Tuleta, and had talked him into coming along back to Washington for a visit with the Great White Father. Hamblin had authority to take the Hopi chief Tuba and his wife back that fall to Salt Lake as good-will ambassadors, but exactly what Powell expected to do with an uninvited Hopi in Normal or Washington is not clear; perhaps stuff him and put him in the Smithsonian along with all the other artifacts he had collected. But the dependable Navajo saved him possible embarrassment. On the road between Fort Defiance and Santa Fe they stole Tuleta’s horse. The party was in a hurry, and could wait only a day for Tuleta to find it. When he did not return, they went on. But Tuleta really wanted that visit to the Great Father. He borrowed another horse from somewhere and galloped after, arriving in Santa Fe a scant hour after Powell, Bishop, and Graves had climbed on the eastbound stage. Nobody in Santa Fe would believe that the chiefs in Washington had requested Tuleta’s presence, and he had no paper to show, so he had a long ride home across New Mexico and Arizona to his primitive apartment house on Third Mesa.10

The way Powell’s plans were scattering, more than hopeful Hopis were likely to get left behind. The route to the mouth of the Dirty Devil had got left behind too; the best Powell could do was engage Hamblin to try to find a way to it next summer. He also arranged that Kanab would be the headquarters for the survey party during the winter of 1871.

Kanab, as it turned out, would continue to be the principal base of operations for the Powell Survey, and the route to the mouth of the Dirty Devil would be located, but not until after two years of searching among the tangled headwaters of the Paria, Escalante, and Dirty Devil in the high rock country from Table Cliff across the Waterpocket Fold to the unknown cliffs and canyons south of the San Rafael Swell. And it would not be found by Jacob; that would be almost his only failure as Leatherstocking. A party of Powell’s amateurs would do it for him.

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