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The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke Volume 5

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John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook. This fifth volume opens at Fort Wingate as Bourke prepares to visit the Navajos. Next, at the Pine River Agency, he is witness to the Sun Dance, where despite his discomfort at what he saw, he noted that during the Sun Dance piles of food and clothing were contributed by the Indians themselves, to relieve the poor among their people. Bourke continued his travels among the Zunis, the Rio Grande pueblos, and finally, with the Hopis to attend the Hopi Snake dance. The volume concludes at Fort Apache, Arizona, which is stirring with excitement over the activities of the Apache medicine man, Nakai'-dokli'ni, which Bourke spelled Na Kay do Klinni. This would erupt into bloodshed less than a week later. Volume Five is particularly important because it deals almost exclusively with Bourke's ethnological research. Bourke's account of the Sun Dance is particularly significant because it was the last one held by the Oglalas. The volume is extensively annotated and contains a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named.

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Author’s Note and Acknowledgments

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Author’s Note and Acknowledgments

Three years have passed since the publication of Volume 4, and no doubt some have wondered whether I had become overwhelmed and given up. The fact is that this has been the most difficult volume so far, for two reasons. First was the Bourke material itself. In large sections, the ink had faded until it was barely legible. In transcribing the pages, I had to read them over and over, usually with a lighted magnifier. This is particularly true of the entire manuscript volume dealing with the Lakota Sun Dance. Also, Bourke’s handwriting, never terribly legible, had become, by this time, cramped and spidery. The manuscripts were transcribed with great difficulty, with work time often cut short by burning eyes and blinding headaches.

The other reason was that the removal of my right lung five years ago left me in a great deal of pain along the line of incision on my back. Although this is now being handled by pain management, sitting for any extended period is very difficult. Even so, the project continued, although at a very slow pace, and this volume is the result.

 

Part 1: Back to the Southwest

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Background

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n this section, John Gregory Bourke continues the ethnological work among the Navajos and Zunis, the beginning of which was described in Volume 4, Part 3 of this series. That volume concluded on May 22, 1881, after Bourke returned to Fort Wingate,

New Mexico.1 This, however, was merely a turnaround, because the following day, he is heading back to the Navajo Agency at Fort Defiance, Arizona.2 Bourke was tapped for the job by Maj. John Wesley

Powell who, as director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution, sponsored seminal publications on Indian life and culture. Powell obtained formal sanction for Bourke’s ethnological interests, allowing him to embark on the work that would secure his own place in history. Indeed, with and without Crook, and with

1.  Fort Wingate, the second post of that name in New Mexico, was established in 1860 as Fort Fauntleroy. When its namesake, Col. Thomas T. Fauntleroy, joined the Confederacy in 1861, the post was renamed Fort Lyon, although official correspondence tended to continue using “Fort Fauntleroy.” In September 1861, the garrison was withdrawn ahead of the Confederate invasion of New Mexico. In 1868, Fort Lyon/Fauntleroy was reoccupied, and renamed Fort Wingate when the first Fort Wingate was abandoned. In 1918, the Fort

 

Part 2: The Great Lakota Sun Dance

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Background

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s stated in the background to Part 1, popular belief demanded that native customs should ultimately disappear. Heading the list of offending traditions was the Sun Dance of the Lakotas, which Bourke attended in 1881. As Julia McGillycuddy, wife of the

Oglala agent Valentine McGillycuddy, later wrote, “The subjection of the Sun Dancers to physical torture was contrary to the ideas of civilization and retarded the progress of the red men.”1 Bourke endorsed the prevailing view when he described the self-inflicted torments of a warrior named Bull Man, who repeatedly strained against the rawhide strips passed through gashes in his skin and binding him to the dance pole:

The effect upon the American [i.e., white] spectators was sickening; all of them heartily wished that the wretched savage might speedily break away from his captivity and end his sufferings. The Sioux looked on with faces of stolidity, manifesting an apparent indifference to his movements, but really feeling the keenest interest.2

 

Part 3: The New Mexico Pueblos

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Background

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n this section, Bourke recounts a trip to the various pueblos between Santa Fe and Taos, then those to the south along the Rio

Grande. Besides his ethnographical observations, he frequently mentions the Taos Revolt against the United States in 1847, and the

Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which expelled Spaniards from New Mexico for twelve years. Although both these uprisings are generally known, a brief explanation is in order, particularly considering the complex issues of the 1680 revolt.1

When Juan de Oñate and his colonists asserted Castilian sovereignty over New Mexico in 1598, the task was all the more easily accomplished because the vast majority of native peoples already lived in permanent settlements. It was unnecessary for conquistadores to hunt them down, or for missionaries to round them up and congregate them. The Europeans had the added advantage of being an unknown, exotic, and somewhat intimidating quantity.

Aside from the Coronado expedition some forty years earlier few, if any, of the local Indians had ever seen a white man. The trauma of an alien people with superior weaponry and, above all, greater mobility (the horse) negated any serious thoughts of violent resistance. The early missionaries, with their long experience in the

 

Part 5: Journey’s End

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Background

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s noted in earlier volumes of this series, Bourke held many prejudices. He was contemptuous of blacks, and his comments on Jews sound chillingly like the dire predictions of

Joseph Goebbels in the twentieth century.1 In short, despite his

Irish heritage and Roman Catholicism, he was typical of mainstream white, Anglo-Saxon prejudices of his era. Some of his greatest vitriol was reserved for the Mormons. During a stopover in Salt Lake City in 1875, he went so far as to call Brigham Young’s wives “harlots” and “concubines,” and to question Young’s own faith. Believing that Mormonism could only exist in isolation and ignorance, he predicted that the Transcontinental Railroad would ultimately bring its downfall.2

Bourke’s route from the Hopi pueblos to Fort Apache carried him through Mormon settlements, where he and his party found it necessary to avail themselves of the hospitality of the Latter-day

Saints. In view of his earlier comments, his observations on these communities are remarkably mellow.

 

Appendix: Persons Mentioned in the Diary

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Appendix

Persons Mentioned in the Diary

Due to the large number of sources for the biographical sketches in this section, footnotes or endnotes would have been impractical.

Consequently, I have placed the sources in parentheses at the end of each entry. In cases where the author has only one publication in the bibliography, I have used only the author’s last name. In case of multiple publications by the same author, I have placed the date of publication of the edition cited.

Military

When discussing the careers of cavalrymen, the designation of units overlapping the Civil War tends to be confusing. In mid-1861, the Regular Army had six mounted regiments, viz. First and Second

Dragoons, Mounted Riflemen, and First, Second and Third Cavalry.

On August 3, 1861, congress reorganized these regiments, designating them all “cavalry,” and renumbering them as follows:

First Dragoons to First Cavalry

Second Dragoons to Second Cavalry

Mounted Riflemen to Third Cavalry

First Cavalry to Fourth Cavalry

Second Cavalry to Fifth Cavalry

 

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