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Old 21 August 2014, 06:52 PM
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snopes snopes is offline
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Icon220 One thousand white women

Comment: Jim Fergus has written a book ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN, which is
based on a proposal by Little Wolf of the Cheyennes to the U.S. Government
in the mid 1850s, that they will trade 1000 horses for 1000 white women.
(The theory being that it will help meld the races).

Fergus claims, however, that the proposal was actually turned down, but
his book (an interesting one) is based on the premise having been accepted
and some partial exchange made.

Fergus claims that the book is entirely fiction—except for that claim that
a proposal such as that was made. I am skeptical that it was ever made.

I can find nothing historical to confirm or deny that it was made, but for
one small fictional type report of it which seems to be on multiple sites,
none of which have any historical credibility.

Can you confirm or deny this?
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Old 22 August 2014, 07:50 PM
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AliBaba AliBaba is offline
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Great book, isn't it? This is nothing at all like an answer, but just anecdotally, I read the book several years ago. At that time, I tried very hard to find anything I could to determine if Little Wolf's proposal had ever actually been made, and I remember my frustration that I couldn't find a single piece of info to indicate if it ever happened. Sorry, not helpful, but will be interested to hear if anyone else can confirm or refute this.
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Old 22 August 2014, 07:57 PM
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You'd think that if such a proposal had ever been officially made (as opposed to it being a joke between Little Wolf and whomever he was talking to) that there would be plenty of records of it. At the very least it seems like something that would have spawned a lot of outrage.
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Old 22 August 2014, 08:00 PM
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Yeah, no evidence that he ever said it is what you'd expect to find if he never said it. What would be more difficult would be some accounts that it was said, but with reasons to think they might not be true, right?
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Old 22 August 2014, 09:09 PM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
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One of the things that makes me particularly suspicious of this claim is that over the centuries there had been quite a lot of intermarriage between the various indigenous groups and those of European ancestry. There would seem to be no need for a barter such as this. Of course, the peoples of the plains and Rocky Mountains were substantially exposed to the Caucasians much later than the eastern peoples, so they did not have as much of the intermarriage, at least at that point.
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Old 23 August 2014, 02:07 AM
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I found some evidence that part of the claim might be true. Here's what the author of the novel, Jim Fergus, said in an in an interview in 1998.
It is based on a true event. In 1854 a group of Cheyenne chiefs requested of the white authorities one thousand white women as brides for their young warriors.
The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains hosted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln states the following:
In 1854, at a peace conference at Fort Laramie, a prominent Cheyenne chief requested of the U.S. Army the gift of 100 white women as brides, but the army refused.
The book General History by Weston Arthur Goodspeed (1852-1926) says the following:
The Cheyennes were very independent and insolent, one of their chiefs going so far as to demand one thousand white women as wives for the warriors of his tribe.
Notice nothing about a trade for horses and no mention of Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf. Also, I couldn't find any evidence that this idea was taken seriously by either side. In addition, I couldn't find any contemporaneous documents about this 1854 meeting although I'm sure there must be some.

Also, Knox College historian Catherine Denial says there was a meeting between the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho with President Grant in 1873. However, she says the following:
Despite the premise of a recent novel about this meeting between Grant and the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho, there is no evidence that Little Wolf asked the president for one thousand white women when they met. This action would also make little sense in the context of life on the Northern Plains, and the Cheyenne's continued claim to their territory and traditional ways of life.
I found dozens of documents about several treaties between the US government and the Cheyenne where the US government tried to pressure the Cheyenne into becoming farmers. In every instance they refused. Also, I couldn't find any evidence that the Cheyenne were even remotely interested in assimilation.

Have said all that....
Originally Posted by AliBaba View Post
Great book, isn't it?
Please don't take any of this evidence as criticism of the novel. I haven't read it but I did notice that the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

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