Last Indian Battle
The Last Indian Battle
in the United States was a sad little affair, a microcosm of
the tragic genocide that rid the West of Indians. On one side
was a band of 15 Indians, Bannocks probably, who simply wanted
to be left alone to live the old ways. Mike Daggett was perhaps
65 years old and led the band as they hunted for game in the
forests, dug camas bulbs for meal, harvested pinon nuts, and
lived off the ever more grudging bounty of the land. Life was
hard, but better, Mike and his followers felt, than life on
Falsely accused of murdering
a white man, Mike's band was hunted and hounded out of their
home range in Southwestern Idaho and Northeastern Nevada to
a hiding place in the rimrock above the Little High Rock Canyon.
There, in the coldest Nevada winter then on record, the hungry
Paiutes killed a few cattle to avoid starvation. When a stockmen
and three sheepherders rode out from Denio Camp one morning
to investigate, the Indians killed them in an act of desperation
and stacked their bodies in the frozen creek bed to be blanketed
with snow until Spring.
On the other side stood a
hard-nosed lawman, a vengeful brother, and a posse of buckaroos
and misfits clutching at their last chance to participate in the
great Indian Wars and get themselves a "Trophy Injun."
They had no desire to take the renegades into custody, only to slaughter
them to the last man. And that they did at Rabbit Creek wash north
and marvelously poetic is the account contained in Dayton O. Hyde's
The Last Free Man, The True Story Behind the Massacre of Shoshone
Mike and His Band of Indians in 1911 (Dial Press, 1973). Frank
Bergon also wrote a novel based on the incident entitled Shoshone
Mike (Penguin Books, 1987). Both describe the last whimper in
the clash of cultures as the traditional Native American way of
life was finally crushed beneath the wheel of Western greed and
Dayton Hyde writes of the
final battle site at Rabbit Creek wash, where no Boy Scout bothered
to erect a plaque, the following:
"When I stand at that
lonely site--that forgotten battleground amidst the wild, unchanging
sagebrush desert northeast of Winnemucca--armed with perspective,
there are scenes that haunt me. I see the little family of Indians,
the last holdouts of their culture, stumbling in near-exhaustion
down the snowy wash. The hooves of their unshod horses are worn
to the quick, bleeding crimson snowberries into the remnant snows.
The feet of children and adults are wrapped with sagebrush bark
and rags against the cold. The faces of all are haunted with sadness,
their cheeks hollow and eyes dull with malnutrition. I see no hero
"Their weapons are laughable.
Only the thirty-eight Savage automatic taken from Cambron's body,
and in Jim's possession, can be termed 'modern,' and there may well
be only one cartridge left for it. Mike has a forty-fifty-two Henry
black powder, while another of the boys has an ancient Colt cap
and ball. The shotgun in their possession is a black powder blunderbuss
that shoots a charge of small rocks or anything that would fit down
"These against a posse
equipped with new, high-velocity repeating rifles and sidearms.
There are only four able-bodied men--Jim, Eat-em-up Jake, Catchum
Charlie, and Mike--fighting for their lives against twenty. But
they are Bannocks, and ready to die like Bannocks. A cornered wolf
does not surrender while there is breath in his body, nor does a
corraled mustang stallion."
to "Shoshone Mike's Stronghold"