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Front Page » June 21, 2011 » Scene » A look at the slave trade in history
Published 1,131 days ago

A look at the slave trade in history


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By Phil Fauver

"Slave Trade on The Old Spanish Trail and the Trial of Pedro Leon Lujan" was the topic for the recent Emery County Historical Society at the Museum of The San Rafael. After a brief entertainment provided by Talon Hansen of Elmo on the piano playing "Storm Changes" and "The Man From Snowy River," Wade Allinson introduced Sondra Jones, and said her grandparents were William and Ida Viola Johnson who once owned the Cleveland gas store. Her father was Garth Johnson of Huntington.

Jones received her bachelors and masters degrees in history from Brigham Young University. She is working on her doctorate degree at the University of Utah. She plans her dissertation will be on the Ute Indians in Utah and Colorado. Her mother grew up in Cleveland, Utah. Her husband is a high school teacher, and they have 10 children. For nine years Jones had the privilege of living on a Navajo reservation. This experience gave her a lot of insight into Indian history. She brought with her a few fascinating books for the group to see or purchase.

Jones lives in Provo and is the publisher of the book "The Trial Of Don Pedro Leon Lujan" subtitled "The Attack Against Indian Slavery and Mexican Traders In Utah." With this book she explains the history, the problems and the impact of Indian slave trade on the Mormon pioneers, the Ute Indians and the Spanish Trail traders. Her book took two years to write, it was her graduate thesis and was later revised for publication by the University of Utah. She received her masters degree 17 years ago while raising her 10 children. She continues writing and publishing today.

Jones said, "The book 'The Trial Of Don Pedro Leon Lujan' is unique in that we often lose track of a lot of those Indian histories. Many authors brush over a couple of Indian skirmishes and move on to what they consider more important events."

"To prepare for my thesis," said Jones, "I obtained copies of the Pedro Lujan court trial documents. The trial of Pedro Leon Lujan was important because it established law in Utah and was grounds for the Legislature to set up laws governing the purchasing and fostering of Indian children. In 1851 there were 350 Indian children being fostered in Utah. Most of the children were traded for, they were either used as servants or were educated by the fostering family."

Jones told the group when the Europeans came into this country, they had a knowledge of slavery and they created a market for Indian and black slaves. From the Carolinas to the New England states both Indian and black slaves were used.

However Indian slavery existed for hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived. Slavery was part of the tribal culture all over the American Continent. Wars in Europe were also initiated to justify the taking of people as slaves.

The trafficking in Indian slaves was fairly universal throughout all tribes in America. It was a normal part of the Indian tribal warfare the warriors usually killed the men. Women and children were then taken into the capturing tribe to replace losses and were used as servants, as slaves or trading stock. Some would be adopted into the tribal family to replace lost people and in that way maintain the tribe.

The Spanish traders on the Old Spanish Trail would rustle or trade for horses and mules in California. Then they would trail the horses from around San Diego California over into Utah, through Salina Canyon, into Emery County, crossing the Green River and the Colorado River and on down to Santa Fe, N.M. In New Mexico the Spanish traders would trade horses, mules and captives for blankets and tools. They would then take the blankets and tools to California and trade again for horses and mules. Indian women and children were sold or traded along the trail and at both ends of the trail. These Spanish traders traded for goods and slaves from Indian tribes as they traveled both ways along the trail.

Some young Ute Indians would go out on raiding parties to other tribes, capturing women and mostly children. They would then trade the captives to the Spanish traders on the Old Spanish Trail. This was their way of obtaining wealth. Some poor Indian tribes would trade their own children to save them from starving.

West of Green River were the Western Utes, of which the major group was called Timpanogos Indians and they lived in Utah Valley. The San Pitch Indians were further South. These tribes of Indians were very poor and participated in the slave trade. In addition to raiding other tribes, they would trade their children to the Spanish for blankets, food or other goods. They had no horses and were relatively weak tribes as compared to the Utes East of the Green River.

The Utes in Eastern Utah or east of the Green River and into Western Colorado would go east of their tribal lands and raid Indian tribes on the plains to get things there for trade with the Spanish. The Eastern Ute tribes had horses and were richer than the Western Utes. They were also on the frontier with Spain and they could trade for Eastern European goods.

The Western Utes needed horses, guns, ammunition and clothes. They had to trade for these items. The Western Utes had very little to trade except one thing that the Spanish needed and wanted. That was captives and children. The Spanish needed servants and they needed children because the Spanish had a high mortality rate. In the Spanish culture they would often adopt poor relatives. These would be released when they got married or when they reached a certain age. The owners would sometimes manipulate the rules to keep them or not let them get married. This was considered Indian slavery but the Spanish called it a type of unwritten indenture.

In Utah the trial of 1851 and 1852 of Don Pedro Leon Lujan would result in the Legislature passing laws concerning slave codes for black slaves. Utah was the only territory west of Kansas and Texas that allowed people to have black slaves. They passed slave codes about the treatment of slaves. The Legislature also passed laws that stated that a person could not have Indian slaves. A person could foster Indian children until the child turned 21 years old, dress and educate them as their own children but they could not legally enslave them. They could however trade them like merchandise.

To the Utes, the Paiute, and the Shoshone tribes were fair game for capturing and selling Indian children or captives to the Spaniards. The Utes raided the Shoshone to get the goods the Shoshone Indians received from the British such as guns, ammunition and blankets.

The Spaniards liked buckskin horses and would come up from Abiquiu, N.M. and trade cheap horses, mules or tools for buckskin horses. They would then continue to about where Castle Dale is today, which was on their route. The traders would then go through Salina Canyon into Sanpete County where they would trade for children and women.

There is one story of one pioneer company arriving in Utah and an Indian came to them to trade some fish for flour and salt. He didn't wear anything but moccasins. The men immediately wanted to kill him for shocking their women. The Paiute Indians didn't wear a lot of clothes. They might wear a breech cloth and moccasins. Some wore rabbit skin robes or blankets to keep warm in winter.

Chief Walkara was born near Payson. He got into trouble with the locals and took his band of Indians into the Sanpete region. Chief Walkara worked along what is now the Interstate 15 corridor and over to the Green River Crossing to make money. Walkara exacted a toll on any travelers going through his area. Chief Walkara discovered that he could raid in California and obtain horses. Walkara, on one of his raiding parties South into California, was able to get thousands of horses. He was reported to have gotten 6,000 horses on a raid. It is also reported that he had about 3,000 horses left after crossing the desert and when he got past what is now Las Vegas. On one occasion Walkara's pursuers stopped to camp for the night. While the pursuers rested and when it was dark Chief Walkara and his band went back and stole the pursuers horses.

In 1813 a gentleman came to Utah in search of his horses that had been stolen the year before by Ute Indians. He found out when he got the horses back, the Utes stole the horses then the Shoshone Indians stole the horses from the Utes and the Crows stole the horses from the Shoshone.

Chief Walkara would steal the cowboys horses in California and then take the horses up to trading forts on the Oregon-California Trail for sale to the emigrants going West. He would also trade along the Spanish Trail when the traders came through each year. There were several traders that traveled this trail. Walkara would sit on the trail and collect toll by saying "you are using our land, our grass and scaring away our game, you need to give us something for passage."

Horses were important to the Indians, because the horse gave the Indians a lot of mobility. The horse was useful for war, hunting deer, mountain sheep and other animals. If an Indian had a horse he didn't have to live on rats, mice and rattle- snakes.

The Paiute and the Goshute Indians were very good basket weavers. The Utes would occasionally ask the Paiutes if they could trade for children. Those Paiutes would then go out and steal children from other Paiutes tribes that lived away off the main trail. In this way they would have children to trade instead of trading their own children to the Utes. Sometimes the Utes would just take the children and not pay for them.

Children were worth a lot of money to the Indians and to the Spanish traders as trade goods. The Spanish traders would sell children to Spanish and Mexican families that wanted servants. Some children were also used as slaves in the silver mines. Most of the tribes throughout the West were continually raiding each other to obtain women and children.

Santa Fe is where the Santa Fe trail from Missouri ended. In Santa Fe, tools, guns and other equipment could be obtained. The Spanish Trail started near Santa Fe in Abiquiu. The trade center at the head of the Spanish Trail trading activity was Abiquiu, N.M. It was an isolated town on the border of the Mexican frontier near Santa Fe.

The overland route which the Spanish liked to use when going to California had been cut a few years earlier by the fierce Navajo Indians in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. This necessitated the traders go North around the Navajo Indian lands. The favorite route then became what is known as the Old Spanish Trail through Utah.

The Utes knew the time of year when the Spanish traders would be coming up from New Mexico and would be prepared to trade with them. One group of traders who came to Utah preferred to trade for furs. The Ute Indians did not have any furs nor did they want to trade furs. All they had for trade was Indian captives. These traders did not want to trade for captives so the Indians said, "Ok we will wipe you out and take your horses anyway." The traders managed to get away from those Indians and went over to the San Pitch Indians. The San Pitch people fled in fear because the traders were on horses and because these Indians had no horses, they were on foot and feared attacks by riders on horses. The traders then made it back to the Green River crossing where they met another group of Indians who wanted to trade a dozen children.They feared the Indians so much that they traded for the captives. When they got home to New Mexico these traders were arrested for trading with the Indians without a license and for trading for captives. This was an enforcement of the 1830 law that specified there would be no trading with Indians.

Changes came to the Indian trade when the Mormons came into Utah in 1847 and settled in Salt Lake Valley and later in Utah Valley. Utah Valley was the most fertile part of Utah and a center for the Utes. The Timpanogos Indians were there because of the fish, the water fowl and harvesting the grass that grew there and was ruled by Chief Walkara. This was the height of Walkara's power, wealth and prosperity he was an important man. He was known from California to Santa Fe.

The Mormons arrival spread US laws and the legal system into Utah. Brigham Young claimed the Territory of Deseret which included Nevada, a part of California and a part of Idaho.

After the Mormons had been in Utah for a while, they set about stopping the Spanish Traders from coming into Utah and from trading for Ute, Paiute and Goshute Indian children. Stopping the Spanish Indian trade by the Mormons was the cause of a war with Chief Walkara.

The very first week the Mormons were in Utah, the story is told of an Indian taking a boy and a girl, 12 and 14 years of age, to Salt Lake to a Mormon family, offering to trade the children for guns. When the family refused the trade the Indian took the boy and girl back to his camp. He killed the boy and then came back to the family. He offered again to sell the girl. The family accepted the trade for the girl to save her life.

Arapeen, the brother of Chief Walkara, took a little girl to a Mormon family and asked them to buy her when they refused he took the girl by her heels and smashed her head on a rock and said, "You have no heart."

In 1848 at the end of the Mexican War all of the Territory of Deseret, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona area became part of the United States and subject to the laws of the United States. A law had been passed that a Spanish trader must have a legal license to trade. This was the 1830 Trade Intercourse Act that stated, "Traders cannot interact or trade with Indians without a license to do so."

In 1851 Pedro Leon Lujan and his fellow traders traveling from Abiquiu, N.M. realized they had to have a license to trade with the Indians. Lujan had a blank license that could be filled in by someone of authority. They came to Utah to trade with the Indians for captives these traders came up as they usually did every year. The Indians were waiting for them with children to trade as they did every year. If the Indians did not trade the children the Indians did not keep the children. They would dispose of them.

In 1851 the Mormon settlements were becoming spread out, all the way up to Brigham City all through Utah Valley and four or five settlements in Sanpete down to St. George. These settlements ended up being forts.

Now to the Trial of Don Pedro Leon Lujan. Usually 20 traders would come up in a group with horses and mules to trade for children and return to Abiquiu. Some members of the group were from Taos or Santa Fe, but most were from Abiquiu. They knew Walkara, they knew his father before him.

Lujan was a prominent business man in Abiquiu. He was an active trader and was the captain of the militia. He fought in the Apache wars they had down there. He was a well to do family man. When he came up with his group of traders he had in hand a trading license and it was a blank license. Because the license wasn't filled in, this blank license was used against him in the court. When he got to Manti, Lujan decided he needed to get permission from the Governor of the Territory to trade with the Indians. He went as far as Provo looking for Brigham Young. He learns Young is on a tour to St. George. Lujan returns south to the Sevier river crossing and meets some people who tell him Young has gone to Manti. Lujan meets Brigham Young at Manti. Young refuses to sign the permission to trade. When the traders find out that they cannot trade, some of the traders return home.

It must be noted that slavery in Utah was legal and some Mormons had black slaves. However it was not legal to enslave Indians.

The authorities learn there are young Indian children and women in the traders camp. Marshall Haward was sent out to arrest the traders. He arrests 12 men the charge is, "Trading with the Indians without a license." They were taken to Cedar City and then to Salt Lake City for trial.

The problem was not the trading with the Indians. The problem was the Indian slave trade. The Indians were raiding each other for captives, which causes a military problem in Utah and the United States. Stopping the Indian slave trade was supposed to help the Indians become more peaceful.

Young testified at the trial that he refused to give Lujan a license, telling Lujan he could trade with white people but not with the Indians.

In the trial, one witness, Archuleta said, after learning they could not get a license to trade, Lujan sent most of the men with the horses, mules and trade goods back to New Mexico.

But along the way Arapeen and his band of Indians took the Spaniards horses and put a few Indian horses in their place. The traders with their horses stolen by the Indians, did not know how they would get home.

The traders then searched for their horses and tried to get them all back. The Paiutes stole and ate two of the horses. The Indian Arapeen then came into camp with five Indian children to trade. Another Indian wanted to trade six children and one squaw. The Indians threatened the traders, so the traders did not have a choice. The Indians said they could not give the horses back but would give them some children instead. The traders got stuck with the captives. It was then that the authorities arrested the traders.

This was the evidence used against the Spaniards. Evidence that they were trading with the Indians. The court said because of the evidence they broke the law. In court they are found guilty and then they were required to pay court fees. The loser paid the court fees in those days. The court then took from the Spaniards all their horses, mules and trade goods.

The Spaniards petitioned to get them back several times, but were turned down. The court also confiscated all the captives as part of the court costs. The petition stated that the captives were not slaves so they could not be chattel property. The captives are then sold as foster children or indentured servants to Mormon families.

The Spaniards were then sent back to New Mexico without horses, without mules, without buckskins after they had exhausted all of their appeals to get their property back. The Spaniards had to tramp home to New Mexico in January 1852. Lujan is unhappy about this. He then petitions through his offices in New Mexico and complains about the treatment in Utah.

He was angry about the treatment he received in Utah by the Mormons and that they had to walk home from Salt Lake through the winter snows.

The Spanish traders for a while after this event were very active in attempting to stir up the Indians against the Mormons and the whites. This anger resulted in Indian wars against the settlements.

Jones ended the discussion by describing what happened to several of the Indian captives confiscated by the court.

The Indian captives after living with the whites, in most cases, did not fit into either culture.

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