Winfield Courier
10/17/2008 12:43:00 PM

Mary Ann Wortman explains a short history of the color print of the Nez Perce Indians held by William Bottorff. Wortman made the presentation of the print to the Cowley County Historical Society before a small crowd on Oct. 10 at the museum. (Donetta Godsey/Courier)

Mary Ann Wortman and her team of local supporting historians. From l. to r. Mark Nelson, Bill Bottorff, Larry Nelson, Jim Davis, Mel Brown, Alan Lewis. Oct. 10 at the museum. (Donetta Godsey/Courier)

Historical society receives print from Wortman


Mary Ann Wortman, Arkansas City, donated one of her prized possessions to the Cowley County Historical Society on Oct. 10. The donated item is a signed color print of the May 1885 departure of the Nez Perce Indians from Arkansas City.

Below is a short summation of the history of the Nez Perce Indians as they lived in this area after being driven from their homeland in Idaho. Excerpts are from the book "History of Cowley County Kansas Volume II, The Indians," published in 1999 by Richard Kay and Mary Ann Wortman and William W. Bottorff. Information for this book was taken directly from original accounts from the Winfield Courier and the Arkansas City Traveler:

"From 1876-77, Chief Joseph's band of Nez Perce Indians were forced into battles because of the difficulties between them and white settlers in Idaho and Eastern Oregon, and the Indian Bureau. After losing several battles, the Nez Perce attempted to flee 1300 miles toward the camp of Sitting Bull in Canada, but were captured by Gen. Miles' troops. Supposedly after surrendering, Chief Joseph uttered his famous quote, 'Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.'

"Winfield Courier, Oct. 4, 1877, stated: Instead of conducting the Nez Perce captives to their homeland in Lapwai, Idaho, as Miles had promised, they were shipped like cattle to Ft. Leavenworth and placed on a swampy bottom land.

"In July 1878, the Traveler reported that the Nez Perce tribe numbering about 400 had been removed to near Baxter Springs, which had recently been occupied by the Ponca Indians. The article said that the Ponca Indians were en route from Baxter Springs to their new agency near Dean's ranch, thirty-five miles south of Arkansas City in Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). By Feb. 19, 1879, The Traveler reported that Chief Joseph's band was to settle west of the Ponca Agency at Oakland.

"During 1879 and 1880 there are many accounts of Nez Perce and other tribes trading and interacting with local residents. (In Indian Territory 42 different tribes were represented by 75,387 souls.) Flour shipments from Cowley county were made to the following Indian tribes in the Territory: Osage, Kaw, Ponca Nez Perce, Otoe and Missouria, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, Sac and Fox and Wichita Indians. On a single day in 1880 it was noted that Indians from 10 different tribes were in Arkansas City for trading. In October 1879, Chief Yellow Bull second chief of the Nez Perce gave a famous address at the Cowley County Exposition and Fair in Winfield. Many churches became involved in the plight of the Nez Perce, especially the Presbyterian Church in Arkansas City.

"Winfield Courier job office in April 20, 1882, printed a 'Memorial to the President of the United states,' from the Synod of Kansas of the Presbyterian Church, asking for the restoration of the Nez Perce Indians to their home in Idaho Territory.

"A plea printed in the Traveler, April 26, 1882, read 'The Nez Perce Indians are much interested in the efforts of the Presbyterian Synod to have them removed to their home in Idaho. In the name of God and humanity, they should be permitted to go. Joseph never signed the treaty, deeding away his lands, and duly fought as any man would have fought for his land. Besides his home, the Government took from him 1,000 horses. He was wealthy then. He is a pauper now. His band numbered nearly 1,000 souls; it numbers 320 now."

"The April 15, 1885, Traveler noted that in accordance with the provisions of the last Indian appropriation bill, Commissioner Atkins has ordered the removal of Joseph's band of Nez Perce Indians from the Territory. Some were to be sent to the Colvin Reservation, Washington Territory and the remainder returned to the Lapwai Reservation, Idaho Territory.

"Finally on May 27, 1885, the Traveler recorded that the Nez Perce mustered at the depot in Arkansas City to board seven Santa Fe emigrant cars to return to their former homes. Part of the tribe, 124 Indians, went by train to McPherson, on to Cheyenne and Ogden, then boarded another train running to Montana that carried them to within a few miles of Lapwai. The remainder of the tribe accompanied Chief Joseph as he relocated to Eastern Washington."

The original black and white picture of the Nez Perce leaving Arkansas City was printed in the June 20, 1885, issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Bottorff, of Austin, former Winfield resident, found this picture at a rare book and document show in Austin in the 1990s. In 2003 Dr. J. Diane Pearson contacted Bottorff about information found on his Web site as she was doing research for a book. Pearson teaches American Indian Studies in the Ethnic Studies Depart at the University of California, Berkeley. Pearson and Bottorff started an e-mail correspondence. Through this correspondence, Pearson discovered lots of relevant material was available from the Wortman-Bottorff book. Pearson later found the color image of the same picture in special editions of Leslie's newspaper and used the image on the back dust cover of her 2008 bookentitled "The Nez Perce in the Indian Territory - Nimiipuu Survival."

"(Pearson) has put together an amazing story that had been lost in time," said Bottorff. "Only now are the descendants of the 235 Nez Perce who left Arkansas City in 1885 able to piece together the stories passed down by their grandparents with the reality of what happened on the border of Kansas 130 years ago."

After using the image for the jacket of her book, Pearson sent it to Bottorff who then printed one on canvas for her. Pearson presented that canvas to her Nez Perce friends who had helped her research her book. Pearson also had Bottorff print off two more canvases. Pearson signed both and returned them to Bottorff as a thank-you to him and to Wortman. Bottorff then stretched the canvases and framed them, keeping one for himself and giving one to Wortman. Wortman in turn entrusted her treasured print to the Cowley County Historical Society to enable anyone who visits the museum to enjoy it.

"I wanted to give the print to the Cowley County Historical Society because they were one of the biggest contributors to distributing our books," said Wortman.

Mary Ann's husband Kay died in 1998.