Among the manifold requests put forward by the refugees, none was so insistent, none so dolefully sincere, as the one for means to return home. It is a mistake to suppose that the Indian, traditionally laconic and stoical, is without family affection and without that noblest of human sentiments, love of country. The United States government has, indeed, proceeded upon the supposition that he is destitute of emotions, natural to his more highly civilized white brother, but its files are full to overflowing with evidences to the contrary. Everywhere among them the investigator finds the exile’s lament. The red man has been banished so often from familiar and greatly loved scenes that it is a wonder he has taken root anywhere and yet he has. Attachment to the places where the bones of his people lie is with him the most constant of experiences and his cry for those same sacred places is all the stronger and the more sorrowful because it has been persistently ignored by the white man.
The southern Indians had not been so very many years in the Indian Territory, most of them not more than the span of one generation, but Indian Territory was none the less home. If the refugees could only get there again, they were confident all would be well with them. In Kansas, they were hungry, afflicted with disease, and dying daily by the score. Once at home
[Footnote 193: And yet they did have their amusements. Their days of exile were not filled altogether with bitterness. Coffin, in a letter to the (cont.)]
all the ills of the flesh would disappear and lost friends be recovered. The exodus had separated them cruelly from each other. There were family and tribal encampments within the one large encampment, it is true, but there were also widely isolated groups, scattered indiscriminately across two hundred miles of bleak and lonely prairie, and no amount of philanthropic effort on the part of the government agents could mitigate the misery arising therefrom or bring the groups together. The task had been early abandoned as, under the circumstances, next to impossible; but the refugees went on begging for its accomplishment, notwithstanding that they had neither the physical strength nor the means to render any assistance themselves. Among them the wail of the bereaved vied in tragic cadence with the sad inquiry for the missing.
When Dole arrived at Leavenworth the latter part of January, representatives of the loyal Indians interviewed him and received assurances, honest and well-meant at the time given, that an early return to Indian Territory would be made possible. Lane, likewise interviewed, was similarly encouraging and had every reason to be; for was not his Indian brigade in process of formation? Much cheered and even exhilarated in spirit, the Indians went away to endure and to wait. They had great confidence in Lane’s power to accomplish; but, as the days and the weeks passed and he did not come, they grew tired of waiting. The waiting