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Creeks Who Never Miss Their Engagements to be Shot

Execution of Indians - New Oxford Item, 17 Dec 1897

A Point of Honor With Them and Their Families to Be on Hand at the Time Set for Their Taking Off - Case of Walla Tonka, the Ball Player

Zack Mulhall, the most extensive farmer in the Indian Territory came up to St. Louis the other day on business connected with his stock interests says a letter to the New York Sun. He left his 10,000 acres of wheat land, much of which was planted in dollar wheat last season, to look after the sale of a lot of cattle, and incidentally to observe the movements of a stable of horses on which he has been making and losing money by turns for several months. While he was in St. Louis Colonel Zack, as nearly all the Southwest calls him, stopped talking about the farming future of his part of the world long enough to discuss the approaching execution of Walla Tonka, the Creek Indian who has been going about the country as a member of a baseball team in face of the fact that he is under sentence of death, and may be executed at any time in the district by the legal authorities. Wall Tonka was released on parole in order that he might help to win a ball game at Kansas City against a team of college players that had long been a rival of the Indian club of which Wall Tonka was an important player.

Walla Tonka's situation did not seem odd to Colonel Zack. Indeed, he was astonished that a thing so commonplace to him should have been considered worthy of sending about the country as a piece of news. He said that it was a very common occurrence among the Creek Indians for a man to receive a death sentence, and at the pleasure of the court resume regular duties and continue at them until the date of execution. On that day the convicted man, unaccompanied by an officer, never failed to be at the execution ground in good season to receive the death bullet. What was more remarkable, nobody of his kin ever interposes an objection. His squaw might shed a few tears over it, but that was all.

It seems that there is some tradition that instructs the full-blood Indian along these extraordinary lines. There is a well-rooted belief that the buck who balks at the conditions imposed upon him by the constituted authority of the tribe is unfit to traverse the happy hunting grounds. So he walks alone to the place of execution. He chats with his friends, eats heartily, and if there is anything to drink, he drinks. There is a line of men, all sure shots, either with bows or with modern guns, and they point their weapons at him. But the shot does not come from any one of these. There is, somewhere else, a sure-shot Indian who sends the fatal missile when the condemned man is not looking for it. Sometimes the gun is fired from a tent, so that the relatives of the dead Indian have no way of knowing the identity of the executioner.

Not so very long ago there was a brave missing on the day of his execution. Later he was found with a broken leg and half starved in a ravine. In trying to reach the execution ground he was ariding at a rapid gait across the country and his pony fell on the young Indian. When he was brought into the village there was a general suspicion among the enemies of his family that he was not clean strain, and that the breaking of a leg was an intentional effort to escape punishment, whereupon the brave insisted upon a speedy resentence and execution. This followed at once and with his broken leg the buck was led forward and shot.

Colonel Zack Mulhall says that the Indians who were sentence to death by hanging by the late Judge Parker, at Fort Smith, were never in the slightest degree affected by the fact that they were about to die. The fearless manner in which they went to the scaffold was proof of that. But they loathed the manner of death. They never felt a pride in going by the white man's strangulation route. To die by bullet or arrow is an honorable ending. Yet many an Indian dangled at rope's end by order of Judge Parker, who will one day be written down as one of the greatest ministers for good that the Southwest has ever had. He sent scores of men to the gallows, but the very vigor of his method, sometimes cruel to all appearances, tended to prevent crime in that wickedest portion of the country.

Probably no better proof of the Creek Indian's devotion to the tradition of his people has ever been given than is furnished by an instance in which some circumstance or other kept a sentenced buck away from the execution ground when the time came for shooting. The young fellow was well liked in the tribe, and for that reason there was a great crowd present to witness his execution - a delicate compliment to the condemned amn. The hour arrived and the Indian was not there. One minute past the time he rushed through the lines and took his place. There was a low grunt of approval from the assembled host. Rifles cracked and the young man fell dead. One minute later a young girl rushed forward, and throwing herself across the body of the dead man, exclaimed that it was not the accused who had been shot, but his younger brother, who resembled him in many ways. She was the betrothed of the dead man, and of course recognized him where the others, under the peculiar circumstances, did not. The younger brother, to preserve the onor of his people, and knowing that the condemned man could not, or would not keep his faith, had rushed to take the absent one's place. Later the other man was duly executed, whether honorably or not cannot be told. This story is related by the Indians who do not as a rule speak on such subjects as death and justice and tradition.

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