The Trail of Tears...
1839 was a bad year for the Archer Wilkinson family. The Wilkinson’s had to move. Their whole community was forced to leave and travel from the Carolinas to Oklahoma, primarily on foot. They called their journey to the reservation the Trail of Tears. Their son Starr was just a baby. Archer himself was white but his wife was half Cherokee and half black. It didn’t matter, they too had to go.
There were large protests across the whole nation, not just the Cherokee's but people of all races and station of life protested the relocation of the civilized tribes to Oklahoma. But we know how history played out.
The Trail of Tears included Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, and Chickasaw Tribes.
Cherokee Art on the Web
- Cherokee Indian Art - Native American Art: Cherokee Indian art history and stories, themes include t
Cherokee indian art history and stories, themes include the Trail of Tears and other important events in Cherokee history,native american dolls and gifts,
Wilkinson Grows Up
Starr Wilkinson grew to be an unusually large man. His nearly seven-foot-tall frame "stilted" around on 18 inch feet. He measured six-feet-around at the chest. We don’t know what Starr Wilkinson ate on the reservation while growing up, but surely he ate it from the top of the stack.
Like many young men who become of age, Starr left home and set out to carve his own piece of the world. Many left the reservation because there was little opportunity there. They wanted to work, live and raise a family like anyone else.
1856 St. Joseph, Missouri. The Oregon Trail
Wilkinson had wandered off the reservation and traveled North East picking up odd jobs. He stumbled into a wagon train leaving St. Joseph, Missouri heading for Oregon Territory. Wilkinson decided the Wild West sounded good and signed on to work the train. Before long, he was well accepted. He kept his hair short, dressed like a white man, talked like a white man, and worked hard helping the train along its journey. Wilkinson soon found himself well liked and accepted by the pioneers.
Visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center's Site
Will You Marry Me?
Wilkinson seemed to impress everyone, especially one of the pioneer’s daughters amongst the many families of the train. Wilkinson liked the obvious but innocent attention; an occasional glance with a hidden smile offered him by the young admirer. The two began a cordial friendship that during the course of the trip turned into a hot, wagon-burning secret-love-affair. Starr Wilkinson was in love and decided to ask her father for her hand.
The wagon-train was now in the vicinity of what was originally intended to be named New Jerusalem, Idaho. As they unpacked for the evening, Starr approached the father of his betrothed and asked for her hand in marriage.
He made a slight miscalculation in judgment. Starr found out, that while he was well accepted within the wagon train, it wasn't as well as he had thought. Apparently, he had forgotten that he was still an "Indian" and the young lady's father had no problem putting Starr Wilkinson in his place. His daughter would not be allowed to participate in an interracial marriage with him.
I have to imagine how Wilkinson felt. Here is a man 7 feet tall, wide as two people, staring down at some little pip-squeak telling him, how it is. Of course, everyone was pretty-much a pip-squeak to Wilkinson.
You Thought a White Girl Would Marry You?
While the father was more kind, another young man named Hart also fancied the young woman and resorted to taunting Wilkinson. He publicly humiliated him, wanting to know how it was he thought a white-girl would love a big, dumb “half-breed"?
( Historical accounts state that Hart called Wilkinson various racial slurs as well. Being a half-breed Cherokee myself and having black nieces and nephews, I feel for Wilkinson and I don't care to quote those words in my writing. Likewise, the reader should know that Hart's racial comments contributed to the level of Wilkinson's anger. )
Naturally, the young woman turned on Wilkinson to save her own reputation. She claimed her interest in Wilkinson was a gross misunderstanding on his part.
One would think that when someone is 7 feet tall and six feet round about the chest, the only stupid person is the one calling him hateful, racist names and taunting him. He was then told it would be best for him to leave from among them. Wilkinson left, but he carried inside him the sting of racial hatred and rejection.
Wilkinson traveled South to the Snake River. Somewhere between the river and the wagon train, Wilkinson’s burning rejection was more than he could mentally bear. Wilkinson was about to lose his composure in a very big way. As he approached the river, he spotted a party of 10 Shoshoni men camped there. They immediately jumped on their horses and rushed to attack him. Careful what you ask for...
Learn more about Bird's of Prey in Idaho!
Hello Chief Nampa, Goodbye Starr Wilkinson
One historical account of the encounter reads: "I guess I am a powerful man," recounted Wilkinson. "I had 10 braves on me and I still wouldn't go down". He pulled everyone of those men, one at a time off his back and beat them into submission. He made a fist and beat all 10 of the Shoshoni men until they stayed down and couldn't get up.
He pulled his knife and told them he was going to kill them, but they cried out if he would let them live, they would swear their allegiance to him. They hailed him as Chief Nampa. At the time Wilkinson had no idea what "Nampa" meant, nor did he care. The Shoshone (sho-sho-nee ) band of men had joined him and he was already forming his own plans. They waited for the appropriate time, snuck into the night and killed the entire wagon train including the girl he loved.
Wilkinson’s raiding party soon grew to over 30 men with Wilkinson calling the shots. For the next 20 some years Wilkinson became known as Chief Nampa, terror of the Idaho gold and silver boom. He and his men robbed every wagon train, every rider, and every passerby they found primarily between IdahoCity, Boise and SilverCity. People who fought back, died; many who did not, sometimes lived to tell the story of their encounter.
Cherokee Online Dictionary - Learn some Native American Language!
Check out the Shoshone Online Dictionary
- Shoshoni Online Dictionary
This site is an online Shoshone to English Dictionary. Give it go, learn some Shoshone. It is a hard language to learn, but was fun to learn about. Look up the word Nampia, see if it really means what this story says!
For as long as you can remember, you have known Starr Wilkinson... as Bigfoot.
In the Shoshone language the literal translation of the word Nampia is foot. However, in their culture at the time, if they named you Nampia, or foot, it was because there was something very substantial or different about your foot. For example, it was really big. The Shoshone people called Wilkinson Chief Bigfoot and it spread. Whites who understood the inference called him Chief Bigfoot. In fact, most people only knew him as Chief Bigfoot.
Lawmen and hired guns would now and then come looking for Bigfoot. They found him on many occasions too. He always managed to get away. Eye-witness accounts of the day claim Chief Nampa had an enormous stride and could run cross-country faster than a man on a horse.
Famous 1967 Patterson Bigfoot Video
Before Patterson's 1967 Video
Before Patterson's 1967 Video, the legend of Chief Nampai had been handed down from generation to generation, father to son, campfire to campfire as the Legend of Bigfoot for nearly 85 years. Patterson's video had long been debated until the man who wore the suit recently confessed to wearing it. (You can look that up. I won't link it here.)
Hunting Chief Nampa... A Bounty on His Head.
In another historical account a man named John Wheeler and two others spotted Chief Bigfoot’s tracks in the snow and tracked him down for the sizable reward. They were all on horses when they spotted him running on foot with two other Shoshone men. They believe they shot all three men as they ran, but only the two smaller men fell. Chief Bigfoot kept running. He ran to a cliff over-looking the mighty Snake River and dove in. The men watched as Chief Bigfoot swam across the river as though it were nothing. He taunted them from across the river and started a fire just out of gun-shot range.
The men rode their horses 3 miles down river to the ferry, crossed the river and came back up river 3 miles. When Chief Bigfoot saw them approaching, he ran and jumped in the river again and swam to the other side, this time losing them for good.
Silver City, 1882
In 1882, Wilkinson’s luck ran out. He got cornered and shot full of holes before he could get away. They tied him up and hauled him toward Silver City. Wilkinson was dying, but even then he seemed to be in control over when exactly he would die.
Learn about Idaho's History
- Historic Silver City Idaho
Historic Silver City, Idaho. Home of the historic Idaho Hotel, this surviving ghost town offers a wealth of history that carved America out of the wilderness.
"I have done all the mischief I can, and I am glad of it."
A news-reporter caught wind that the famous Chief Nampa had been caught and came as fast as he could. He sat and completed a two hour interview before Wilkinson died. Everyone who knew Starr Wilkinson had died in the wagon train over 20 years ago. As far as anyone knew, he was Chief Nampa of the Shoshone. However, Chief Nampa confessed to being Starr Wilkinson and told the whole of his last 20 plus years. He had stolen from everyone he caught passing by. He had murdered for money and revenge against a cruel and rejecting world. He confessed in perfect English.
One time he tried to let it go and live again. He took a wife and they had a son, but she was killed and his son was taken captive. He never saw him again. He robbed and murdered for revenge since then, but it was never enough.
Before he died, Wilkinson stated that somewhere in the Owyhee Mountains of Idaho, is a vast fortune of gold, silver and jewels; Wilkinson’s share of years of plunder. Hidden in a cave or under rocks, is anyone's guess, Chief Nampa took its location to the grave. In his last breath he said, "I have done all the mischief I can, and I am glad of it."
The Mystery of Nampa....
In 1885, three years after Wilkinson’s death,, Alexander and Hanna Duffes homesteaded 160 acres along the Oregon Trail seeking to fulfill their dream of building a Christian town. To get the project started, the couple named their business the NampaLand and Improvement Company. Alexander envisioned a community inhabited with Christian people, living and walking together in the faith they shared.
According to history, Duffes refused to sell any building lots to anyone looking to build a saloon due to his religious conviction. Saloon's meant card games, gambling, whiskey, and saloon girls; things that could take a Christian farmer or ranch-hand off the straight and narrow path. Therefore, there would be no saloons. The new town was to be named New Jerusalem. However, the name did not stick; before long it was known by the name of Nampa.
Mysterious Nampa Water Tower
Where Did the Name Come From?
Today the people of Nampa, Idaho still enjoy a strong Christian community from its intended roots. Today we can identify three possibilities for the origins of the name Nampa. Which do you believe is the most likely origin?
Nampa Origin Poll
Learn about Nampa history at the local museum.
Welcome to the Canyon County Historical Society and Museum. Canyon County History and more!
Wilkinson's Final Revenge...
Where Nampa got its name…no one knows for sure. Somewhere in the Owyhee Mountains just south of Nampa is a fortune in gold, silver and jewels. Where it is, no one knows for sure about that either.
Jack Mervin on February 06, 2018:
This was always one of my dad's favorite stories to tell us when we were riding horses in the Owyhees, and fishing the Snake River
cynthia on August 30, 2016:
Theres a legend told of an indian man who stands upon a hill, it's said that he'll watch over his land til the rivers and streams stand still...
Linda Palladino on September 14, 2015:
It was suggested that NAMPA is an acronym for North America Meat Packing Association.
orion6972 on January 01, 2013:
Read Thunder over the Ochoco. It talks in depth about Starr Wilkerson aka Bigfoot aka Nampa aka okolux. He was a sub chief to Has No Horse and Paulina in the Paviotso Confederacy. It was an alliance between the
Western Shoshone(Snake) and parts of the Ute and Northern Paiute tribes to ebb the flow of white encroachment on their lands. Washaki(the Gourd Rattler) and his Eastern Shoshoni opposed this.
gracie on November 25, 2012:
stupid hes real
zeke on May 26, 2012:
Good story, I enjoyed it. While researching the Owyhees have you run across the history of General Cook, of Civil War fame, and his journey through the Owyhees on the ION? (Idaho-Oregon-Nevada borders.)
Arlee Bird on May 24, 2012:
That is some pretty interesting information. Never heard that story, but I believe I've been to Nampa, Idaho.
Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on December 04, 2011:
Fascinating story. The smartest man I ever worked for was part Cherokee who came in the 1930s to Flint, Michigan, with a sixth grade education from a sharecropper farm in Georgia and became a vice president of General Motors. His name was Earl R. Bramblett.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on October 11, 2011:
Your comments are very similar to my research. While working on this piece I called the museum "up there" in Nampa, Canada and spoke a woman who operates the facility. She confirmed with me that the Cree word Nampa means " the meeting place" but as in all languages, its exact inference can change in the context in which its used in a sentence. My research here in Idaho, in regards to Nampa, Idaho, shows that the founder was from Canada and had a close working relationship and friendship with a Cree Indian in Canada. I believe the man's name was Gladu - pronouced Glad-yoo, but I wrote the article almost 5 years ago and my memory is not that great.
Recently I have been studying the history of the Owyhee Mountains of Southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon. I look forward to some great hubs on many subjects like cattle kings, Indian Wars, mining camps, and moonshining! Thanks for the comments. - Harlan
Brent Schapansky on September 27, 2011:
I live in Nampa, Alberta, Canada, up north in the Peace River area. Our little Nmapa (Pop. 380 +/-) has a history with the rasilroad as well. Used to be the watering stop for trains before descending into the Peace River valley and again after climbing back up the hill. I have heard that the name is indeed Cree and means something like "the place" or "the meeting place".
mib56789 on August 31, 2011:
Excellent HUB, Harlan! I found you through a comment you made at another HUB. The writer of the HUB I was reading said you were quite the independent thinker; and I might add that you very good at expressing your thoughts backed up with facts. You wasted words on that "crandall woman" though. I don't really think she was interested in your response.
"Winsome" commented it was a "Nice stretch". Well duh! The guy was 7 feet tall. You had to stretch it to make it fit. (Corny joke. Sorry.)
Do you plan on writing a book? This is seriously good material. It see award-winning documentary or movie written all over it.
Last point and I'm done. I didn't participate in the polls because I didn't want to prove once and for all how ignorant I really am. If I voted you would have the proof on record. The history of the native American Indian is foggy. Why clear the fog up for my historical record? I'm not voting. Keep it foggy! (Smile!)
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on June 23, 2011:
Thank you for the read. I'll look into your series too.
I get some critique from local historians with a different view. Some completely discount Chief Nampa as pure imagination. However, the fact is, all this information is available in books from the Nampa Libray and old copies on microfilm of old newspapers from the day. I think some of the critics need to spend a little more time researching and reading, but all opinions on it are most welcome. I spent a couple months researching this article. How much of it is true falls on the writers of the era. We'll probably never know the whole of the truth, but its a fun and mysterious story.
- best wishes,
Samuel E. Richardson from Salt Lake City, Utah on June 18, 2011:
An eye-opener and thorough! I think I'll link this to my Native Am. Series.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on June 16, 2011:
Did you feel the story glorified him? That was not my intention, rather to simply tell the story. Perhaps the story alone does. I never considered it that way, but I agree, there is no glory in his deeds of rape, murder and thievery.
Thank you for your comment.
ruffridyer from Dayton, ohio on June 15, 2011:
I understand his anger. He was accepted by the wagon train because he was a good worker not out of any respect as a person. However killing everyone, including the girl he supposedly loved. I really don't feel we should honor or glorify such a man.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on May 19, 2011:
I am honored. I think your suggestion of a movie, is an awesome idea, any chance you know Stephen King? I think this would make an awesome movie if done right. I will seek out your Goyakla and see to the perspective of which you refer. Thank you for your comments, they are appreciated.
Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on May 19, 2011:
Harlan, I am so glad our paths have crossed. I loved this story and the way you tell it draws me in to such an extent that I felt I was watching a movie. I didn't want it to end because I suppose I admire men like Nampa. I have also written a series of hubs under the name Goyakla which might help you understand why I hold men like Nampa in such high regard. This hub is definitely voted up and awesome and you my friend have got yourself an ardent follower.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on April 30, 2011:
Thank you very much for your comment, and I accept it as a friend with much grace. However, please allow me to temper my comments with the confession that I personally studied the issue at great length from books in the Nampa library and local newspapers dating to that time. While it is possible some of my resources are indeed inflated, I assure you, all of my references are based upon the documented historic record and in no way fabricated by me in the name of creative writing. I have encountered this assertion several times and while I am not offended, I do ask people to understand that all that I have written is verifiable from resources in the Nampa City Library.
- Thank you for reading,
- Your humble servant
Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on April 15, 2011:
Nice stretch Harlan. Full of just the right mix of fact, fable and superb storytelling. My ancestors (1/8th Creek) faced the trail of tears and some stayed in Alabama. My uncle lived in Nampa so it was fun reading with a connection.
There are racial injustices, property travesties, and just plain ignorance to abound in these stories, but there are monumental instances of grace and valor on both sides. The idea of cold-blooded revenge is not a pretty one for white or Indian alike and we are all Americans now and like Jesus' story of the men who all got the same wages for widely varying hours worked applies here.
Native or not, we are all brothers and sisters, we all battle injustice, small mindedness and forked tongues wherever it exists and the truth, procured by admirable research such as yours, is one of the ways it is done. Thanks for a great read.
Btw, the real "Big Foot" has been spotted by a "lake" in So Cal, running from the "heat" in Florida, and is rumored to be nursing his big feet with some druids in the East these days. Over seven feet, 325 lbs and a shoe size of 23, he is big as a shack--hence his nickname. =:)
Amanda Severn from UK on April 15, 2011:
This was a great story, Harlan. I remember reading about a race of native American giants here on HubPages a few years back. I wonder if Chief Nampa was descended from them? Apparently the oversized bones of these people turn up from time to time, and some are in museums.
Eiddwen from Wales on April 15, 2011:
I really enjoyed this one and I rate it up and up.
Thank you for sharing,
Bill Russo from Cape Cod on April 03, 2011:
Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoags gets the blame/credit
for the Europeans taking over North America. He was the great Sachem who taught them in the early 1600s, to grow food and how to survive in the new world. After he died, the Europeans broke all the treaties and almost exterminated the tribe. His son, King Phillip cursed the land and the Europeans and today, 350 years later, the curse is still in effect in the Bridgewater Triangle where ghosts, bigfoot, satanic murders, and hairy creatures abound.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on April 02, 2011:
I so admire your positive pserspectives Hattie - you are beautiful inside, way beyond gender and romance, it is about innocence and pure love. It seems to flow from you. I am so glad to meet you. Thank you for that. And so that someone reading this will know - I say this from reading many of your hubs and comments within this community - it is a drawing conclusion from many sources, not just this one. You are a such a kind and inspirational spirit.
- best Wishes
Hattie from Europe on April 02, 2011:
Yeah I did a term paper in cultural diversity a few years back on Native americans and african americans and what white man did. I was surprised to learn that they actually did live in peace at one time. It infuriates me to this day, as I have always cherished the values of the Native American Culture. They were Very beautiful people!
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on April 02, 2011:
I first felt the sting of racism about the age of 17. I look white, but I am half Native American. At this age a man I knew told me, the only good Indian was a dead Indian. I knew he didn't know my lineage, and I knew he wouldn't have said it if he knew, which made it burn even more!!!
Funny thing is before that day - we were equals in each others eyes. Interesting...
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on April 02, 2011:
DRobinson, Thank you so much for the kind words. I am inspired.
glassvisage, I am happy to have readers like yourself enjoying my work it is a compliment. Thank you.
Hattie from Europe on April 02, 2011:
Love these kinds of stories! Never heard it before, but again the racism and dsicrimination speaks! Hopefully someday there will be none, but so far it prevails!
glassvisage from Northern California on April 02, 2011:
A fascinating history complete with photos and descriptions that really bring this man's story to life. Thank you for sharing this information with us here at HubPages.
DRobinson63 on March 29, 2011:
Really enjoyed your hub, can't wait for your next one.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on March 29, 2011:
I agree mquee. I often wonder what America would be like had 200 years ago, every immigrant was greeted with a hand shake and a level playing field. How great of a nation would we be then?
- Thanks for commenting
mquee from Columbia, SC on March 28, 2011:
Excellent narrative. I enjoy reading about all cultures and I also have respect for all cultures. It is interesting how some cultures seem to clash while others seem to meld, to some degree.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on March 20, 2011:
Thank you so much, I am glad you liked the story.
Barbara from Stepping past clutter on March 20, 2011:
You have a wonderful way of weaving a story. I feel as if I have been sitting at your feet beside a roaring campfire, enchanted. Thanks for sharing the legend of Nampa: part myth, part history, but all fascinating!
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on March 11, 2011:
Thank you sir, glad to see you in this neck of the woods. Next time you ride through, drop me a line, we'll grab some coffee and spin a yarn or two.
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 11, 2011:
Great story, and I've been in most of those places!
Up and awesome!
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on March 10, 2011:
I have that book in my collection, I read it years ago, but I don't remember that. I will look for it. I would imagine it is quite possible for more than one Native American to be named Big Foot. I know a few people I could name Big Foot right now. One friend of mine has a size 16 foot.
Thank you for the tip.
ava on March 09, 2011:
big foot...murderd at wounded knee...an old ancsester..native american a true living human. not a fable..!!! read " bury my hart at wounded knee. it's not a fairy tail. it happened,,he is photographted in history books....a murdered soul.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on March 05, 2011:
I believe as a people, we American's are not so good with our history. While many Native American's are famous, I contend more people know about Bigfoot. They just never knew Bigfoot was actually a Native American, instead of some mysterious forest ape-man.
Katie McMurray from Westerville on March 04, 2011:
How cool, I have a "What are Americans Like" hub setting non published as it's a work in progress. I needed a little background on American Indians as they are the true Americans indeed.
This satisfied my hunger for a bit of Indian history. The entire big foot thing is too much for me to swallow as most commonly told, but this theory makes perfect sense.
This is very interesting. I enjoyed the story about Wilkinson and had no idea Wilkinson was Americas most famous Native American.
Now that you've helped connect the dots it makes sense why Wilkinson or Big Foot would be the most famous Indian.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on March 02, 2011:
Dear Crandall Woman, some, but not all of my research was done from history books at the Nampa Public Library. Some came from phone calls I made to Nampa, Canada to the local history museum. I spoke to a woman named Ardett, if you would like to call her and ask her. Some of my research came from microfilm of old newspapers from Homedale which were printed in the era. Granted everything reported here was based on someone else's historical writing or testimony in one way or another.
You could go to the Shoshone online Dictionary and look up the word Nampa as I did.
You could talk to the Nampa, Canada Historian and learn that Nampa in Cree means "wonderful place to live," in context of naming a villiage; you could also learn the origin of Nampa, Canada, Duffes founder of Nampa, Idaho and his affiliation with the Cree Tribes of Canada. You could learn how Duffes had originally intended to name Nampa - New Jerusalem after his Christian faith.
Caxton Printers in Caldwell have some old books around they printed back in the stone age that talk about Star Wilksenson.
I read the original newspaper clipping of Chief Nampai's confession to being Star Wilkenson, and mention of it again in one of Caxton's books.
I know when I was doing my research I ran into a few people who felt it was all made-up. I supposed that it could be made up. "They say," newpapers often made up or built up stories about outlaws during those times.
Maybe you will write a hub exposing the truth on this story. I will give you a link from this one to yours.
As soon as you stop laughing... maybe you could get started writing...?
- Thank you for the comment!
crandall woman on March 02, 2011:
This story is just another of the fabricated stories written by someone who researched nothing. Told it like they wanted to make good reading. It is so far from the truth it is laughable.
Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 26, 2011:
You are quite right. If we all do our part, the world will be a better place.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on February 25, 2011:
Thank you for your comment. I have struggled with those thoughts too. But I have concluded, the Europeans are all dead and buried. Those alive today, had nothing to do with anything, and that includes the "Indian" peoples alive today too. I think our best and perhaps only option is to get involved in what we have and work to make it great for everyone. I think our ancestors would want that, and lets face it, we do live in the greatest nation on earth with the best government ever devised by man in the history of the world, its not perfect, but it is still all those things. It can only get better if we make it that way.
Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 24, 2011:
Great story. I enjoyed reading about Chief Nampa. I have Choctaw ancestry and the more I read about the trail of tears, the more I want to reclaim the land from the Europeans.
Harlan Colt (author) from the Rocky Mountains on February 22, 2011:
LoL, Thanks Joni,
I think you're the only one who has read the whole thing so far. We take what we can get aye... lol. I still intend to answer your question on the Bible Versions. Working on it now.
Joni Douglas on February 22, 2011:
Excellent work Harlan.