Every year the Companions and friends meet at some significant historical site for presentations and tours. We have conducted 31 such assemblies at such locations as Abilene, TX; Fort Sill, OK; Billings, MT; Oklahoma City, OK; Sheridan, WY; Fort Davis, TX; Tucson, AZ; Bismarck, ND; Jackson Hole, WY; Las Cruces, NM; and Fort Collins, CO. The presentations are by preeminent historians and scholars, preservationists, re-enactors, and others who love the subject and the company. Join up as a Companion now to take advantage of membership savings and reservations status.
The 32nd Annual OIW Assembly
Salt Lake City, Utah, September 15-18, 2011
Saints, Soldiers, Warriors & Rails
Our headquarters was in Salt Lake City for our 32nd OIW Assembly. Among our destinations were Fort Bridger, WY, Fort Douglas, the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Camp Floyd, and the Bear River Battlefield, ID. To see a few photos from the conference click Here
The 31st Annual OIW Assembly
Great Falls, Montana, September 9-12, 2010
The 1877 Nez PerceWar -- Montana Campaign
Our headquarter was in Great Falls, Montana, for our 31st OIW Assembly at the Best Western Heritage Inn. Among our destinations were Fort Shaw, Fort Assiniboine, Bear's Paw Battlefield, Fort Benton with dinner at the Union Hotel, the Charley Russell Museum and the Lewis & Clark Museum. Art, battles, forts and first class guides and lecturers made this a memorable meeting. Jerry Greene and Greg Michno were our tour guides.
The 30th Annual OIW Assembly
Austin, Texas, October 22 -25, 2009
Texas Rangers, Outlaws & Indian Wars:
The West of Robert M. Utley
This organization celebrated its 30th assembly by honoring the nation's premier Indian Wars historian -- Robert M. Utley. We met in Austin with our usual outstanding speakers setting the stage for the assembly. In addition, we heard from Bob Utley and Charles M. Robinson, III. Bob was with us on Friday as we travel to Waco to visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum and then toured restored Fort Parker, where Comanche raiders captured Cynthia Ann Parker -- who become mother to Quanah Parker, the Comanche war chief.
Saturday's tour took us to one of the nation's most historic cities -- San Antonio. There we explored Fort Sam Houston, home to Mackenzie, Pershing, MacArthur, and even, for a short stay, Geronimo. Of course, there was the Alamo and the I-Max movie, Alamo -- The Price of Freedom. Lunch was at the Buckhorn Saloon and its new Texas Ranger Museum. Dinner was on your own and many members toured the famous San Antonio River Walk.
The last day was spent in Austin, beginning with a tour of Custer's headquarters building during his stay in Texas. We visited the site of the Battle of Plum Creek, and then returned to Austin to tour the incredible state museum, "The Story of Texas" and see the most important graveyard in Texas.
We ended our 30th annual assembly with a banquet address by Bob Utley.
The 29th Annual OIW Assembly
Sheridan, Wyoming, September 18-21, 2008
The Bozeman Trail - Road to Little Big Horn
A decade before the disaster at the Little Big Horn, on a lonely hill not that far away, occurred a previous disaster for the U.S. Army -- the Fetterman Massacre. This tragedy was played out right on the road that would lead to the 1876 confrontation -- the Bozeman Trail. That trail, and its impact on the future Indian Wars, was the subject of the 2008 OIW Assembly. Our chief guide was Sterling Finn who was assisted by Greg Michno.
The list of speakers included Mike Koury, "The Bozeman Trail - Road to Little Big Horn," Ron Nichols, "Mackenzie's Last Fight," John Monnett, "The Fight at Crazy Woman," and Michael Hughes, "The Reason Why." The keynote speaker at the Saturday banquet was Jack McDermott.
On Friday, September 19, we visited Crazy Woman Crossing (considered the most dangerous spot on the Bozeman Trail, Fort Reno and Cantonment Reno. After lunch on the road, we journeyed to Buffalo, Wyoming, to see Fort McKinney and the Gatchell Museum.
On Saturday, September 20, we had a continental breakfast at the New Sheridan County Historical Society Museum. Then we headed off to some of Wyoming's roughest country to the site of Mackenzie's Last Fight. This privately owned battlefield, miles from encroaching civilization, may be America's most pristine Indian Wars' site. Lunch was at the battlefield followed by a tour by the ranch owners, Ken and Cheri Graves. The closing banquet was held that evening in Sheridan.
On Sunday, September 21, there was a no-cost tour, by private cars, to Fort Phil Kearny, the Wagon Box Fight site and the Fetterman Fight site.
The 28th Annual OIW Assembly
Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 27 – 30, 2007
Kit Carson’s Southwest
Bob Utley called Kit Carson the greatest of the mountain men, but he was much, much more. During his lifetime, he fought almost every major Indian tribe in the western United States – Paiute, Comanche, Apache, Navajo, Shoshone, Blackfoot, Sioux, Arapahoe, Ute, and many others. Carson rose to the rank of brevet brigadier general in the US Army – the only illiterate person to ever reach this rank. He might have been illiterate, but he spoke fluent Spanish, and could converse in several Indian languages. He made his home in Taos – one of the most fabled towns of the American west. We visited that home, plus Carson’s home in Rayado. Our itinerary included the town created by Lucian Maxwell – he of the famous Maxwell Land Grant – Cimarron. We saw the hotel built by the chef to both General Grant and President Lincoln. Across the street from the hotel was the mill where Carson recruited the Ute scouts who would accompany him on his last fight, as he narrowly averted disaster at the first battle of Adobe Walls.
We visited the very room where governor Charles Bent was killed by the Pueblo Indians, and saw the ruins of Turley’s Mill, home of the famous Taos Lightning! We went from Albuquerque to Taos, Cimarron, Las Vergas (NM) to Glorietta Battlefield, Pecos National Monument to Santa Fe and back to Albuquerque. For the first time in our 28 years of assemblies, this was a traveling trip. Luxurious buses, terrific guides, and great sites – that was the 28th Annual Assembly of the OIW.
The 27th Annual OIW Assembly
Abilene, TX, Sept. 28-30, 2006
Texas Forts Trail Conference
From James Bowie to "Cump" Sherman, by way of Ranald Mackenzie – that's the promise of the 2006 annual assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars. We’ll see Forts Concho, Richardson, Griffin, Phantom Hill and McKavett. You can stand in the very doorway that Jim Bowie stood in as he carved his name – still visible – after an incredible fight with Tonkawa Indians. We'll visit the site of the Warren Wagon Train massacre, which brought on the Red River War of 1874.
Michael Hughes calls this "... the most dangerous prairie in Texas." Both the Chisholm Trail and the Butterfield Stage Route crossed the Salt Creek here. In a ten-year period, the Elm Creek Comanche Raid, the battle of the Little Washita, the Little Salt River Fight, the Salt Creek Fight, the Rock Creek Station Raid, Britton Johnson's Turtle Hall fight, all took place here.
In addition to Neil Mangum, we had Greg Michno as a tour guide. Michael O'Keefe related the tale of "Humpy" Jackson who got on the wrong side of Ranald Mackenzie. Speakers included Sandy Barnard, Michael Hughes and Bob Bluthardt, director of Fort Concho. We had a grand evening in the Frontier Texas Museum of Abilene. This twelve million dollar sate of the art facility was host to us for a private tour of the museum, drinks and dinner.
We stayed at the MCM Elegante Suites in Abilene a true suites type hotel -- each suite consisted of two rooms and included a full breakfast and happy hour cocktails every evening.
There was an optional informal tour on Sunday, October 1, 2006, taken in private cars. South of Abilene about 50 miles is Fort Chadbourne which is in the midst of being restored by a private foundation. There was much to see and we had a personally guided tour.
The 26th Annual OIW Assembly
Fort Sill, Oklahoma, August 25-28, 2005
The Fort Sill Assembly
Nearly 50 people turned out for the 26th Annual Assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars, held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. If you weren’t among them, you really missed out. Our speakers gave outstanding presentations. The facilities were as good as we’ve ever had – the Officer’s Club was the home of our presentations, one lunch and two incredible dinners – would you believe a New York strip steak with a pork loin! The second banquet was all you could eat barbecue – four kinds of meat.
Towana Spivey, Director/Curator of the Fort Sill National Landmark and Museum, shared with us his encyclopedic knowledge about the fort and the area. We went from pre-white man conflict between rival tribes in the area to the only nuclear cannon to ever fire an atomic shell- the famous Atomic Annie. We were shown uniforms (among the most complete collections in the country), arms and even a 7th Cavalry guidon taken at the Little Big Horn.
Our tour covered the “old” post – Fort Sill is the only post in the country with two parade grounds and two flagpoles. Many of the buildings are restored and house individual museums. Fort Sill was home to the Buffalo Soldiers as well as the "L troop" experiment. "L" troops were Indian enlisted soldiers, not scouts. Hugh L. Scott commanded "L" troop of the 7th Cavalry while at Fort Sill. Descendents at the post keep alive the proud heritage.
In the armory, in addition to weapons, Towana gave us a look at the priceless collection of Indian artifacts owned by the museum. The public is seldom allowed to view these items – we are deeply in Towana’s debt.
Of course we visited the grave site of Geronimo where we were given not only a tour of the many famous Indian gravesites, but some wonderful stories about Geronimo told by Towana. No trip to Fort Sill would be complete without a visit to the Indian Arlington. In the middle of the post sits a cemetery that is the final resting place of Cynthia Ann Parker, her son Quanah, Satanta and many other notable Indian warriors.
The two off-post trips were equally memorable. The first day we went to the Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum to see the Joe Grandee exhibit. Joe’s collection of arms and equipment of the Indian fighting army is among the very best and certainly is the best presented such collection. There were many other
delights there - our visit was much too short.
With Neil Mangum and Bob Rae as guides, we visited Fort Reno and the Anadarko Agency. At Fort Reno a living history re-enactor portraying the scout, Ben Clark, entertained us.
Sunday was spent in the Washita Battlefield area near Cheyenne, Oklahoma. We started the day at the Black Kettle Museum in Cheyenne. This is an excellent museum for a town of 700! We then went down the street to Los Cusuelas Restaurant for lunch. Member Lynda Lucas set up the luncheon, and it was a hit with all. When you look up Cheyenne, Oklahoma on Google, you will find it is famous for United States Congressman Frank Lucas. Lynda had pull at the restaurant – she waits tables there on the weekends. She even had to agree to work that day! With all of the bad publicity our Congress is getting, it restores one’s faith to know Frank and Lynda Lucas. Frank’s help (as a Congressman from Oklahoma) certainly greased wheels at Fort Sill – thanks Frank. After lunch we toured Washita Battlefield with both Jerry Greene and Neil Mangum leading tour. The staff at the site was quite content to let Neil and Jerry take over. It was clear the Park Service values the experience of these two. It was good to see the progress being made – the next time we are there, we’ll go through a new visitors’ center. Much of the thanks will be due to Congressman Lucas.
Our last stop again featured the dynamic duo of Frank and Lynda – plus her father, Larry Bradshaw. The Lucas’ threw a delightful party for the entire group at the Bradshaw ranch. Larry’s spread adjoins the Washita Battlefield site. Under the shade of a magnificent tree, we partook of refreshments. Frank’s chief of staff makes the world’s best peanut patties! The contributions of both Frank and Lynda put this conference over the top. The trip home was very quiet, as this was a tired bunch.
The 25th Annual OIW Assembly
Billings, Mont., September 9-11, 2004
The Sioux Wars of 1876-1877
In spite of getting a very late start, the 25th Assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars in Billings, Montana, was an overwhelming success. On Thursday, September 9th, we heard from three experts and me. Leading off was the Chief Historian for the Little Bighorn National Monument (known to most of us as Custer Battlefield). John Doerner not only holds that position – he is a longtime member of the OIW. His paper, To Intercept or Pursue, and Capture and Destroy Them, gave us the background that would prove invaluable when Jerry Greene gave us a tour of the Canyon Creek site. John gave an excellent talk, with a number of useful handouts.
John was followed by Sandy Barnard. All attendees of past assemblies know Sandy, and, as usual, his presentation was lively and well illustrated. It had to be – Sandy showed us photos from his forthcoming book from Oklahoma Press. His co-authors, Brian Pohanka and Jim Brust, are also members of the OIW. Sandy whetted our appetites and I'm sure sold many books!
I think the biggest surprise of the day was the talk by Michael Hughes. Both exciting and thought provoking, Michael gave a new perspective to an all too neglected topic-Indian leadership in wars. His talk really set up the tours to follow. It was an outstanding effort both in content and presentation.
I was the last speaker of the day. Many thought that that was good planning – if you left early you wouldn't miss much. My presentation, aided by video and slides, discussed the railroad the army and the Indians. Once again, the talk was designed to set up our tour on Saturday, when we would visit the 1872 Baker Battle Site and the site of the 1873 Pease Bottom fight of George A. Custer. Both these engagement were a direct result of railroad surveys.
The day was officially ended by my announcement, made legendary by Jerry, that the bus would leave on time, "If I'll leave me, I'll damn sure leave you!" I don't remember a single day of a single assembly that Jerry didn't proclaim that phrase! Some traditions are simply too good to let die.
Saturday kicked off with a visit to the Chief Plenty Coups Museum, near Pryor, Montana. This sma1l out-of-the-way museum is an undiscovered gem. Plenty Coups is widely considered the last chief of the Crows. We spent about an hour going through the museum and visiting his well preserved home.
Then it was on to Custer Battlefield and lunch at the Stone House. We spent about an hour and a half eating lunch, visiting the museum and bookstore and, for many, it was a first chance to see the new Indian Memorial, dedicated June 25, 2003. Most agreed that the memorial does not detract in any way from the burial shaft atop Last Stand Hill. The memorial is both attractive and informative.
Again mounting the bus, we departed, under the steady hand of ex-superintendent (and ex-chief historian) Neil Mangum. Our first stop was Weir Point. Neil expounded on the various actions, as well as interpretations, of this area. Discussions were invited and a few intrepid souls put forth other ideas on the action here. All in all, there was little debate at this spot.
Now it was time for the main event. Neil would guide us to the top of Nye-Cartright Ridge. He assured us it was but a short walk. By now, Neil fools very few. Some decided to stay on the bus, but most chose the "short" walk. The ones who made it were treated to a lively, sometimes passionate, discussion. Entering into the fray were Ron Nichols, Sandy Barnard, Greg Michno and even myself. While usually quiet and reserved, some of the theories put forth by Neil were so preposterous that one as even-tempered as I felt forced to reply. A melee ensued that only reinforced the great fun of Custeriana. For me it was the high spot of the entire assembly. We got back at a reasonable hour and, after a well attended command post, it was dinner on our own.
Saturday morning we were off to visit the scene of Custer's 1873 fight with the Sioux. The spot, Pease Bottom, near the confluence of the Big Horn and Yellowstone rivers is one of the most historic spots in Montana. Somewhere nearby, but as yet undiscovered, is Manual Lisa's fur trade post, Fort Lisa. Just downstream sits the remains of Fort Pease – destined to playa role in the 1876 campaign. But we were here to visit Custer's second fight with the Sioux. This is, even by Montana standards, a beautiful and relatively untouched spot. It was here that we chose to shoot the now annual photo of our "marine" contingent. Each man assured me of his availability should "the corps" call. One can only pray for the success of our current marines.
Probably the site fewest had visited was the 1872 site where Major Baker, of "Marias Massacre" fame, had a rather sharp engagement with the Sioux and Cheyenne. Both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull played prominent roles in the action, and as Michael Hughes informed us, it was here that both men solidified their standing in the tribe. The determined Indian resistance at this engagement would be the excuse used by the Northern Pacific to halt the survey. In turn, the halt necessitated the 1873 survey which led to the Custer fight at Pease Bottom. See how nicely it all fit together!
Two of the men who conducted much of the archaeology at the site gave us our tour. It was a rare chance to visit such an important, yet almost unknown site. Our guides, Harold Hagen and Dave Ashcroft, made a good case for this battle being the inaugural engagement of what would become the Sioux War of 1876.
It was now time for us to visit Canyon Creek – another little visited Indian Wars site. Led by one of the finest Indian Wars chroniclers, Jerry Greene, we were given an outstanding look at this confrontation between the Nez Perce and Sturgis' 7th Cavalry. Even Calamity Jane got into the act! The results of this action left Sturgis and the 7th holding the bag, as the Nez Perce once again escaped a vastly superior force. Jerry's unsurpassed understanding of the terrain, as well as the action, made this one of the highlights of the assembly.
Our only banquet (one of the ways we cut costs) provided a wonderful wrap-up to a very successful assembly. Our after dinner speaker (another way we cut cost – work our speakers to death), Neil gave a few fond reminiscences of his tenure at Custer Battlefield. At the end of Neil's light-hearted and engaging talk, I ended the session with thanks all around and an announcement of the location of the 2005 26th Annual Assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars – Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
You should have been there!