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Chief Nampa, America's Most Famous Native American. But you know him as....
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
Which do you believe is the most likely origin for the name Nampa?
Learn about Nampa history at the local museum.
Welcome to the Canyon County Historical Society and Museum. Canyon County History and more!
Was Chief Nampa the original source of the legendary Bigfoot? After all, he was commonly referred to as Chief Bigfoot.
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.