Bannock Indian War of 1878 Caused Panic in Local Settlers

The Bannock Indian uprising of 1878 created a tense situation that resulted in many outlying settlers of Eastern Crook County moving to the safety of Prineville and other communities.

The Bannock Indians ranged along the Oregon-Idaho border and were a relatively peaceful tribe until they were confined to Ft. Hall during the Nez Perce uprising in 1877. They had difficulty subsisting on rations from the fort and mistreatment of tribal members led to hostilities in 1878. Chief Buffalo Horn began raiding and killing in western Idaho. Buffalo Horn was killed in a skirmish with the military and the Bannock were joined by Paiutes under the leadership of Chief Egan. The combined forces began a bloody path of destruction that ranged from the Steens Mountains to the John Day Valley.

Settlers began to congregate and fortify sites to repel the raiding Indians. Word of the killings and raids rapidly spread to Central Oregon and outlying settlers in the Post and Paulina Country rushed to Prineville to provide safety for their families. A stockade had been designated in Prineville as a gathering point if the uprising had come to Central Oregon but most hostilities were confined east of the John Day River.

Chief Egan had hoped to get to the Umatilla Indian Reservation and gain reinforcements for the combined war party but the Umatilla’s did not want to become a part of the bloody war and captured Egan and some of his warriors. Chief Egan was killed in an attempt to escape and his head was presented to the military as a peace offering. Without his leadership the raiders began to falter and eventually many of the warriors were captured.

The uprising was relatively brief but resulted in several deaths and the destruction of several ranches. It was the last great show of resentment by the Bannock and Paiute against the white man who had deprived them of their country.

Many of the settlers that had fled to Prineville for protection returned to their ranches but some decided that they would remain near the growing community.