by Logan Camporeale

L’Quoit: Son, Warrior, and Elder

Luqaiot - Kittitas; . By: Edward S.. Curtis . Page or plate: Plate 247

L’Quoit (Lokout) was born around 1834 and grew up on the ancestral lands of the Yakama people. He was a descendant of prominent families from both the Yakama and Sinkiuse Tribes. His father, Owhi, was a respected War Chief of the Yakama people. L’quot’s youth was typical of native people on the Plateau. He took part in the seasonal round, a semi-nomadic lifestyle in pursuit of resources depending on the season with winters spent in communal villages. This included long trips by horseback to the bison hunting grounds of the Great Plains and frequent trips over the Cascade Mountains to the Salish Sea.

L’Quoit’s birth in 1834 places him in Washington at a pivotal and rapidly changing time when white Americans and Canadians began encroaching on their traditional lands in large numbers. The first permanent presence was established in 1810 by white fur traders from the North-West Company near Spokane in 1810. The following year, the competing Astor Company established the Okanogan Post near Brewster, Washington. This initiated a race between the fur trading companies to control territory and led to the construction of four additional trading posts: Walla Walla, Vancouver, Colville, and Nisqually. The last to be constructed, Fort Nisqually, was established in 1833, the year before L’Quoit was born.

One of L’Quoit’s first big adventures came in 1853 when he, along with a group of fellow Indians, travelled to Fort Nisqually to conduct business with the Hudson Bay Company. While there, a white traveler from Connecticut who was staying at the fort, Theodore Winthrop, asked Chief Owhi if he could purchase some horses and the services of a guide. Winthrop was hoping to make the trip from Fort Nisqually in present day Dupont, Washington to The Dalles, Oregon on the south bank of the Columbia River. Chief Owhi provided Winthrop with three horses and assigned his son, L’Quoit, to be Winthrop’s guide. The young man agreed to the task and he and Winthrop set out endeavoring to arrive at The Dalles in seven days. The travellers did not get along well, mostly because Winthrop was mean and condescending toward his guide as he seemed to be toward all Indians. Winthrop’s lack of respect for his guide culminated when he woke L’Quoit from sleep by kicking him. When they reached the east side of the Cascades, L’Quoit received a report that smallpox was prevalent at The Dalles and he was tired of Winthrop’s antics so he abandoned him to make the remainder of the trip on his own.

The trickle of white newcomers into the Yakama’s territory, reminiscent of Winthrop, increased to a steady flow. Gold was discovered near Colville, Washington in the fall of 1854 and the next spring prospectors and miners began flocking from the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound Region across the Cascade Mountains to northeastern Washington. All the regularly travelled routes from the west to the goldfields required travel across the Yakama’s lands. This may not have been a problem, except that white newcomers had a propensity to mistreat native people, much like Winthrop mistreated L’Quoit. Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens, sensing the rising tension between miners and the tribes (and because he was eager to grow Washington’s population by opening native lands to white newcomers), sent envoys to the Yakama to negotiate for their lands. In June of 1855, with an air of intimidation and the threat of war on the horizon, tribal leaders reluctantly agreed to sing the Yakama Treaty. The Yakama people ceded ninety percent of their lands in exchange for financial compensation, guaranteed autonomous reservations where trespassing by whites was prohibited, and unending rights to off-reservation resources. Despite the agreement, the terms were ignored by the American side. Governor Stevens and regional newspapers encouraged Americans to head for the Washington Territory in pursuit of lands and resources that belonged to native people. This prompted thousands of white newcomers to cross Yakama lands in violation of the recent treaty that was supposed to end unapproved traffic.

Chief Owhi by Sohon from WSHS
Battle at Steptoe by Sohon

The tensions reached a climax in the late summer of 1855 when a group of miners who were trespassing on the Yakama Reservation, in violation of the Yakama Treaty, raped and killed a Yakama woman. The woman, a daughter of Chief Teias, was also a relative of Chief Kamiakin, the representative for the Yakama people at the 1855 treaty negotiations. Yakama warriors tracked the suspect and his travelling party and killed them in retribution. This event, along with the subsequent killing of Indian Agent Andrew Bolon, initiated the Yakama War.

The first battle of the war occurred at Toppenish Creek in November 1855, two months after the death of Agent Bolan. The tribes, led by Chief Kamiakin and with L’Quoit in their ranks, mounted an impressive attack that resulted in multiple casualties for the US Army and an embarrassing defeat for Major Granville O. Haller. L’Quoit also fought in the Battle of Union Gap, the Battle of Walla Walla, and a roving attack on Governor Stevens after the Second Walla Walla Council in 1856. In the attack on Governor Stevens, L’Quoit was severely injured and left with a lifelong scar on his forehead.

Despite his injury in 1856, L’Quoit’s was also involved in the second phase of the Yakama War in 1858, the portion that took place on the Palouse and along the Spokane River. He was amongst the warriors who defeated Colonel Steptoe at Steptoe Butte where he played a critical role as one of the snipers tasked with targeting US Army leadership in the opposing regiment. It is unclear if he was involved in the Battle of Spokane Plains but he was present on the bank of Hangman Creek when his father, Chief Owhi, his brother, Qualchan, and many fellow tribal members were lured into a US Army camp to discuss peace but were ultimately hanged by General George Wright, an act that amounted to a war crime. L'Quoit, along with his sister-in-law Mary, escaped from Wright and his men.

L’Quoit’s life was long and it was full of battle and hardship. Near the end of his life he had an opportunity to tell some of his story when he was interviewed by regional historian A.J. Splawn. That interview helped to inform Splawn’s book Ka-mi-akin, the Last Hero of the Yakimas. Additionally, and most notably, L’Quoit met with renowned photographer Edward S. Curtis in 1910. Curtis interviewed and photographed L’Quoit, likely at his home on the Spokane Indian Reservation. L’Quoit’s photo was published in Volume VII of Curtis' The North American Indian and in the caption Curtis acknowledges that L’Quoit’s recollections are found throughout the text of Volume VII. L’Quoit spent the last fifteen years of his life living on the reservation until he passed away in 1913.


1 Comment

  1. Larry Cebula

    He was on a tobacco trading card in the early 20th century.

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