The Life of Yosyóos Tulikecíin (Sam Fisher)
By Tom Manoff and Hilary McDevitt
Yosyóos Tulikecíin, also known as Sam Fisher (ab 1853 -1947 ), was a legendary figure in the history of the Palouse Tribe.
THE LIFE OF Yosyóos Tulikecíin, also known as Sam Fisher (ab 1853 – ab 1947) spanned a century of dramatic change for Native Americans in the Northwest and the dissolution of the legendary Palouse Tribe. This web page summarizes what is known about Fisher and where to find the historical source materials about him. This is an ongoing project so materials and clarifications will be added often. Please send any additional information about Sam Fisher to this website.
Marjorie Jean McGregor and Sam Fisher
Note: A recent email of thanks from Sam Fisher’s great grandson about this site also inquired about what motivated its creation. That request prompted this next section.
The genesis of this site stems from stories about Sam Fisher told to Tom Manoff by his mother Marjorie Jean McGregor. Margorie was the youngest daughter of Alexander (A.C) and Jennie Sherman McGregor. One of the McGregor brothers, A.C. ran the McGregor Store. Marjorie worked in the store and there came into contact with Sam. One of Sam’s leases of his land to the McGregor Company has Marjorie’s signature as a witness.
Marjorie claimed that the McGregors held derogatory views about Sam Fisher as part of their general racist attitudes. Another of her most vehement grievances against whites of Hooper, was that after church, the men would go up on the buttes and loot Palouse graves.
However Marjorie McGregor’s stories about grave-looting of Palouse sites are most certainly true. Indeed, the documented history of Native American grave desecration in the region is shocking and remains an ongoing concern. Reburial of Native American remains found in this region are held in secret at a secret location.
Marjorie McGregor always planned to write about Sam and the Palouse Tribe, as well as other Native Americans. At the time of her early death at 51 (1968) her papers contained several outlines about books, one with her sister Helen McGregor Spencer, another of the McGregor sisters. Marjorie was an avid researcher and genealogist before the advent of the internet. Has she lived, she would have surely researched Sam and the Palouse Tribe to augment her personal experience. Thus, in part, this site represents what she would have done had she lived.
Manoff is now writing a political memoir about his family (Chase the White Horse.) As part of the research for that book, he and his researcher Hilary McDevitt embarked on a complete survey of all existing documents and accounts about Sam Fisher. That research, the scope of which is far beyond comprehensive inclusion in Chase the White Horse, is presented here.
Sam Fisher and the McGregors
The most important source of information about Sam Fisher is found in documents in the McGregor Land and Livestock Company Archive at Washington State University. Another important source (somewhat overlapping) is the Sam Fisher file in the McGregor Company’s files in Colfax.
Starting in the late 1880’s, the McGregor ranch was established next to the last tribal lands of the few surviving Palouse Tribe including land owned by Fisher. The McGregors would be the main contact between whites and Fisher. The company leased Fisher’s land for grazing. Fisher obtained provisions at the McGregor Store which were then billed to the Indian Agency. The McGregors helped Fisher keep title to his land when a local white rancher made a claim for it. At some point Fisher turned over many of his legal papers to the McGregors. This complicated relationship between the McGregors and Fisher is discussed in more detail elsewhere.
Sam Fisher’s Appaloosa Herd
Sam was a famous breeder of Appaloosas and the lineage of his herd is found throughout the world among breeders of the Appaloosa. Some links: Blue Creek Appaloosas
First Hand Accounts about Sam Fisher
CLICK RELANDER was a journalist and researcher who wrote about Fisher and the Palouse Tribe. This is one of his articles. He also wrote an important book called Drummers and Dreamers in 1956 which chronicled the Wanapum prophet Smohalla.
From Relander’s Drummers and Dreamers:
“Many believe that Sam [Fisher] was the last full-blooded Palouse. His Indian name was Yosyostulekasen (Something Covered with Blue).
Sam refused to cut his long braids and he danced the Washat at the infrequent later-day feasts on the Columbia, or over around Cayuse in Oregon. He danced well, too, although he was eighty-four. Sam kept to the tumbled-down cabins in the old village, deserted now excepting for occasional small gatherings of part-bloods who sought sanctuary from a world that was constantly growing more bewildering to them. He served his time there and that was all…
Sam sold some beaver pelts and the game warden came to take him to court. In broken English he told his story. He expected no justice and wasn’t pleading for mercy. Sam told of the old-time wealth of his people – the wealth of the land, food, and water that belonged to everyone born of dust
My father and my father’s father lived here. They and my people lived here. They were here a long time ago and for a long time. When they grew old, they died and returned to their Mother.
A long time ago the Palouses killed deer and beaver. We fished in the river. That was how we got food and clothing. There was no one to tell the Indian what he could do and what he could not do. The salmon came every year and so did deer and beaver, the way the Watcher intended it should be. And we used them as they were intended to be used.
But when the big herds of cattle wandered over the Palouse Hills and when the sheep came later, they ate all the grass – even to the very doors of our lodges – so the deer no longer came. The white man built dams that choked the rivers; only a few salmon could come.
Now I am accused of killing beaver. I did. You say it is not the law to kill beaver. I ate the flesh because I needed food. So did my family. I sold the skins because I needed money to buy clothes for my wife and children. When I did this, I stole nothing that belonged to the white man. -Sam Fisher
The man many said was the last Palouse died believing as Smowhala believed – not life and death, but death, then life. ” (Relander 1956:119-20)
TIMELINE – events/documents
1803Lewis and Clarke come into contact with Palouse Tribe on Snake River. They document many villages and cemeteries along the lower Snake, the first documentation of the importance of cemeteries in Palouse Culture.
1853(ab) Sam Fisher born.
1870Congress grants titles to Northern Pacific Railroad along Palouse lands.
1880’sPioneers George Hunter, John Pettyjohn and Daniel Lyons help a number of Palouse secure claims to lands along the Palouse River from the Snake up to Palouse Falls. Among these were Pete Bones and Sam Fisher.
1886 Fisher fights Northern Pacific Railroad for his official claim on land filed under 1884 Revised Indian Homestead Act. Northern Pacific files appeal to Department of Interior.
1895 Fisher He homesteads additional land adjacent to his first claim, a strip of land along east bank of Palouse totaling 160 acres.
1905 Moved to Colville reservation.
1907 Lands along Palouse River withdrawn by telegram for “the use of Indians”. [1 July 1907]
1916 Receipt for Sam Fisher’s original stock-raising homestead application received by Department of Interior. (29 Aug 1916)
1920 Informed by government officials that his homestead was revoked for receiving allotment on Colville Reservation.
1922 Letter from Dept. of Interior to Sam Fisher – homestead application suspended, pending report from Superintendent of Colville Indian Agency as to “whether or not said applications can be allowed.”
1922 Reapplies for lands along Palouse River. (along with Carter Slouthier and Peter Bones) 1924 Sam, Helen, Peter and Carter return to Palus to take up residency.
1925 Letter from McGregor Land and Livestock Company complaining about Sam’s requests for food during winter.
1925 Charles Harrison applied for homestead on Carter Slouthier’s homestead. Fisher finds out from land office that Harrison’s claim denied as well as Fisher’s own 1922 claim.
1925 Sam Fisher leases land to McGregor Land and Livestock: two lots, for $48 and $28 per year. 12/10/25
1926 Sam Fisher leases two sections of land to McGregor Land and Livestock for the sum of $76 for the year. November 1, 1926
1927Government opens all Palouse for homesteading.
1927Harrison’s claim is recognized. He also claims additional lands of Fisher. [January 26, 1927]
1927 1927 Fisher files land claim application. A few months later learns that his claim was denied and Harrison’s approved. [July 10, 1927]
1928 Letter (above) from McGregor Company to Indian Agent complaining about Sam and asking for reimbursement for food given him. [April 10, 1928]
1928 Letter to John McGregor from Colville Indian Agency with vouchers for $15 a month for “subsistive supplies” for two month. The letter also says that Sam had procured supplies from The Cold Storage Market and Grocery in Starbuck and suggests that he had also received supplies from other merchants. The letter ends, “no definite assurance can be given that supplies purchased by Sam Fisherman can be paid for by the Agency.” [April 14, 1928]
1928 Meeting in Spokane with Peter McGregor testimony. [July 10, 1928]
1928 Registrar of federal land claims in Spokane reverses decision that granted lands to Harrison and grants the lands to Fisher. Charles Harrison appeals decision. [August 3, 1928]
1928 Charles Harrison’s attorney files additional papers of appeal with the Department of the Interior contesting the decision to grant lands to Fisher.[December 12, 1928]
1929 Department of Interior denies Charles Harrison’s appeal of earlier decision. Sam Fisher retains his homestead claim. [June 7, 1929]
1929 Sam Fisher receives notice of allowance from Department of Interior Land Office granting Sam the rights to his original stock-raising homestead. [September 11, 1929]
1933 March 1, 1933 Letter from Harve H. Phipps, Lawyer to McGregor Land and Livestock – Phipps had received as payment rendered for the Harrison-Fisher case a mortgage from Sam Fisher on his land, detailed that $225 payment was remaining. “It was not a desirable mortgage of course, on account of the fact that the Indians are so helpless in paying, but it will be safe ultimately, as it is a first mortgage on the land. I would like to sell the mortgage at a heavy discount, and would be willing to take 60% on the dollar, if your company would be interested in taking it over, and then using the mortgage in payment of rentals in case you rented land from Sam in the future.” [June 2, 1933]
1937 McG request to Whitman County Welfare Department for reimbursement of $12.50. [Aug 12 1937]
1937Applications for old age assistance from Whitman County sent to Sam and Helen through John McGregor. [Oct 10, 1937]
1947Letter to McGregors from Carter Fisher telling that Sam Fisher is in the hospital in Pasco. [Aug 17, 1947]