THE INDIAN QUESTION.
FRANCIS A. WALKER,
LATE U. S. COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS.
BOSTON: JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY, (LATE TICKNOR AND FIELDS, AND FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO.) 1874.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874 by F. A. WALKER, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.
BOSTON RAND, AVERY, & CO., STEREOTYPERS AND PRINTERS.
PAGE THE INDIAN QUESTION 5
INDIAN CITIZENSHIP 101
AN ACCOUNT OF THE TRIBES 148
THE INDIAN QUESTION.[A]
On the 3d of March, 1871, Congress declared that "hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power, with whom the United States may contract by treaty."
Brave words these would have seemed to good William Penn, treating with the Lenni Lenape, under the elm at Kensington; or even to doughty Miles Standish, ready as that worthy ever was to march against the heathen who troubled his Israel. Heathen they were in the eyes of the good people of Plymouth Colony, but nations of heathen, without question, as truly as were the Amalekites, the Jebusites, or the Hittites to the infant colony at Shiloh. It would have been deemed the tallest kind of "tall talk," in the councils of Jamestown, Providence, and Annapolis, to express disdain for the proffered hand of Indian friendship, or even to object to payment of some small tribute, in beads or powder, to these native lords of the continent. In 1637, when Capt. John Mason marched against Sassacus, at the head of ninety men, he had with him half the fighting force of the Connecticut Colony. In 1653 a wall was built across Manhattan Island to keep out the savages; though, when we say that the line of defence just covered the present course of Wall Street (which derives its name from that circumstance), our readers may not fail to wonder whether the savages were not the rather kept in by it. In 1675, when the New-England Colonies had grown comparatively strong, they mustered for their war against Philip one thousand men, of whom Massachusetts furnished five hundred and twenty-seven, Plymouth one hundred and fifty-eight, and Connecticut three hundred and fifteen.
To men peering out from block-houses, or crouching behind walls, awaiting the terrific yell of an Indian attack, it was not likely to occur that they might compromise their dignity by treating on equal terms with an enemy tenfold as numerous as themselves; nor were the statesmen of that early heroic age likely to give themselves trouble about the character and standing among the nations of the earth, of confederacies that could bring five thousand warriors into the field. And so the feeble colonies struggled on through those days of gloom and fear, deprecating the anger of the savages as they might, and circumventing their wiles when they could; played off one chieftain against another; made contribution of malice and powder to every intestine feud among the natives; bought off tribes, without much scruple as to the ultimate fulfilment of their bargains; postponed the evil day by every expedient, knowing that time was on their side: and when they had, in spite of all, to fight, fought as men who know that they will not themselves be spared,—planned ambuscades and massacres; fired Indian camps, and shot the inmates as they leaped from their blazing wigwams; studied and mastered all the arts of forest warfare; and beat the savages with their own weapons, as men of the higher race will always do when forced by circumstances to such a contest.
Nor during the early part of the eighteenth century, when all danger of a war of extermination had passed from the apprehension of the most timid, when the Colonies had become in a degree compacted, and the line of white occupation had been made continuous from Massachusetts to Georgia; nor later still, when the Colonies had become States, and the representatives of the new nation of the Western world were received in all the courts of Europe—was the policy abandoned of treating with the Indian tribes as parties having equal powers of initiative, and equal rights in negotiation. In nearly four hundred treaties, confirmed by the Senate as are treaties with foreign powers, our government recognized Indian tribes as nations with whom the United States might contract without derogating from its sovereignty.
The treaties made with Indian tribes have, of course, been mainly treaties of cession. Most of our readers will be surprised to learn the extent of lands east of the Mississippi which are embraced in sales to the United States; being no less than the entire States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, with considerable portions of Tennessee, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And these treaties were not a mere form to amuse and quiet savages, a half-compassionate, half-contemptuous humoring of unruly children. The United States were not then grown so great that they could afford to value lightly the free relinquishment of the soil by the native owners of it. At the time most of the treaties with tribes east of the Mississippi were concluded, not only did the right remain in the Indians, but enough of power, to make it as much a diplomatic triumph to obtain a cession on favorable terms, as it would be to negotiate a successful treaty with one of the States of Central America to-day. The United States were clearly the stronger party in every such case; but the Indians were, in the great body of instances, still so formidable, that to wrest their lands from them by pure, brutal violence would have required an exertion of strength which the government was ill prepared to make. So that, while it is true that the Indians were generally made ready to negotiate by the use of military force and by the pressure of white settlements, it is not true that the considerations and privileges accorded them in these treaties were a gift out of good-nature.
So much for the power of the Indians when they made these treaties. Their right to their lands is quite as well established historically. In the early history of the Western world, the principle was fully recognized, that, while sovereignty rested, not with the Indians, but with the civilized power claiming by virtue of discovery, the Indians were the rightful occupants, with a just and perfect claim to retain possession and enjoy the use until they should be disposed voluntarily to part with it. Great Britain, Holland, France, and Spain, the four powers claiming sovereignty by virtue of discovery within the present territory of the United States, conceded no less than this to the natives; while France, in the cession of the province of Louisiana, expressly reserved the rights allowed the Indians by its own treaties and articles, "until, by mutual consent of the United States and the said tribes or nations, other suitable articles shall have been agreed upon."
"Such being the right of the Indians to the soil, the United States for more than eighty-five years pursued a uniform course of extinguishing the Indian title only with the consent of those Indian tribes which were recognized as having claim by reason of occupancy: such consent being expressed in treaties, to the formation of which both parties approached, as having equal rights of initiative, and equal rights in negotiation. These treaties were made from time to time (not less than 372 being embraced in the general statutes of the United States) as the pressure of white settlements, or the fear or the experience of Indian hostilities, made the demand for the removal of one tribe after another urgent or imperative. Except only in the case of the Indians in Minnesota, after the outbreak of 1862, the United-States Government has never extinguished an Indian title as by right of conquest; and in this latter case the government provided the Indians another reservation, besides giving them the proceeds of the sales of the lands vacated by them in Minnesota; so scrupulously, up to that time, had the right of the Indians to the soil been respected, at least in form. It is not to be denied that wrong was often done in fact to tribes in the negotiation of treaties of cession. The Indians were not infrequently overborne or deceived by the agents of the government in these transactions; sometimes unquestionably, powerful tribes were permitted to cede lands to which weaker tribes had a better claim: but, formally at least, the United States accepted the cession successively of all lands, to which Indian tribes could show color of title, which are embraced in the limits of any of the present States of the Union except California and Nevada."—Report on Indian Affairs, 1872, pp. 83, 84.
In 1871, however, the insolence of conscious strength, and the growing jealousy of the House of Representatives towards the prerogative—arrogated by the Senate—of determining, in connection with the executive, all questions of Indian right and title, and of committing the United States incidentally to pecuniary obligations limited only by its own discretion, for which the House should be bound to make provision without inquiry, led to the adoption, after several severe parliamentary struggles, of the declaration which stands at the head of this paper.
In abruptly terminating thus the long series of Indian treaties, and forever closing the only course of procedure known for the adjustment of difficulties, and even for the administration of ordinary business, with Indian tribes, Congress provided no substitute, and up to the present time has neglected to prescribe the methods by which, after the abrogation of the national character of the Indians, either their internal matters or their relations with the general government are to be regulated. The Indian-Intercourse Act of 1834, though still nominally in force, is so largely predicated upon the tribal constitution, and assumes so uniformly the national sufficiency of the tribe, that all the life and virtue are taken out of it by the Act of 1871 just cited; and the country is, in effect, left without rule or prescription for the government of Indian affairs. It is sufferance, not law, which enables the Indian Office to-day to administer its charge. While the Act of 1871 strikes down at a blow the hereditary authority of the chiefs, no legislation has invested Indian agents with magisterial powers, or provided for the assembling of the Indian demos. There is at this time no semblance of authority for the punishment of any crime which one Indian may commit against another, nor any mode of procedure, recognized by treaty or statute, for the regulation of matters between the government and the several tribes. So far as the law is concerned, complete anarchy exists in Indian affairs; and nothing but the singular homogeneity of Indian communities, and the almost unaccountable spontaneity and unanimity of public sentiment within them, has thus far prevented the attention of Congress and the country being called most painfully to the unpardonable negligence of the national legislature in failing to provide a substitute for the time-honored policy which was destroyed by the Act of 1871.
In treating the Indian question of the present day, the temptation is strongly felt, to dwell upon the history of Indian tribes, and upon the physical and moral characteristics of this singular race. Yet, if way be once given to this inclination, not only will the time and space necessary for a discussion of the present and the future of the Indian tribes be sacrificed, but the attention of the reader will be so overwhelmed with the multitude of names and incidents, that he will be embarrassed rather than assisted in his understanding of the subject to be treated. The value, for our purpose, of facts and incidents in Indian history is not at all according to their value historically or romantically. Indeed, such has been the fatality to the aborigines of contact with the whites, that it may almost be said, the importance to-day of tribes is inversely as their importance in the annals of the country. Among the greatest figures of the past are those of bands and confederacies that have utterly disappeared from the continent, happy that their long, savage independence, and their brief, fierce resistance to the encroachments of the pale-face, were not to be succeeded by a dreary period of submission, humiliation, and dependence. Other tribes, that but a few generations ago shook the infant colonies with terror, or even dared to stand across the path of the Republic, and for a time flung a shadow as of eclipse over its destiny, are now represented upon the annuity or feeding-lists of the United States by a few score of diseased wretches, who hang about the settlements, begging and stealing where they can, and quarrelling like dogs over the entrails of the beeves that are slaughtered for them. Still other tribes, once warlike and powerful, have, by a fortunate turn of character and circumstance, become so rich and respectable as not only to deprive them of all romantic interest, but practically to take them out of the scope of the Indian question. Other tribes, still having among them men whose grandfathers besieged Detroit under Pontiac, are now resolved into citizens of the United States, eligible for the chief-justiceship or the presidency.
Such considerations as we have here briefly sketched suffice to show the inexpediency of entering upon Indian history, qua history, as an introduction to the discussion of the Indian problems of to-day. Equally obdurate must one be to the seductions of Indian ethnology, except so far only as it may simplify the classification of the present Indian population to refer tribes and bands to recognized groups or families, for the better or briefer characterization of their qualities and affinities.
Even stronger yet is the temptation to enter upon the analysis and portraiture of the original and native character of the North-American Indian. Voluptuary and stoic; swept by gusts of fury too terrible to be witnessed, yet imperturbable beyond all men, under the ordinary excitements and accidents of life; garrulous, yet impenetrable; curious, yet himself reserved, proud and mean alike beyond compare; superior to torture and the presence of certain death, yet, by the standards of all other peoples, a coward in battle; capable of magnanimous actions which, when uncovered of all romance, are worthy of the best days of Roman virtue, yet more cunning, false, and cruel than the Bengalee,—this copper-colored sphinx, this riddle unread of men, equally fascinates and foils the inquirer.
This, however, is the Indian of history. The Indian for whom the government is called to provide subsistence and instruction presents no such psychological difficulties. Curious compound and strange self-contradiction as the red man is in his native character, in his traditional pursuits, and amid the surroundings of his own wild life; yet when broken down by the military power of the whites, thrown out of his familiar relations, his stupendous conceit with its glamour of savage pomp and glory rudely dispelled, his occupation gone, himself a beggar, the red man becomes the most commonplace person imaginable, of very simple nature, limited aspirations, and enormous appetites.
The Indian question naturally divides itself into two: What shall be done with the Indian as an obstacle to the national progress? What shall be done with him when, and so far as, he ceases to oppose or obstruct the extension of railways and settlements? It is because these two parts of the question have not been separately regarded that so much confusion has been introduced into the discussion of Indian affairs. Widely diverse, for example, as are the criticisms popularly expressed on what is known as the "Indian policy" of Pres. Grant's administration, the writer can confidently affirm, as the result of hundreds of interviews, formal and informal, stated and casual, friendly and the reverse, with men from every section of the country, of both parties, and of all professions, that he believes there is no political subject mooted to-day on which there are so slight differences of real opinion, or, indeed, such general consent when men will once come to terms with each other, and begin to talk about the same thing. He has never known a man, even from the Territories or the border States, make objection, on a candid statement, to the intentions and purposes of that administration towards the Indians, unless it were some man peculiarly vulgar and brutal,—such a one, for instance, as, if a Southerner, would give his time and breath to indiscriminate abuse of the negroes. Instead of there being two parties on this subject, there is, therefore, if the observations of the writer have been well made, no reason to suppose that any considerable division of opinion or feeling exists respecting the duty of the government, at the present moment, by the aborigines of the country.
Take the public sentiment of Arizona, for example. It is the almost universal belief throughout the country, that the people of this Territory have a deadly hostility to the Indians, and meditate nothing but mischief towards them; and it certainly must be admitted that press and people alike indulge in expressions which fairly bear that construction, and are quite enough to create an impression that the citizens of the Territory hate an Indian as an Indian, and have no humane sentiments whatever towards the race. And yet the writer would as soon leave the question, whether the government should render some kindly service to the Papagoes or to the Pimas and Maricopas, in the way of assisting them to self-maintenance, or of providing instruction in letters or in the mechanic arts, to the general voice of the people of Arizona, as to any missionary association in New York or Boston the coming May. When the press of Arizona cry out against the Indian policy of the government, and denounce Eastern philanthropy, they have in mind the warlike and depredating bands; and they are exasperated by what they deem, perhaps unreasonably but not unnaturally, the weakness and indecision of the executive in failing to properly protect the frontier. Indians to them mean Apaches; and their violence on the Indian question arises from the belief that the administration of Indian affairs has been committed to sentimentalists, who have no appreciation of the terrible stress which these Indian outrages bring upon the remote settlements. But were the question one of helping, in a practical fashion suited to the habits and views of life of a border community, a tribe of Indians who are peaceful, and in a poor way helpful, there is no reason to suppose that the inhabitants of Tucson or Prescott would be behind an Eastern congregation in readiness for the work. And this impression the writer derives, not alone from the amiable and cultivated gentleman who represents that Territory in Congress, but from contact and correspondence with many influential and representative citizens of Arizona, and from a study of the very journals that so teem with denunciations of the Indian policy of the government.[B]
On the other hand, in our prosperous and well-ordered communities at the East, a gentleman of leisure and of native benevolence, whose ears have never rung with the war-whoop, whose eyes have never witnessed the horrid atrocities of Indian warfare, and who is only disturbed in his pleasing reveries by the occasional tramp of the policeman about his house, is apt to dwell exclusively upon the other side of the Indian question. To such a man, as he recalls the undoubted wrongs done the Indian in the past, as he contemplates the fate of a race whose heroic and romantic qualities have been greatly exaggerated, or as he listens to the flattering tale of a missionary returned from some peaceful and half-civilized tribe, it is very pleasant to think that the original owners of the soil are to be protected by the government, saved to humanity, educated in the useful arts, and elevated to a Christian civilization. On such a man accounts of Indian outrages make little impression. He regards them as the invention of pioneer malice, or easily disposes of them by a mental reference to the crimes perpetrated in his own town or city. He is, perhaps, so ignorant of Indian matters as to think that all the Indians of the country form one homogeneous community, and cannot understand how it should be, that, while Cherokees are supporting churches and colleges and orphan asylums at home, and sending their sons to receive classical and professional education in the best schools of the East, Kiowas should roast their prisoners alive, and brain the babe before the eyes of its mother. Is it a matter of wonder, that men who are contemplating things so different as are the Eastern philanthropist and the Western settler, when Indians are spoken of, should imagine that they disagree as to the policy of the government, and come to entertain contempt or repugnance for each other, while, in fact, on an honest statement of a given case, neither would dissent in the slightest degree from the views of the other? If there is, then, such a liability to confusion and misapprehension in the discussion of the Indian question, we may be allowed to insist strongly upon the necessity of the distinction indicated.
* * * * *
The actually or potentially hostile tribes of the United States number, on a rough computation suited to the rudeness of the definition, sixty-four thousand. It is these only which we have to treat under the first division of our question,—What shall be done with the Indian as an obstacle to the national progress? This number of sixty-four thousand is made up as follows: The actually depredating bands, North-west and South-west, probably have not exceeded, during the past year, seven thousand, mainly Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches. The tribes with which these bands are directly and intimately connected contain about twenty thousand, including the marauders. There are further included in this calculation tribes and bands, numbering in the aggregate about forty-four thousand, which are now generally at peace.
It will be seen that the number which we have taken for the potentially hostile Indians is many times greater than the number of the actually hostile. Yet, on the other hand, we have not intended to embrace all those tribes which might be exasperated to the point of resistance by a reckless disregard of treaties on the part of the government, or by a series of wanton acts of abuse on the part of white settlers. There is a line beyond which no man or people may safely be pressed; and there are few bands of Indians, East or West, however contemptible in numbers or character, which, if wronged and trampled on, might not in their indignant despair teach their oppressors a lesson at which the world would shudder. We are contemplating no such possibilities. We are assuming that the government will, as it has generally done in the past, respect treaty obligations, and that the intercourse of the Indians with their white neighbors will be marked by only such sporadic acts of individual wrong as are in the nature of the case.
The tribes to which we refer as potentially hostile are, first, those now in immediate contact with the whites, whose claims to territory are so far disregarded, either by the action of the government or by the unauthorized intrusion of pioneers and prospectors; or whose means of subsistence are so far impaired or threatened by the extension of railways and settlements,—that hostilities are only prevented by the bounty of the government in feeding the members of such tribes in whole or in part, by liberal presents of trinkets and useful goods, by the exercise of especial watchfulness in avoiding occasions of dispute and points of collision, and finally by a willingness on the part of the government to overlook offences and even to tolerate a degree of insolence, rather than allow a breach of the peace: second, those tribes not now to any great extent in contact with the whites, and exhibiting no desire to go out of their way to make trouble, but of which the same must, in the inevitable course of the national progress, in a few years become true as of the tribes embraced under the first class.
But these classes, as we have thus described them, are yet far too numerous for the facts of the case. We must still further reduce them by excluding all such tribes as, from location, from traditional friendship for the whites, or from weakness of character, are unlikely, in any event reasonably to be contemplated, to become involved in hostilities.
Among the Indians, who, by the force of their location and surroundings, are rendered powerless for armed resistance, are not a few of the Indians of Minnesota, and even some in Wisconsin, who have no love for the whites, and would make exceedingly bad neighbors to frontier settlements, but who, encircled as they are by powerful communities, submit sullenly to their condition. The same may be said of many bands in Kansas, Nebraska, and on the Pacific coast. These are Indians who have been overtaken, surrounded, and disarmed by the progress of population, but, either through the neglect of the government or by the failure of the usual agencies of instruction and industrial assistance, have remained barbarous, and, as their natural means of subsistence grow scantier, are becoming every year more miserable.
There is another and much larger class of Indians from whom no organized violence is to be expected in the course of the complete settlement of the country, not because they are rendered helpless by the force of their location, nor because they have any traditional friendship for the whites, nor because they do not experience suffering enough to impel a warlike people to a struggle for life, but because they are not fighting Indians. Actual outrage might drive some of these tribes to resistance; but, under the slow wasting-away of their means of subsistence, and the gradual pressure of the settlements, they are, and are likely to remain, wholly passive, accepting their fate, and sinking to the lowest point of human misery without a single heroic effort. Some of these tribes have been "put upon" by their more warlike neighbors through many generations, driven from their original hunting-grounds, and harassed even in the mountains where they have taken refuge, until their spirit has been utterly crushed, and they have become as submissive as the Southern negroes. This is true of large numbers of the Indians of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Southern California. They have neither the individual courage nor the instinct of confederation entitling them to be reckoned among the potentially hostile tribes.
Still, again, we count out several powerful tribes, able to bring five hundred or a thousand warriors each into the field, which, by reason of traditional friendship and their frequent alliance with our troops in campaigns against hostile Indians, are sure to remain the friends of the government under any tolerable treatment. Indeed, neglect and abuse seem insufficient to alienate these allies. Their faith once pledged, and friendship cemented by sacrifices and sufferings, they cling to the fortunes of the whites with romantic fidelity. Such are the Arickarees,[C] Mandans, and Gros Ventres of the Upper Missouri; such the Pawnees of Kansas; such the Flatheads, Kootenays, and Pend d'Oreilles, whose boast is that their tribes never killed a white man; such, in a degree, the Crows of Montana. These tribes, and others of less consequence, are not only sure, in the event of kindly treatment by the government, to remain its fast friends, but they may be relied upon in the future, as in the past, to do much to check the audacity of their hostile neighbors, and, in the last resort, to furnish re-enforcements of the most effective and economical sort to the troops operating against predatory bands.
Having excluded all tribes and bands of the character, or in the position, indicated under the three heads above, we make up the list of the potentially hostile Indians somewhat as follows: of the Sioux of Dakota,—tribes, bands, and parties, to the number of fifteen thousand; of the Indians of Montana,—Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegans, Assiniboines and roving Sioux, to the number of twenty thousand; of the Indians in the extreme south-western part of the Indian Territory and on the borders of Texas,—Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, to the number of seven thousand; of the Indians of Arizona,—Apaches of several tribes, to the number of nine thousand; of the mountain Indians of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, to the number of five thousand; of the Indians of New Mexico, to the number of two thousand; and of the Indians in Oregon and Washington Territory, to the number of six thousand. The sixty-four thousand Indians thus enumerated comprise substantially all the tribes and bands with which the government is obliged to contemplate the possibility of war. It is in the highest degree improbable, however, that the United States would, even in the event of what might properly be called a general Indian war, be called on to fight more than one-half of these Indians at any one time; while, with a reasonable policy of concession, the number of actually hostile and depredating bands may be steadily reduced, and the whole body of dangerous Indians held in check until the advance of population shall render them incapable of mischief. The measures by which this is to be effected must be considered candidly, in the light of the alternative presented, and not as if they were proposed as measures wholly agreeable to the tastes or the temper of those who are called to administer Indian affairs.
That we may obtain a true impression of one of the conditions on which peace is maintained with certain Indian tribes, let us take a leaf out of the official record of the dealings of the government with the Sioux during the past year. Early in 1872 an unusually large number of Indians were assembled at the Red Cloud agency, near Fort Laramie in Wyoming. By far the greater part were habitues of this or some other Sioux agency; but among them were many Northern Indians, who were for the first time the guests of the government, and who, not having become accustomed to eat the bread of dependence, were much more intractable and insolent than the others. The presence of these Indians produced great turmoil at the agency, and considerable apprehension on the part of the agent. Nothing in the nature of an outbreak occurred, however: the strangers gradually went away to their summer hunt on the Powder River; and the agency was brought back to its usual condition. But, while this was being effected, a ranchman named Powell, who had a large drove of cattle near Fort Laramie, was robbed and murdered. The bloody details were soon known; for Indians are such inveterate gossips that they can keep no secret, however dangerous disclosure may be to them. The murderers were Northern Indians, who had instantly left for their own country. At two successive councils, both the civil and the military authorities demanded the surrender of the guilty parties and the return of the stolen stock. The chiefs present and the great body of their followers most unmistakably disapproved and regretted the act, if for no better reason than because they apprehended the consequences; but they disclaimed any responsibility therefor,—the murderers not being of their own proper number,—pleaded their inability to arrest the fugitives with their bloody spoils, and, for the rest, did nothing. The government, for that matter, after much expostulation, did the same: troops were not marched northward to seize the murderers; the rations of the Sioux were not ordered to be stopped until satisfaction had been given; and the murder of Powell remains to-day unpunished by the government of the United States.
A second condition on which peace is maintained is the subsistence of certain tribes at the expense of the government, without reference to their ability or disposition to work. Every five or seven days, twenty thousand Sioux, big and little, assemble around the agencies for the distribution of food. Soldiers' rations are dealt out: flour by the hundred sacks is delivered to them; beeves by the score are turned loose to be shot down and eaten up in savage fashion. The expense of this service is a million five hundred thousand dollars a year,—one-seventh the total cost of poor-support in the United States. About one million more is expended for the total or partial subsistence of other tribes, especially in the South-west. Coincidently with this, occasions for increased expenditure have arisen in connection with tribes not upon the feeding-list; so that the average cost of the Indian service has gone up from four millions in 1866, 1867, and 1868, to seven millions at the present time. It should be remarked, however, that it is only the increase which measures the cost of the "peace policy," so called, more than one-half of the four millions of expenditure in the former period being the lawful due of the Indians under treaty stipulations, in consideration for the cession of lands; and the remainder covering the general expenses of the service. The following table exhibits the expenditures of the government on account of the Indian service for the twelve years 1861 to 1872:—
Year. Expenditures on Indian Account.
1861 $2,865,481.17 1862 2,327,948.37 1863 3,152,032.70 1864 2,629,975.97 1865 5,059,360.71 1866 3,295,729.32 1867 4,642,531.77 1868 4,100,682.32 1869 7,042,923.06 1870 3,407,938.15 1871 7,426,997.44 1872 7,061,728.82
Now, it must honestly be confessed, that the United-States Government, in such dealings with Indian tribes as have been recited, does not act a very handsome part. To pay blackmail to insolent savages (for that is simply what it amounts to); to feed forty or fifty thousand people who make no pretence of doing any thing for themselves, and who appear to think that they are conferring a distinguishing honor upon the government by accepting its bounty; to allow the murder of an American citizen, of whatever character or degree, to go unpunished,—these are not things pleasant to contemplate. It may be a duty to administer Indian affairs in this way; but it must be a duty far more disagreeable to any man of spirit than would be a call to take part in the punishment of the savages, at no more than the personal risk usually incident to a campaign. And yet, in the face of all this, we do not hesitate to say that the general course of the government in such dealings as have been described above is expedient and humane, just and honorable. This is a proposition, which, in the view of such admissions as have been made, may seem to impose a formidable burden of proof; yet is it not only consistent with the highest reason of the case, but susceptible of very simple and direct demonstration.
In the first place, it should be remarked that there can be no question of national dignity involved in the treatment of savages by a civilized power. The proudest Anglo-Saxon will climb a tree with a bear behind him, and deem not his honor, but his safety, compromised by the situation. With wild men, as with wild beasts, the question whether to fight, coax, or run, is a question merely of what is easiest or safest in the situation given. Points of dignity only arise between those who are, or assume to be, equals. Indeed, nothing is at times so contemptuous as compliance. It indicates not merely a consciousness of strength, but of strength so superior as to decline comparison or contest.
Grant that some petty Sioux chief believes that the government of the United States feeds him and his lazy followers out of fear, or out of respect for his greatness: what then? It will not be long before the agent of the government will be pointing out the particular row of potatoes which his majesty must hoe before his majesty can dine. The people of the United States surely are great enough, and sufficiently conscious of their greatness, to indulge a little longer the self-complacent fancies of those savage tribes, if by that means a desolating war may be avoided.
And in this we shall only do what other nations have done, and esteemed themselves wise in doing. The Greeks and Romans, except in periods of ambitious frenzy, recognized the fruitlessness and folly of fighting absolute savages, and did not scruple, in the height of their conquering pride, to keep the peace with Scythians and Parthians as best they could. The English, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, in their American colonies, only fought the natives when for their purposes they must, preserving the peace when they could by presents, and even by tribute. Statesmen who would have embroiled Europe on a question of dinner-etiquette have fully recognized the principle that there could be no issue of dignity between a civilized power and a band of irresponsible savages, and have submitted, without any feeling of degradation, to demands the most unreasonable, urged in terms the most insolent.
Nor is there any savor of treachery in the government thus biding its time. In this the government simply, from a wise consideration of the exposed situation of the settlements, refrains from the full exercise of the authority which it claims. It in no wise deceives the Indians, but only indulges their illusion till the time comes when the illusion must be broken. It watches the troubled sleep of the maniac, ready to restrain his violence if he wakes, yet mercifully willing that he should remain unconscious. And this forbearance of the government is not less kind to the aborigines than to those of our citizens who are building their homes within reach of the red man's hand. If the savages—Sioux, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Comanches, whom the United States are thus playing with—realized in any adequate measure what the next few years have in store for them, how completely they will be surrounded and disarmed, how certainly they will be forced to labor like squaws for their bread, how stringently the government will enforce its requirements when their power of resistance shall have departed; it is inconceivable but that, in their present temper, ignorant as they are of the real resources of the whites, and conscious that they can still bring eight thousand warriors into the field, they would precipitate a contest which, though it would involve untold misery to our border population, must inevitably end in their own destruction.
If, then, there is nothing inconsistent with national dignity or honor in thus temporizing with hostile savages, it certainly can be shown to be in a high degree compatible with the interests and the welfare of all the white communities which are, by their advanced position, placed at the mercy of the Indians. Thousands and even tens of thousands of our citizens are now living within reach of the first murderous outbreak of a general Indian war. Since 1868, when the trans-continental railroad was completed, population has found its way into regions to which the rate of progress previously maintained would not in fifty years have carried it,—into nooks and corners which five years ago were scarcely known to trappers and guides. Instead of exposing to Indian contact, as heretofore, a clearly defined frontier line, upon two or three faces, our settlements have penetrated the Western country in every direction and from every direction, creeping along the course of every stream, seeking out every habitable valley, following up every indication of gold among the ravines and mountains, clinging around the reservations of the most formidable tribes, and even making lodgement at a hundred points on lands secured by treaty to the Indians. Even where the limit of settlement in any direction has apparently, for the time, been reached, we learn of some solitary ranchman or miner who has made his home still farther down the valley or up the mountain, far beyond sight or call.
It is upon men thus exposed, without hope of escape or chance of resistance, that the first wrath of a general Indian war would break. No note of recall would avert their doom. Long before friendly runners could reach them, the war-whoop would be in their ears; and alone, unfriended, undefended, unaided, they would perish, as hundreds and thousands of our countrymen have perished, at the hands of the infuriated savages. But it is not alone the solitary ranchmen who would be swept away on the first onset of Indian attack. Scores of valleys up which population has been steadily creeping would be instantly abandoned; streams that now, from source to mouth, resound the stroke of the pioneer's axe, would be left desolate on the first rumor of war; a hundred outlying settlements would disappear in a night, as the tidings of outbreak and massacre were borne along by hurrying fugitives. As the blood retreats, on the signal of danger, from the extremities to the heart, so would population retire, terror-struck and precipitate, from the frontier on the first shock of war. Towns, even, would be abandoned; and the frightened inhabitants, men, women, and children, cumbered with household stuff and overdriven stock, would crowd within the shelter of garrisons hardly adequate for their defence.
There could be but one plea on which such considerations as these might be disregarded; and that would be the plea that such forbearance and indulgence on the part of the United States towards the savages only encouraged them to increased insolence and incited them to fresh outrages, rendering the situation less and less tolerable, and in the end involving greater sacrifice of life than would a prompt vindication of the authority of the government, once for all, however disastrous in the immediate result it might prove to existing settlements. If the policy of temporizing which has been described does indeed only serve at the last to aggravate the evil, and by a false appearance of peace to draw within the reach of Indian massacre larger numbers of whites, then it is plainly the duty of the government to recall, as far as may be, its citizens from the exposed frontier, and, at whatever expense of blood and treasure, make issue with the savages, and forever close the question by the complete conquest and reduction of all the hostile or dangerous tribes. But no assumption could be farther from the facts of the case than that the effect of lenity has been to increase the sum of Indian outrage. There is no scintilla of evidence to show that any savage tribe has been incited by the forbearance of the government to increased depredations. On the contrary, the history of the past three years has shown a steady decline in the number of robberies and murders reported on the frontier.
If a humane consideration of the exposed condition of our frontier settlements requires the continuance of the policy of buying off the hostile and dangerous tribes, it is also true that the argument from economy equally favors this action on the part of the government. Expensive as is the Indian service as at present conducted in the interest of peace, it costs far less than fighting. What would be the expense of a general Indian war, which should seek the complete subjugation of the tribes which we have described as potentially hostile, it is impossible to compute within a hundred millions of dollars; but it would undoubtedly reach an aggregate not much short of that of the year of largest preparations and largest operations during the rebellion. Does this seem extravagant, impossible? Words of truth and soberness on such a subject surely might be expected from a commission comprising such men as Gens. Sherman, Harney, Augur, and Terry of the regular army of the United States. Yet these officers united in a report rendered to the President on the 7th of January, 1868, in which they use the following language in reference to the "Chivvington massacre" and the Cheyenne war of 1864:—
"No one will be astonished that a war ensued which cost the government thirty million dollars, and carried conflagration and death to the border settlements. During the spring and summer of 1865, no less than eight thousand troops were withdrawn from the effective force engaged in suppressing the Rebellion, to meet this Indian war. The result of the year's campaign satisfied all reasonable men that war with Indians was useless and expensive. Fifteen or twenty Indians had been killed at an expense of more than a million dollars apiece, while hundreds of our soldiers had lost their lives, many of our border settlers had been butchered, and their property destroyed."
This was the experience of the United States in a contest with an Indian tribe numbering perhaps four thousand men, women, and children, and able to bring into the field not one-fifth as many warriors as the Sioux bands of to-day. Not to go back to wars waged with tribes now subjugated or extinct, were we to cast up the expenditures involved in the Sioux war of 1852-1854, the Cheyenne war of 1864 just referred to, the Navajo war, the second Sioux war in 1866, the second Cheyenne war in 1867, we should undoubtedly reach a total greatly exceeding one hundred millions of dollars. Yet these wars sought only the submission of individual tribes to single demands of the government, and effected, generally, something less than that. It has been shown that the actual expense of the so-called "peace policy" is measured by the increase of the average expenditures of the period 1869 to 1872 over the average expenditures of the period preceding, that increase being about three millions of dollars. This is the sum which is to be compared with the cost of a war which should seek to reduce all the Indian tribes of the continent to complete submission by force of arms, instead of awaiting their gradual, and in the main peaceful reduction through the advance of population and the extension of railways.
We have thus far treated the policy of the government towards the dangerous tribes as one not requiring the use of the military arm in any emergency short of an actual outbreak. We have done so, first, that we might encounter the full effect of the objections to the plan of concession and conciliation; and, secondly, because we hold it true, that, when the alternative is between allowing a considerable degree of insolence and outrage to go unpunished, and entailing upon the Territories a general Indian war, duty and interest require the government to go to the last point of endurance and forbearance with the savages. But this alternative is not always presented: it is often practicable to repress and punish violence, without exposing the settlements to the horrors of massacre. Whenever this can be done, it is scarcely necessary to say it should be done, and done effectually. The feature of the present Indian policy of the government which allows this to be done without incurring general Indian war is known as the reservation system,—a system shrewdly devised to meet the known weaknesses of the Indian character. By it extensive tracts have been set apart for the warlike tribes, within which they may pursue all their customs and habits of life, and indulge themselves in savagery, being also subsisted thereon to the extent of their actual necessities, but outside of which bands or parties are liable to be struck by the military at any time, without warning, and without any implied hostility to those members of the tribe who remain on their reservation, and deport themselves according to the conditions of the compact. The brilliant campaign of Gen. Crook in Arizona during the past season has been prosecuted with the most scrupulous observance of the reservation system, as marked out by the government, and accepted by the Indians themselves. Such a use of the military arm constitutes no abandonment of the "peace policy," and involves no disparagement of it. Military operations thus conducted are not in the nature of war, but of discipline, and are so recognized by the tribes whose marauding bands and parties are scourged back to the reservations by the troops. The effect of all this is something more than negative. It does not merely serve to chastise offending individuals and parties without a breach of peace with the tribe; but it is made the means of impressing the less enterprising Indians with an increasing sense of the power of the government. It was not to be expected that the entire body of a warlike tribe would consent to be restrained in their Ishmaelitish proclivities without a struggle on the part of the more audacious to maintain their traditional freedom. The reservation system allows this issue to be fought out between our troops and the more daring of the savages, without involving in the contest tribes with which our army in its present numbers is wholly inadequate to cope.
Nor will the full effect of this consideration be appreciated if it be not borne in mind that the Indian is intensely susceptible to severe punishment. His own wars are so bloodless, his skirmishing tactics so cowardly and resultless, that the savage fighting of the whites, their eagerness for close quarters, and their deadly earnestness when engaged hand to hand, impress him with a strange terror. With him, as with all persons and peoples in whom the imagination is predominant, the effect of disaster is not measured by the actual loss and suffering entailed, but by the source, the shape, the suddenness, of it. Indeed, it is astonishing how completely the spirit of an Indian tribe may be broken by a catastrophe which does not necessarily impair its fighting power.
Nor even is it necessary that the Indian's sense of justice should be met by the chastisement received. Undiscriminating in his own revenge, he does not look for nicely measured retribution on the part of his enemy. Hence it is that certain of the so-called—and sometimes properly so called—massacres perpetrated by the army, or by frontier militia, have had very different results from what would have been predicted by persons familiar only with habits of thought and feeling among our own people.[D] Injustice and cruelty exasperate men of our race; but the Indian is never other than cruel and unjust under resentment. Let him feel that he has been injured by a white man, and he will tomahawk the first white man he meets, without a thought whether his victim be guilty or innocent. Let him suffer at the hand of a member of a neighboring tribe, and he will lie all day in wait for another member of that tribe with just as much anticipation of gratified hate as if he awaited the footsteps of the wrong-doer. Nay, let him have a feud with one of his own blood, and he will devote the speechless babes of his enemy to his infernal malice. Here, undoubtedly, we find the explanation of the fact that massacres, damnable in plot and circumstance, have struck such deadly and lasting terror into tribes of savages; while, occurring between nations of whites, they would have kindled the flames of war to inextinguishable fury.
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We have thus far treated the question, What shall be done with the Indian as an obstacle to the progress of railways and of settlements?—to the exclusion of the inquiry, What shall be done to promote his advancement in industry and the arts of life?—not merely because, for all those tribes and bands to which the first question applies (i. e. those which are potentially hostile, and towards which the government is, as we have attempted to show, bound in interest and humanity to exercise great forbearance till they shall cease to be formidable to the settlements and to the pioneers of settlement), that question is, in logical order, precedent to any discussion of methods to be taken to educate and civilize them; but also because it is in effect likewise precedent to any deliberate, comprehensive, and permanent adjustment of the difficulties experienced in treating the Indian tribes which are neither hostile in disposition nor formidable by reason of their situation or their numbers. So long as the attention of the executive department is occupied by efforts to preserve the peace; so long as Congress is asked yearly to appropriate three millions of dollars to feed and clothe insolent savages; so long as the public mind is exasperated by reports of Indian outrages occurring in any section of the country,—so long will it be vain to expect an adequate treatment of the question of Indian civilization.
It must not be understood that nothing is being done for the industrial and moral instruction of the peaceful and more advanced tribes[E] pending the reduction of their turbulent brethren to terms; but the efforts, and expenditures of the present time fall far short of the completeness and consistency necessary to constitute a system. Much that is doing is in compliance with treaty stipulations, and hence is well done, whether it have any practical result or not. Much, again, of what is doing, although so inadequate to the necessities of the situation as to yield no positive results, is preventing waste by keeping up established services and agencies, and, in a measure, preserving the character and habits of the Indians from further deterioration. Much, still, is in the way of experiment, from which may be derived many valuable principles and suggestions for the treatment of the Indian question on the larger scale which will be necessary in the future. Much, however, it must be confessed, is done out of an uneasy desire to do something for this unfortunate people, or in generous response to appeals from persons in official or private station who have chanced to become particularly interested in the welfare of individual tribes and bands, and thereafter fail not (small blame to them) to beset Congress and the departments for special consideration and provision for their proteges. It can scarcely need to be remarked, that these are not the ways to constitute a system.
It is a question not a little perplexing, What shall be done with the Indian when he shall be thrown helpless on our government and people? What has been done with tribes and bands which have reached this condition has been, as we have said, of every description; and the results have been not less various. We have had guardianship of the strictest sort. We have tried industrial experiments on more than one plan, and have attempted the thorough industrial education of Indian communities as a security for their social advancement. We have, on other occasions, let the Indian severely alone just so soon as it was ascertained that his power for harm had ceased, and have left him to find his place in the social and industrial scale; to become fisherman, lumberman, herdsman, menial, beggar, or thief, according to aptitude or accident, or the wants of the community at large. True it is that the modes adopted, in fact, in dealing with particular tribes, have generally been due to chance or to the caprices of administration; true, also, that the experiments which have been made do not reflect much credit on the sagacity of the superior race to which have been intrusted the destinies of the red man: but there has been a vast amount of good-nature and benevolent intention exhibited; the experiments have been in many directions, and have covered a large field; and while the results, in the manifest want of adaptation of means to ends, and of operations to material, cannot be deemed wholly conclusive of the philosophy of the situation, yet very much can be learned from them that bears upon the questions of the present day. As has been stated, the issues of the experiments tried have been of every kind. To assertions that the Indian cannot be civilized, can be opposed instances of Indian communities which have attained a very considerable degree of advancement in all the arts of life. To the more cautious assertion, that, while the tribes which subsist chiefly on a vegetable diet are susceptible of being tamed and improved, the meat-eating Indians, the buffalo and antelope hunters, are hopelessly intractable and savage, can be opposed instances of such tribes which, in an astonishingly short time, have been influenced to abandon the chase, to undertake agricultural pursuits, to labor with zeal and patience, to wear white man's clothes, send their children to school, attend church on Sunday, and choose their officers by ballot. To the assertion that the Indian, however seemingly reclaimed, and for a time regenerated, still retains his savage propensities and animal appetites, and will sooner or later relapse into barbarism, can be opposed instances of slow and steady growth in self-respect and self-control, extending over two generations, without an indication of the tendencies alleged. To assertions that the Indian cannot resist either physical or moral corruption by contact with the whites, that he inevitably becomes subject to the baser elements of civilized communities, that every form of infectious or contagious disease becomes doubly fatal to him, and that he learns all the vices but none of the virtues of society, can be opposed instances of tribes which have freely mingled with the whites without debasement, and have acquired the arts of civilized life with no undue proportion of its evils. To the assertion that the Indian must gradually decline in numbers and decay in strength, his life fading out before the intenser life which he encounters, can be offered instances of the steady increase in population of no small number of tribes and bands in immediate contact with settlements, and subject to the full force of white influence.
And yet it is undeniably true that many of the experiments have failed in a greater or less degree; that in some cases the Indians most neglected have done better for themselves than those who have received the care and bounty of the government; that many tribes and bands which had apparently emerged from their barbarous condition have miserably fallen back into sloth and vicious habits; that the meat-eaters, who constitute the bulk of the tribes with which the latest advances of our settlements and railways have brought us in contact, are exceptionally wild and fierce; that the experiment of Indian civilization has far more chances of success when it is tried under conditions that allow of freedom from excitement, and thorough seclusion from foreign influences; and, finally, that Indian blood, thus far in the history of the country, has tended decidedly towards extinction.
The Board of Indian Commissioners, in their Report for 1872, make the statement that "nearly five-sixths of all the Indians of the United States and Territories are now either civilized or partially civilized." (Report, p. 3.) The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in his report of the same date, places the number of reclaimed savages somewhat lower, dividing the three hundred thousand Indians within the limits of the United States as follows: civilized, ninety-seven thousand; semi-civilized, one hundred and twenty-five thousand; wholly barbarous, seventy-eight thousand. He is, however, careful to explain that the division is made "according to a standard taken with reasonable reference to what might fairly be expected of a race with such antecedents and traditions." Perhaps, on a strict construction of the word "semi-civilized," the Indian Office might assent to take off twenty or thirty thousand from the number stated.
We all know what a savage Indian is. What is a civilized Indian?—what a semi-civilized Indian? To what degree of industry, frugality, and sobriety can the Indian be brought? How well does he repay efforts and expenditures for his enlightenment and his advancement in the arts of life? How far does he hold his own when once fairly started on his course by the bounty of the government or by philanthropic enterprise, instructed and equipped, with no obstacles in his way, and with no interruptions from without? What, in short, may we reasonably expect from this people? What have they done for themselves? or what has been done with them in the past? It is doubtful whether zeal or ignorance is more responsible for the confusion which exists in the public mind in respect to this entire matter of Indian civilization. The truth will be best shown by examples.
The Cherokees, who originally owned and occupied portions of the States of Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, have now a reservation of nearly four million acres in the tract known as the Indian Territory. They number about fifteen thousand, and are increasing. They have their own written language, their national constitution and laws, their churches, schools, and academies, their judges and courts. Their dwellings consist of five hundred frame and three thousand five hundred log houses. During the year 1872 they raised three million bushels of corn, besides large quantities of wheat, oats, and potatoes, their aggregate crops being greater than those of New Mexico and Utah combined. Their stock consists of sixteen thousand horses, seventy-five thousand neat-cattle, one hundred and sixty thousand hogs, and nine thousand sheep. It is needless, after such an enumeration of stock and crops, to say that they not only support themselves, but sell largely to neighboring communities less disposed to agriculture. The Cherokees have sixty schools in operation, with an aggregate attendance of two thousand one hundred and thirty-three scholars. Three of these schools are maintained for the instruction of their former negro slaves. All orphans of the tribe are supported at the public expense. The Cherokees are the creditors of the United States in the sum of a million seven hundred and sixteen thousand dollars, on account of lands and claims ceded and relinquished by them. The interest on this sum is annually paid by the treasurer of the United States to "the treasurer of the Cherokee nation," to be used under the direction of the national council for objects prescribed by law or treaty.
From the statements made above, all upon the authority of official reports, it will doubtless appear to every candid reader that the Cherokees are entitled to be ranked among civilized communities. Their condition is far better than that of the agricultural classes of England; and they are not inferior in intelligence or in the ability to assert their rights.
There are in the Indian Territory several other important tribes, and a number of small and broken bands, aggregating forty or forty-five thousand persons, who are in the same general condition as the Cherokees, and are equally—though not, perhaps, in every case, with quite as much emphasis—entitled to be called civilized. Nor are the Indians of this class confined to the Indian Territory so called. They are found in Kansas and Nebraska, in New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and upon the Pacific coast. The ninety or one hundred thousand Indians thus characterized will bear comparison, on the three points of industry, frugality, and sobriety, with an equal population taken bodily out of any agricultural district in the Southern or border States. In general intelligence and political aptitude they are still necessarily below the lowest level of American citizenship, if we exclude the newly-enfranchised element and the poor white population of a few districts of the South.
It is just and proper to call an Indian semi-civilized, no matter how humble his attainments, when he has taken one distinct, unmistakable step from barbarism; since "it is the first step that costs."
The Sioux of the Lake Traverse agency in Dakota number about fifteen hundred,—to be exact, fourteen hundred and ninety-six. These were of the Indians of Minnesota, and escaped to the West after the massacre of 1862, though claiming to have been innocent of participation in it. They are genuine specimens of the Indian race in its pure form. They have within three or four years made considerable progress in agriculture. Nearly all the men have of choice adopted the dress of the whites. Great interest is manifested in the education of the children of the tribe: four schools are in operation, with an attendance of one hundred and twenty-three scholars; and two more schoolhouses are in course of erection. By the provisions of the treaty of 1867, only the sick, the infirm, aged widows, and orphans of tender years, are to be supported by the government. The number thus enrolled for subsistence during the past year was six hundred and sixty, made up as follows: ninety-two men, aged, infirm, blind, crippled, &c.; two hundred and sixty-four women of various conditions; one hundred and eighteen children under seven years; one hundred and eighty-six children between seven and sixteen years. The remainder of the tribe supported themselves fully by their own labor. The agent says, "It is highly gratifying to be able to report commendable progress in agriculture by these Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux on this reservation, who, almost to a man, have become fully satisfied that they cannot any longer rely upon the chase, but must of necessity turn their attention to the cultivation of the soil and stock-growing, for the future, as the only reliable source of subsistence. Many of them have learned to work; and some of them have learned to love to work as well; and they evidently enjoy the labor of their hands."
Tribes which show a higher actual attainment might have been taken for illustration out of the semi-civilized list; but these have been chosen, first, because they are meat-eating Indians, and secondly, because the plan of partial support adopted with them is the one most likely to be applied to all the Sioux bands, as fast as the government shall find itself in a position peremptorily to control their actions and movements.
Again: we select the Pawnees, numbering twenty-four hundred and forty-seven, for illustration, for the reason that they have been long distinguished over all the plains for their warlike power and ferocity, yet, under the care and instruction of the government, have within three years made a great degree of progress in three most important respects, as follows:—
First, while the Pawnees, from their situation, are still enabled and disposed to go upon the summer hunt, they are already engaged to a small extent, and with encouraging success, in the raising of vegetables and garden products, and even of corn and wheat. Two hundred and ten acres were planted by them last year in the several crops.
Second, while the chiefs and braves of the tribe still look to their traditional resource of hunting, the children of the tribe generally are being carefully instructed in letters and in labor. The day-schools and the manual-labor schools of the Pawnees have elicited the most enthusiastic praise from all persons, official or private, who have visited the reservation.
Third,—and this is a point to which we ask special attention, as indicating capabilities of higher things than are usually credited of Indians,—the inveterate and ferocious animosities of the Pawnees toward the Brule Sioux have been so far sacrificed to the requirements of the government and the personal entreaties of their agent, that the past summer witnessed the phenomenon, astonishing to all who were cognizant of the deadly feuds existing for generations between these tribes, of Pawnees and Brules hunting almost side by side, the camp-fires of both being distinctly visible upon the same plain, without a murder being committed, or so much as a horse stolen, by either party.
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If, then, we may assume that Indian civilization is not altogether impossible, let us inquire what should be the policy of the government towards the Indian tribes when they cease to be dangerous to our frontier population, and to oppose the progress of settlement, either by violence or by menace. In such a discussion, we are bound to have a reasonable consideration for the interests of the white man as well as for the rights of the red man, but above all to defer to whatever experience declares in respect to the conditions most favorable to the growth of self-respect and self-restraint in minds so strangely and unfortunately constituted as is the mind of the North American Indian.
First. The reservation system should be made the general and permanent policy of the government. By this is meant something more than that the Indians should not be robbed of their lands in defiance of treaty stipulations, or that the Indian title should be respected, and the Indians maintained in possession until they can be made ready to cede their lands to the government, or to sell them, with the consent of the government, to the whites. The proposition is that the United States, as the only power competent to receive such lands by cession, or to authorize their sale, should formally establish the principle of separation and seclusion, without reference to the wishes either of the Indians or of encroaching whites; should designate by law an ample and suitable reservation for each tribe and band not entitled by treaty; and should, in any reductions thereafter requiring to be made, provide that such reductions shall be by cutting off distinct portions from the outside, and not in such a way as to allow veins of white settlement to be injected, no matter whether along a stream or along a railway.
The principle of secluding Indians from whites for the good of both races is established by an overwhelming preponderance of authority. There are no mysterious reasons why this policy should be adopted: the considerations which favor it are plain and incontestable. The first is the familiar one, that the Indian is unfortunately disposed to submit himself to the lower and baser elements of civilized society, and to acquire the vices and not the virtues of the whites. This need not be dwelt upon; but there is still another consideration even more important, yet not generally apprehended. It is that an Indian tribe is a singularly homogeneous body,[F] and, if not disturbed by the intrusion of alien and discordant elements, is susceptible of being governed and controlled with the greatest ease and effect. It is not necessary to point out the ways in which this peculiarity of the Indian character assists the agent of the government in his administration of a tribe, or to show how much more complete it makes his success, as, little by little, he is able, through the authority of the government, and the means of moral education at his disposal, to effect a change for the better in the public sentiment of the people under his charge.
The number of Indians now having reservations secured to them by law or treaty is approximately 180,000. The number of such reservations is 92, ranging in extent from 288 acres to 40,750 square miles, and aggregating 167,619 square miles. Of these reservations, 31, aggregating 2,693 square miles, are east of the Mississippi River; 42, aggregating 144,838 square miles, are between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains; and 19, aggregating 20,068 square miles, are upon the Pacific slope. In addition to the above, 40,000 Indians, having no lands secured to them by treaty, have had reservations set apart for them by executive order, out of the public lands of the United States. The number of reservations thus set apart is 15, aggregating 59,544 square miles. The Indians thus located have, however, in the nature of the case, no assurance of their occupation of these lands beyond the pleasure of the executive.[G]
It must be evident to every one, on the simple statement of such facts as these, that the reservations, as at present constituted, do not consist with the permanent interests of either the Indian or the government. There are too many reservations: they occupy too much territory in the aggregate; and, what is worse, some of them unnecessarily obstruct the natural access of population to portions of territory not reserved, while others, by their neighborhood, render large tracts of otherwise available land undesirable for white occupation. Indeed, it may be said that the present arrangement of reservations would constitute an almost intolerable affliction, were it to be maintained without change. Nor are the interests of the Indians any better served by the existing order. Many tribes, even were they disposed to agriculture, would not find suitable land within the limits assigned to them. Others are in a position to be incessantly disturbed and harassed by the whites. Others still, while they stand across the path of settlement, are themselves, by ill-considered treaty provisions, cut off from access to hunting-grounds, to fishing privileges, or to mountains abounding in natural roots and berries, which would be of the greatest value to them. When it is considered that the present body of reservations is the result of hundreds of treaties, made, too often, on the part of the government with ignorance and heedlessness, and on the part of the Indians with the childishness characteristic of the race, both parties being not infrequently deceived and betrayed by the interpreters employed; when it is considered, moreover, that many of these treaties have been negotiated in emergencies requiring immediate action,—it would be wonderful indeed if the scheme as it stood were not cumbersome and ineffective.
It is manifest, therefore, that the next five or ten years must witness a general recasting of the scheme of Indian reservations. This is not to be accomplished by confiscating the Indian title, but by exchange, by cession, and by consolidation. Let Congress provide the necessary authority, under the proper limitations, for the executive departments, and the adjustment desired can be reached easily and amicably.
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Second. It is further evident, that, in recasting the scheme of reservations, the principal object should be, while preserving distinct the boundaries of every tribe, so to locate them that the territory assigned to the Indians west of the Mississippi shall constitute one or two grand reservations, with, perhaps, here and there a channel cut through, so to speak, by a railroad, so that the industries of the surrounding communities may not be unduly impeded. Such a consolidation of the Indian tribes into one or two great bodies would leave all the remaining territory of the United States open to settlement, without obstruction or molestation.
Shall there be one general reservation east of the Rocky Mountains, or two? This is likely to be the most important Indian question of the immediate future. On the one hand, the recommendations of the executive, contained in both the Messages of the President and the Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Interior, for the past two or three years, have strongly favored the plan of a single reservation for all the tribes, North and South, East and West, who are not in a condition to become at an early day citizens of the United States and take their land in severalty. The reservation upon which it is proposed to thus collect the Indians of the United States is at present known as the "Indian Territory," although it actually contains but about one-quarter of the Indian population of the country. This tract covers all the territory lying between the States of Arkansas and Missouri on the east, and the one-hundredth meridian on the west, and between the State of Kansas on the north, and the Red River, the boundary of the State of Texas, on the south; comprising about seventy thousand square miles, and embracing a large body of the best agricultural lands west of the Mississippi. Upon this tract, it is claimed, can be gathered and subsisted all the Indians within the administrative control of the government, except such as are manifestly becoming ripe for citizenship in the States and Territories where they are now found. Computing the maximum number likely, on the successful realization of this scheme to be thus concentrated, at two hundred and fifty thousand, and taking the available lands within the district, exclusive of barren plains, of flint hills and sand hills, at an aggregate of thirty million acres, we should have one hundred and twenty acres for each man, woman, and child to be provided for.
On the other hand, the original plan of Indian colonization, as contained in the report of Secretary Calhoun, accompanying the message of President Monroe, Jan. 27, 1825, contemplated two general reservations,—one in the North-west for the Indians of Algonquin and Iroquois stock, and another (being the present Indian Territory) in the South-west for the Appalachian Indians. The ethnographical symmetry of that plan has been hopelessly violated by the introduction into the Indian Territory, and even the incorporation with the Southern tribes, of individuals, broken bands, and even entire tribes, originally from the North and North-east. The bulk of the Shawnees, an Algonquin tribe, are actually incorporated with the Cherokees; two hundred of the Senecas, the very flower of the conquering Iroquois,[H] occupy a small reservation in the north-eastern part of the Territory; while the remnants of the Quapaws, Ottawas, Peorias, Kaskaskias, Weas, Piankeshaws, Pottawatomies, and of the Sacs and Foxes,—all Algonquin tribes,—are found injected at various points along the northern and eastern frontier. At the same time, the south-western portion of the Territory is given up to tribes which are neither Algonquin, Iroquois, nor Appalachian in their original, but are of the races living immemorially beyond the Mississippi. It will thus appear that nothing like an ethnographical distribution of tribes has been attempted; and, indeed, these distinctions have long ceased, with the Indians themselves, to be of the slightest significance. But many of the physiological and practical reasons urged by Secretary Calhoun for a double Indian reservation still remain in full force. Nor does this scheme rest upon his authority alone. The Peace Commission of 1867 and 1868, consisting of Indian Commissioner Taylor, Senator Henderson, Gens. Sherman, Harney, Terry, and Augur, of the army, and Messrs. Sanborn and Tappan, concurred in the recommendation of two reservations for tribes east of the Rocky Mountains.
We are disposed to hold, not only that the reason of the case inclines to the plan of two general reservations, but that the matter will be settled practically in that way by the aversion and horror which the Northern Indians feel at the thought of moving to the South. Regarding the Indian Territory, as they do, though with no sufficient reason, as the graveyard of their race, there is ground for apprehension that, if the project be too suddenly sprung upon them, or pressed too far, the repugnance of some of these tribes may culminate in outbreaks like those with which the Black Hawk and Seminole wars commenced. There can, however, be no objection to the experiment being tried in such a way as not to endanger the peace. Certain of the Northern tribes, notably the confederated Cheyennes and Arapahoes, and the confederated Arickarees and Mandans, manifest much less antipathy to removal than others, by reason of their relationship to Indians South, or of exceptional inconveniences sustained in their present location. If such tribes could be amicably induced to go to the Indian Territory, their experiences, if fortunate, might serve in time to remove the prejudices existing among the Northern Indians generally.
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Third. The intrusion of whites upon lands reserved to Indians should be provided against by legislation suited to the necessities of the case. By the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834 it was made a criminal offence to enter without authority the limits of any Indian reservation; and the prohibition was enforced by penalties adequate to the situation at that time. This provision, however, was aimed at individual intruders, rather than at organized expeditions completely equipped for offence or defence, and strong enough to maintain themselves against considerable bands of the savages, or the ordinary posse comitatus of a distant Territory. It is in the latter form that the invasion of Indian country now generally takes place;[I] and for the purpose of resisting such organized lawlessness, the Act of 1834 is far from sufficient. The executive may, it is true, in an extreme case, and by the exercise of one of the highest acts of authority, make proclamation forbidding such combinations, and enforce the same by movements of troops, as would be done in the case of a threatened invasion of the soil of a neighboring friendly state. But this remedy is of such a violent nature, the odium and inconvenience occasioned thereby are so great, and the lawful limits of official action in such a resort are so ill-defined, that the executive is most unlikely to make use of it, except in rare and extreme cases. The eagerness of the average American citizen of the Territories for getting upon Indian lands amounts to a passion. The ruggedest flint hill of the Cherokees or Sioux is sweeter to him than the greenest pasture which lies open to him under the homestead laws of the United States. There is scarcely one of the ninety-two reservations at present established on which white men have not effected a lodgement: many swarm with squatters, who hold their place by intimidating the rightful owners; while in more than one case the Indians have been wholly dispossessed, and are wanderers upon the face of the earth. So far have these forms of usurpation been carried at times in Kansas, that an Indian reservation there might be defined as that portion of the soil of the State on which the Indians have no rights whatsoever.
Now, while it cannot be denied that there is something in all this suggestive of the reckless daring and restless enterprise to which the country owes so much of its present greatness, it is yet certain that such intrusion upon Indian lands is in violation of the faith of the United States, endangers the peace (as it has more than once enkindled war), and renders the civilization of tribes and bands thus encroached upon almost hopeless. The government is bound, therefore, in honor and in interest, to provide ample security for the integrity of Indian reservations; and this can only be done by additional and most stringent legislation.
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Fourth. The converse of the proposition contained under the preceding head is equally true and equally important. Indians should not be permitted to abandon their tribal relations, and leave their reservations to mingle with the whites, except upon express authority of law. We mean by this something more than that a "pass system" should be created for every tribe under the control of the government, to prevent individual Indians from straying away for an occasional debauch at the settlements. It is essential that the right of the authorities to keep members of any tribe upon the reservation assigned to them, and to arrest and return such as may from time to time wander away and seek to ally themselves with the whites, should be definitely established, and the proper forms and methods of procedure in such cases be fixed and prescribed by law. Without this, whenever these people become restive under compulsion to labor, they will break away in their old roving spirit, and stray off in small bands to neighboring communities. No policy of industrial education and restraint can be devised to meet the strong hereditary disinclination of the Indian to labor and to frugality which will not, in its first courses, tend to make him dissatisfied and rebellious. Nothing but the knowledge that he must stay on his reservation, and do all that is there prescribed for him; that he will not be permitted to throw off his connection with his people, and stray away to meet his own fate, unprovided, uninstructed, and unrestrained,—will, under any adequate system of moral and industrial correction and education, prevent a general breaking-up of Indian communities, and the formation of Indian gypsy-camps all over the frontier States and Territories, to be sores upon the public body, and an intolerable affliction to the future society of those communities.
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Fifth. A rigid reformatory control should be exercised by the government over the lives and manners of the Indians of the several tribes, particularly in the direction of requiring them to learn and practise the arts of industry, at least until one generation shall have been fairly started on a course of self-improvement. Merely to disarm the savages, and to surround them by forces which it is impossible for them to resist, leaving it to their own choice how miserably they will live, and how much they shall be allowed to escape work, is to render it highly probable that the great majority of the now roving Indians will fall hopelessly into a condition of pauperism and petty crime.
"Unused to manual labor, and physically disqualified for it by the habits of the chase, unprovided with tools and implements, without forethought and without self-control, singularly susceptible to evil influences, with strong animal appetites, and no intellectual tastes or aspirations to hold those appetites in check, it would be to assume more than would be taken for granted of any white race under the same conditions, to expect that the wild Indians will become industrious and frugal except through a severe course of industrial instruction and exercise under restraint."—Report on Indian Affairs, 1872, p. 11.
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The right of the government to exact, in this particular, all that the good of the Indian and the good of the general community may require is not to be questioned. The same supreme law of the public safety which to-day governs the condition of eighty thousand paupers and forty thousand criminals, within the States of the Union, affords ample authority and justification for the most extreme and decided measures which may be adjudged necessary to save this race from itself, and the country from the intolerable burden of pauperism and crime which the race, if left to itself, will certainly inflict upon a score of future States.
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Sixth. The provision made by the government for the partial subsistence of Indian tribes through the long and painful transition from the hunter life to the agricultural state, for their instruction and equipment in industrial pursuits, and for starting them finally on a course of full self-support and economical independence, should be liberal and generous, even to an extreme. The experiment should not be allowed to encounter any chances of failure which may be avoided by expenditure of money. The claim of the Indian in this respect is of the strongest. He has no right to prevent the settling of this continent by a race which has not only the power to conquer, but the disposition to improve and adorn the land which he has suffered to remain a wilderness. Yet to some royalty upon the product of the soil the Indian is incontestably entitled as the original occupant and possessor. The necessities of civilization may justify a somewhat summary treatment of his rights, but cannot justify a confiscation of them. The people of the United States can never without dishonor refuse to respect two considerations,—first, that the Indians were the original occupants and owners of substantially all the territory embraced within our limits; that their title of occupancy has been recognized by all civilized powers having intercourse with them, and has been approved in nearly four hundred treaties concluded by the United States with individual tribes and bands; and, therefore, every tribe and band that is deprived of its roaming privilege and confined to a "diminished reservation" is clearly entitled to compensation, either directly or in the form of expenditures for its benefit: second, that, inasmuch as the progress of our industrial enterprise is fast cutting this people off from modes of livelihood entirely sufficient for them, and suited to them, and is leaving them without resource, they have a claim, on this account again, to temporary support and to such assistance as may be necessary to place them in a position to obtain a livelihood by means which shall be compatible with civilization.
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"Had the settlements of the United States not been extended beyond the frontier of 1867, all the Indians of the continent would to the end of time have found upon the plains an inexhaustible supply of food and clothing. Were the westward course of population to be stayed at the barriers of to-day, notwithstanding the tremendous inroads made upon their hunting-grounds since 1867, the Indians would still have hope of life. But another such five years will see the Indians of Dakota and Montana as poor as the Indians of Nevada and Southern California; that is, reduced to an habitual condition of suffering from want of food. The freedom of expansion which is working these results is to us of incalculable value: to the Indian it is of incalculable cost."—Report on Indian Affairs, 1872, p. 10.
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Seventh. It is, further, highly desirable, in order to avoid the possibility of an occasional failure in such provision for the immediate wants of the Indians, and for their advancement in the arts of life and industry, and also to secure comprehensiveness and consistency in the general scheme, that the endowments for the several tribes and bands should be capitalized and placed in trust for their benefit, out of the reach of accident or caprice. Annual appropriations for such purposes, according to the humor of Congress, will of necessity be far less effective for good than would an annual income of a much smaller amount, arising from permanent investments.
To a considerable extent this has already been effected. For not a few tribes and bands provision has been made by law and treaty which places them beyond the reach of serious suffering in the future, and which, if their income be judiciously administered, will afford them substantial assistance towards final self-support. Stocks to the value of $4,810,716.83-2/3 are held by the Secretary of the Interior in trust for certain tribes; while credits to the aggregate amount of $5,905,474.59 are inscribed on the books of the United States Treasury in favor of the same or other tribes, on account of the sales of lands, or other consideration received by the government,[J] making a permanent endowment of nearly ten millions of dollars, the Indians sharing in the benefits thereof numbering in the aggregate nearly eighty thousand. Computing the average annual return from these funds at five and one-half per cent, we should have an assured income of five hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, or about seven dollars for each man, woman, and child. Moreover, most of these tribes have still large bodies of lands which they can dispose of sooner or later, from which funds of twice the amount already secured may by honest and judicious management be realized; so that, taking these eighty thousand Indians as a body, they may be regarded as having a reasonable assurance of funds yielding an annual income of twenty dollars a head. Their general character and condition being considered, this may be accepted as an amply sufficient endowment, placing their future in their own hands, giving them all the opportunities and appliances that could reasonably be asked for them, and securing them against the calamities and reverses which inevitably beset the first stages of industrial progress.
Unfortunately, the same wise provision for the future has not been made in the case of other Indians who have ceded or surrendered to the government the main body of their lands. There is a painfully long list of tribes that have to show for their inheritance only a guaranty on the part of the United States of certain expenditures, more or less beneficial, for a series of years longer or shorter, as the case may be. The Report on Indian Affairs for 1872 (pp. 418-430) states the aggregate of future appropriations that will be required during a limited number of years to pay limited annuities at $15,819,310.46. The annuities covered by this computation have from one to twenty-seven years to run (the average term being about seven years), and embrace almost every variety of goods and services which human ingenuity could suggest. Many of the things stipulated to be given to the Indians, or to be done for them, are admirable in themselves, but far in advance of the present requirements of the tribes; and the expenditures involved are therefore perfectly useless. Other things would be well enough if the Indians could have every thing they wanted, but are absurd and mischievous as taking the place of what is absolutely essential to their well-being. Of other things embraced in the schedule of annual appropriations, it can only be said that the Indians need them no more than a toad needs a pocket-book. For such waste of Indian moneys the responsibility rests in many cases upon the commissioners, who, on the part of the United States, negotiated the treaties under which these appropriations are annually made. Had they been half as solicitous for the future of the Indians as they were for the attainment of the immediate object of negotiation, the government would have been left free to apply the amounts, to be paid in consideration for cessions, in such manner as to make them of substantial benefit; or, better still, the amounts would have been capitalized, and a permanent income secured. As it is, many tribes now see approaching the termination of annuities which have for many years been paid them with the very minimum of advantage, and have no prospect beyond but that of being thrown, uninstructed and unprovided, upon their own barbarous resources.
Let us illustrate. A tribe makes a treaty with the United States, ceding the great body of their lands, and accepting a diminished reservation sufficient for their actual occupation. In consideration, it is provided that there shall be maintained upon the reservation, for the term of fifteen years, at the expense of the United States, a superintendent of teaching and two teachers, a superintendent of farming and two farmers, two millers, two blacksmiths, a tinsmith, a gunsmith, a carpenter, and a wagon and plough maker, with shops and material for all these mechanical services. This "little bill" is presumably made up without much reference to the peculiarities in character and condition of the tribe to be benefited by the expenditures involved. As soon as the treaty goes into effect, the United States in good faith fulfil their part of the bargain. The shops are built, the employees enlisted; and the government, through its agent, stands ready to civilize the Indians to almost any extent. But, unfortunately, the Indians are not ready to be civilized. The glow of industrial enthusiasm, which was created by the metaphorical eloquence of the commissioners in council dies away under the first experiment of hard work: an hour at the plough nearly breaks the back of the wild man wholly unused to labor: his pony, a little wilder still, jumps now on one side of the furrow and now on the other, and finally settles the question by kicking itself free of the galling harness, and disappears for the day. The Indian, a sadder and wiser man, betakes himself to the chase, and thereafter only visits the shops, maintained at so much expense by the government, to have his gun repaired, or to get a strap or buckle for his riding-gear. But still the treaty expenditures go on: the United States are every year loyally furnishing what has been stipulated; and the Indian is every year one instalment nearer the termination of all his claims upon the government. Meanwhile, population is closing around the reservation: the animals of the chase are disappearing before the presence of the white man, and the sound of the pioneer's axe: scantier and scantier grow the natural means of subsistence, fainter and fainter the attractions of the chase; and when at last hunger drives the Indian in to the agency, made ready by suffering to learn the white man's ways of life, the provisions of the treaty are well-nigh expired. One, three, or five years pass. All the instalments have been honorably paid: the appropriation committees of Congress, with sighs of relief, cross off the name of the tribe from the list of beneficiaries; and another body of Indians, uninstructed and unprovided, are left to shift for themselves.