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of the Indian Territory. It is not wise statesmanship to create impassable barriers between any parts of our country or any portions of our people.
Very difficult questions demanding very careful treatment arise in reference to just this point. Certain Indian tribes now own certain Indian reservations and the Indian Territory, and this right of property ought to be most sacredly guarded. But it does not, therefore, follow that these Indians, in their present state, ought to control the present use of this property. They may need a long training before they are wise enough to manage rightfully what is nevertheless rightfully their own. This training, to which their property might fairly contribute means, should assiduously be given in established schools with required attendance.
If the results thus indicated shall gradually come to pass, the property now owned by the tribes should be ultimately divided and held in severalty by the individual members of the tribes. Such a division should not be immediately made, and, when made, it should be with great care and faithfulness; but the Indian himself should, as soon as may be, feel both the incentives and the restraints which an individual ownership of property is fitted to excite, and the Government, which is his guardian, having educated him for this ownership, should endow him with it. · But until the Indian becomes as able as is the average white man to manage his property for himself, the Government should manage it for him, no matter whether he be willing or unwilling to have this done.
A difficulty arises in the cases—of which there are manywhere treaties have been made by the Government of the United States with different Indian tribes, wherein the two parties have agreed to certain definitely named stipulations. Such treaties have proceeded upon the false view— false in principle, and equally false in fact—that an Indian tribe, roaming in the wilderness and living by hunting and plunder, is a nation. In order to be a nation, there must be a people with a code of laws which they practise, and a government which they maintain, No vague sense of some unwritten law, to which human nature, in its lowest stages, doubtless feels some obligation, and no regulations instinctively adopted for common defence, which the rudest people herded together will always follow, are enough to constitute a nation. These Indian tribes are not a nation, and nothing either in their history or their condition could properly invest them with a treaty-making power.
And yet when exigencies have seemed to require, we have treated them as nations, and have pledged our own national faith in solemn covenant with them. It were the baldest truism to say that this faith and covenant should be fulfilled. Of course it should be fulfilled. It is to our own unspeakable disgrace that we have so often failed therein. But it becomes us wisely and honestly to inquire whether the spirit of these agreements might not be falsified by their letter, and whether, in order to give the Indian his real rights, it may not be necessary to set aside prerogatives to which he might technically and formally lay claim. If the Indian Territory and the Indian reservations have been given to certain tribes as their possession forever, the sacredness of this guarantee should not shut our eyes to the sacredness also of the real interests of the people in whose behalf the guarantee was given. We ought not to lose the substance in our efforts to retain the shadow; we ought not to insist upon the summum jus, when this would become the summa injuria.
Of course the utmost caution is needed in the application of such a principle. To admit that a treaty with the Indians may be set aside without the consent of the Indians themselves, is to open the door again to the same frauds and falsehoods which have so darkly branded a “Century of Dishonor.” But our great trouble has been that we have sought to exact justice from the Indian while exhibiting no justice to him; and when we shall manifest that all our procedure toward him is in truth and uprightness, we need have no fear but that both his conscience and his judgment will in the end approve.
JULIUS H. SEELYE. AMHERST COLLEGE, December 10, 1880.
ALL the quotations in this book, where the name of the author. ity is not cited, are from Official Reports of the War Department or the Department of the Interior.
The book gives, as its title indicates, only a sketch, and not a history.
To write in full the history of any one of these Indian communities, of its forced migrations, wars, and miseries, would fill a volume by itself.
The history of the missionary labors of the different churches among the Indians would make another volume. It is the one bright spot on the dark record.
All this I have been forced to leave untouched, in strict adherence to my object, which has been simply to show our causes for national shame in the matter of our treatment of the Indians. It is a shame which the American nation ought not to lie under, for the American people, as a people, are not at heart unjust.
If there be one thing which they believe in more than any other, and mean that every man on this continent shall have, it is “fair play.” And as soon as they fairly understand how cruelly it has been denied to the Indian, they will rise up and demand it for him.