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never before met except for the purpose of scalping each other. This, to my mind, was conclusive evidence of the sincerity of the Indians, and nothing but bad management or some untoward misfortune ever can break it."
The Secretary of the Interior, in his report for this year, speaks with satisfaction of the treaties negotiated with Indians during the
“It cannot be denied that most of the depredations committed by the Indians on our frontiers are the offspring of dire necessity. The advance of our population compels them to relinquish their fertile lands, and seek refuge in sterile regions which furnish neither corn nor game: impelled by hunger, they seize the horses, mules, and cattle of the pioneers, to relieve their wants and satisfy the cravings of nature. They are immediately pursued, and, when overtaken, severely punished. This creates a feeling of revenge on their part, which seeks its gratification in outrages on the persons and property of peaceable inhabitants. The whole country then becomes excited, and a desolating war, attended with a vast sacrifice of blood and treasure, ensues. This, it is believed, is a true history of the origin of most of our Indian hostilities.
“All history admonishes us of the difficulty of civilizing a wandering race who live mainly upon game.
To tame a sav. age you must tie him down to the soil. You must make him understand the value of property, and the benefits of its separate ownership. You must appeal to those selfish principles implanted by Divine Providence in the nature of man for the wisest purposes, and make them minister to civilization and refinement. You must encourage the appropriation of lands by individuals; attach them to their homes by the ties of interest; teach them the uses of agriculture and the arts of peace ; *** and they should be taught to look forward to the day when they may be elevated to the dignity of American citizenship.
“By means like these we shall soon reap our reward in the
suppression of Indian depredations; in the diminution of the expenses of the Department of War; in a valuable addition to our productive population; in the increase of our agriculture and commerce; and in the proud consciousness that we have removed from our national escutcheon the stain left on it by our acknowledged injustice to the Indian race.”
We find the Cheyennes, therefore, in 1851, pledged to peace and good-will toward their Indian neighbors, and to the white emigrants pouring through their country. For this conceded right of way they are to have a dollar a year apiece, in “goods and animals;" and it is supposed that they will be able to eke out this support by hunting buffaloes, which are still not extinct.
In 1852 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs writes: “Notwithstanding the mountain and prairie Indians continue to suffer from the vast number of emigrants who pass through their country, destroying their means of support, and scattering disease and death among them, yet those who were parties to the treaty concluded at Fort Laramie, in the fall of 1851, have been true to their obligations, and have remained at peace among themselves and with the whites."
And the superintendent writes: “Congress made a very liberal appropriation of $100,000 to make a treaty with the prairie and mountain tribes. A very satisfactory treaty was made with them last fall at Fort Laramie, the conditions of which, on their part, have been faithfully observed—no depredations having been committed during the past season by any of the tribes parties to the Fort Laramie treaty. The Senate amended the treaty, substituting fifteen instead of fifty years as the period for which they were to have received an annual supply of goods, animals, etc., at the discretion of the President. This modification of the treaty I think very proper, as the condition of these wandering hordes will be entirely changed during the next fifteen years. The treaty, however, should have been sent
back to the Indians for the purpose of obtaining their sanction to the modification, as was done in the case of the Sioux treaty negotiated by Commissioners Ramsey and Lea. It is hoped this oversight will be corrected as early as practicable next spring, otherwise the large amounts already expended will have been uselessly wasted, and the Indians far more dissatisfied than ever.”
To comment on the bad faith of this action on the part of Congress would be a waste of words; but its impolicy is so glaring that one's astonishment cannot keep silent—its impolicy and also its incredible niggardliness. A dollar apiece a year, " in goods, animals,” etc., those Indians had been promised that they should have for fifty years. It must have been patent to the meanest intellect that this was little to pay each year to any one man from whom we were taking away, as the commissioner said, “his means of support.” But, unluckily for the Indians, there were fifty thousand of them. It entered into some thrifty Congressman's head to multiply fifty by fifty, and the aggregate terrified everybody. This was much more likely to have been the cause of the amendment than the cause assigned by the superintendent, viz., the probable change of localities of all the “wandering hordes ” in the next fifteen years.
No doubt it would be troublesome to the last degree to distribute fifty thousand dollars,“ in goods, animals,” etc., to fifty thousand Indians wandering over the entire Upper Missouri region; but no more troublesome, surely, in the sixteenth year than in the fifteenth. The sophistry is too transparent; it does not in the least gloss over the fact that, within the first year after the making of our first treaty of any moment with these tribes-while they to a man, the whole fifty thousand of them, kept their faith with us—we broke ours with them in the meanest of ways-robbing them of more than two-thirds of the money we had promised to pay.
All the tribes “promptly" assented to this amendment, how
ever; so says the Annual Report of the Indian Commissioner for 1853; and adds that, with a single exception, they have maintained friendly relations among themselves, and "manifested an increasing confidence in and kindness toward the whites."
Some of them have begun to raise corn, beans, pumpkins, etc., but depend chiefly on the hunt for their support. But the agent who was sent to distribute to them their annuities, and to secure their assent to the amendment to the treaty, reports: “The Cheyennes and the Arapahoes, and many of the Sioux, are actually in a starving state. They are in abject want of food half the year, and their reliance for that scanty supply, in the rapid decrease of the buffalo, is fast disappearing. The travel upon the roads drives them off, or else confines them to a narrow path during the period of emigration, and the different tribes are forced to contend with hostile nations in seeking support for their villages. Their women are pinched with want, and their children constantly crying with hunger. Their arms, moreover, are unfitted to the pursuit of smaller game, and thus the lapse of a few years presents only the prospect of a gradual famine.” And in spite of such suffering, these Indians commit no depredations, and show increasing confidence in and kindness toward the whites.
This agent, who has passed many years among the Indians, speaks with great feeling of the sad prospect staring them in the face.
“But one course remains which promises any permanent relief to them, or any lasting benefit to the country in which they dwell; that is, simply to make such modifications in the 'intercourse' laws as will invite the residence of traders among them, and open the whole Indian Territory for settlement. Trade is the only civilizer of the Indian. It has been the precursor of all civilization heretofore, and it will be of all hereafter. It teaches the Indian the value of other things besides the spoils of the chase, and offers to him
other pursuits and excitements than those of war. All obstructions to its freedom, therefore, only operate injuriously. *** The Indians would soon lose their nomadic character, and forget the relations of tribes. *** And this, while it would avoid the cruel necessity of our present policy-to wit, extinction would make them an element in the population, and sharer in the prosperity of the country.” He says of the “system of removals, and congregating tribes in small parcels of territory,” that it has “eventuated injuriously on those who have been subjected to it. It is the legalized murder of a whole nation. It is expensive, vicious, and inhuman, and producing these consequences, and these alone. The custom, being judged by its fruits, should not be persisted in."
It is in the face of such statements, such protests as these, that the United States Government has gone steadily on with its policy, so called, in regard to the treatment of the Indian.
In 1854 the report from the Upper Missouri region is still of peace and fidelity on the part of all the Indians who joined in the Fort Laramie treaty. “Not a single instance of murder, robbery, or other depredation has been committed by them, either on the neighboring tribes parties to the treaty or on whites. This is the more remarkable, as before the treaty they were foremost in the van of thieves and robbers—always at war, pillaging whoever they met, and annoying their own traders in their own forts.”
In the summer of this year the Cheyennes began to be dissatisfied and impertinent. At a gathering of the northern band at Fort Laramie, one of the chiefs demanded that the travel over the Platte road should be stopped. He also, if the interpreter was to be relied on, said that next year the Government must send them out one thousand white women for wives. The Sonthern Cheyennes had given up to their agent some Mexican prisoners whom they had taken in the spring, and this act, it was supposed, had seemed to the northern band