The following communication is from a gentleman who has resided among the Southwestern Indians more than eight years; is familiarly acquainted with many of the Chiefs and principal men, and has the best means of knowing the condition, wishes, and intellectual advancement of the people, and what effect their removal would be likely to have upon their character and prospects.
N. Y. Jour. of Com.
The Choctaws are much disturbed at the thought of being removed. It is a painful subject to their hearts. The most enlightened among them, as well as Choctaw white men, all view the subject alike, as far as I know. The late language of the War Department & the President to the Cherokees, appears to them to be very unjust. The memorial of the Cherokees is a noble document, and worthy a place in any publication. And I would it were printed in many of our most popular papers and periodical pamphlets.
If the Choctaws are removed, it will be effected contrary to their pleasure, judgment, choice, and interest. They will yield because they will be obliged to. A removal would be attended with unnumbered sacrifices, in lands, homes, stocks, schools,and the Gospel. The nation must of necessity be thrown into disorder. The aged, the young, and the poor, must suffer immensely. And those who may reach their homes beyond the Mississippi in safety, may expect to suffer much from sickness, and from famine, and from contentions with other tribes. Besides, there will be much trouble by the way. And after years and years have passed away, they may possibly be as well provided for in their new country as they now are here. This is the utmost they can expect. By that time there will be a new President, new white people, new settlers, persecutors of the Indians. All this many Indians know as well as any of us. And therefore they cannot be persuaded to go, if they might be permitted to remain here.
Do you think an old Bostonian of 76 would have drank tea that had been taxed by England merely because he was invited to do so by a well dressed civil matron? No. Nor would the Indian yield his country to others of his own accord because invited. And if the Bostonian saw a just cause of war, even in the price of his tea, what would he have said and done, if England had said to him, give up your whole town, and remove beyond the Susquehannah [sic]? we want this port and town for other men? To bring the case home to the very soil you tread on, look at your dwellings, your schools, your churches, and imagine a tyrant coming to claim them all, and ordering you to walk to the western mountains. Oh, my dear sir, if the Indian is obliged to go, it will be because he can remain here with white men, professing to be Christians, no longer. He will stand and gaze on us as long as he can. He will look once more at his home, the land of his fathers, and of his birth; and then turn on his heel away from the white men and all that he could offer him, and fixing an eye sullen with despair on the great western wilderness, will enter it, no more to return, but carrying in his bleeding heart a sense of wrong and oppression entirely unprovoked, which he will not forget to tell his children even in death.
I have heard of no good location for Indians at the West; none which pleases our people. Some of them went last winter and examined a tract of land somewhere to the west of the State of Missouri, but were not at all pleased with it. The land was not well watered, or timbered, and much of it was poor prairie land, and is too cold a climate.
Here I would add a few remarks. The Indians are in no sense our liege subjects.- They are independent owners of their own land, and governors of their own persons and property. They had no part in forming our states, constitutions, or laws; nor we in the formation of theirs. They possess the soil by a right which has come down from time out of mind. In no sense are they intruders upon another's sovereignty. They have not begged, bought, or received their rights from us. Nor have we any right to measure to them their privileges. If an Indian can have any right on earth, he can claim his own soil, by a right not to be disputed. Our government have therefore claimed no right either by purchase or conquest. All their treaties imply this. Here stands their ground of right. The Indians are a small people. They are red in their color. They speak another, though a beautiful language. They are hunters. They are ignorant and poor, and we call them savages-Indians- wild Indians-drunken savages. Thus some men may describe them. But there are Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Creeks, of whom a white man might be proud to say, "He is my brother." And as a people, these nations are now well colonized and are doing well. They are fast rising. For years they have been listening with patience and confidence to the advice of the United States government, and have adopted many measures for their own improvement. Thousands and tens of thousands have they expended for schools, to give their own offspring an education. And now, after all this, are they about to be told, you live too near to white folks, and must go over the Mississippi? Who is it that is crowing?
The Chiefs feel much distressed at the prospect of being removed. One of them told me lately, that he did wish their friends among the whites to do all they could to continue the Indians here a little longer.- Cannot some lawyer address the public in an argumentative way, relative to the Cherokee treaties.