and Indians Advocate
Wednesday, January 20, 1830
Vol. II, no. 40
Page 1, col. 3a-5b
To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled;
The undersigned memorialist humbly make known to your honorable bodies, that they are free citizens of the Cherokee Nation. Circumstances of late occurrence have troubled our hearts and induced us at this time to appeal to you, knowing that you are generous and just. As weak and poor children are accustomed to look to their guardians and patrons for protection, so we would come and make our grievances known. Will you listen to us? Will you have pity upon us? You are great and renowned-the nation which you represent is like a mighty man who stands in his strength. But we are small-our name is not renowned. You are wealthy, and have need of nothing; but we are poor in life, and have not the arm and power of the rich.
By the will of our Father in heaven, the Governor of the whole world, the red man of America has become small, and the white man great and renowned. When the ancestors of the people of these United States first came to the shores of America, they found the red man strong--though he was ignorant and savage, yet he received them kindly, and gave them dry land to rest their weary feet. They met in peace, and shook hands in token of friendship. Whatever the white man wanted and asked of the Indians, the latter willingly gave. At that time the Indian was the lord, and the white man the suppliant. But now the scene has changed. The strength of the red man has become weakness. As his neighbors increased in number, his power became less and less, and now , of the many and powerful tribes who once covered these United States, only a few are to be seen--a few whom a sweeping pestilence has left. The Northern tribes who were once as numerous and powerful are now nearly extinct. This it has happened to the red man of America. Shall we, who are remnants share the same fate?
Brothers-we address you according to usage adopted by our forefathers, and the great and good men who have successfully directed the Councils of the nation you represent-we now make known to you our grievances. We are troubled by some of your own people. Our neighbor, the State of Georgia is pressing hard upon us, and urging us to relinquish our possessions for her benefit. We are told, if we do not leave the country, which we dearly love, and betake ourselves to the western wilds, the laws of the state will be extended over us, and the time, 1st of June 1830, is appointed for the execution of the edict. When we first heard of this we were grieved, and appealed to our father the President, and begged that protection might be extended over us. But we were doubly grieved when we understood, from a letter of the Secretary of War to our Delegation, dated March of the present year, that our father the President had refused us protection, and that he had decided in favor of the extension of the laws of the State over us. This decision induces us to appeal to the immediate representatives of the American people. We love, we dearly love our country, and it is due to your honorable bodies as well as to us, to make known why we think the country is ours, and why we wish to remain in peace where we are.
The land on which we stand we have received as an inheritance from our fathers who possessed it from time immemorial, as a gift from our common father in heaven. We have already said that when the white man came to the shores of America, our ancestors were found in peaceable possession of this very land. They bequeathed it to us as their children, and we have sacredly kept it as containing the remains of our beloved men. This right of inheritance we have never ceded, nor ever forfeited. Permit us to ask, what better right can a people have to a country, that the right of inheritance and immemorial peaceable possession! We know it is said of late by the State of Georgia, and by the Executive of the United States, that we have forfeited this right--but we think this is said gratuitously. At what time have we made the forfeit? What great crime have we committed, whereby we must forever be divested of our country and rights? Was it when we were hostile to the United States, and took part with the King of Great Britain during the struggle for independence? If so, why was not this forfeiture declared in the first treaty of peace between the United States and our beloved men? Why was not such an article as the following inserted in the treaty: "The United States give peace to the Cherokees, but; for the part they took in the late war, declare them to be but tenants at will, to be removed, when the convenience of the states within whose chartered limits they live shall require it."- That was the proper time to assume such a position. But it was not thought of nor would our forefathers have agreed to any treaty whose tendency was to deprive them of their rights and their country. All that they have conceded and relinquished are inserted in the treaties, open to the investigation of all people. We would repeat, then, the right of inheritance and peaceable possession, which we claim, we have never ceded nor forfeited.
In addition to that first of all rights, the right of inheritance and peaceable possession, we have the faith and pledge of the United States, repeated over and over again in treaties made at various times. By these treaties our rights as a separate people are distinctly acknowledged, and guaranties given that they shall be secured and protected. So we have always understood the treaties. The conduct of the Government towards us, from its organization until very lately, the talks given to our beloved men by the Presidents of the United States, and the speeches of the Agents and Commissioners, all concur to show that we are not mistaken in our interpretation. Some of our beloved men who signed the treaties are still living, and their testimony tends to the same conclusion. We have always supposed that this understanding of the treaties was in accordance with the views of the Government; nor have we ever imagined that any body would interpret them otherwise. In what light shall we view the conduct of the United States and Georgia, in their intercourse with us in urging us to enter into treaties, and cede lands? If we were but tenants at will, why was it necessary that our consent must first be obtained before these Governments could take lawful possession of our lands? The answer is obvious. These governments perfectly understood our rights--our right to the country, and our right to self government. Our understanding of the treaties is further supported by the intercourse law of the United States, which prohibits all encroachments upon our territory. The undersigned memorialists humbly represent, that if their interpretation of the treaties has been different from that of the Government then they have ever been deceived as to how the Government regarded them, and what she has asked and promised. Moreover, they have uniformly misunderstood their own acts.
In view of the strong ground upon which their rights are founded, your
memorialists solemnly protest against being considered as tenants at will, or
as mere occupants of the soil, without possessing the sovereignty.- We have
already stated to your honorable bodies, that our forefathers were found in
possession of this soil, in full sovereignty, by the first European settlers;
and as we have never ceded nor forfeited the occupancy of the soil and the sovereignty
over it, we do solemnly protest against being forced to leave it either by direct
or indirect measures. To the land of which we are now in possession we
are attached-It is our fathers gift-it contains their ashes-it is the land of
our nativity, and the land of our intellectual birth. We cannot
consent to abandon it, for another far inferior and which holds out to us no
inducements. We do moreover protest against the arbitrary measures of
our neighbor, the state of Georgia, in her attempt to extend her laws over us,
in surveying our lands without our consent and in direct opposition to the treaties
and the intercourse law of the United States and interfering with our municipal
regulations in such a manner as to derange the regular operation of our own
laws. To deliver and protect them from all these and every encroachment
upon their rights, the undersigned memorialists do most earnestly pray your
honorable bodies. Their existence and future happiness are at stake- divest
them of their liberty and country, and you sink them in degradation, and put
a check, if not an end soon to their present progress in the acts of civilized
life, and in the knowledge of the Christian religion. Your memorialists
humbly conceive, that such an act would be in the highest degree oppressive.
From the people of these United States, who, perhaps of all those under
heaven, are the most religious and free, it cannot be expected. Your memorialists,
therefore, cannot anticipate such a result. You represent a virtuous,
intelligent and Christian nation. To you they willingly submit their cause
for your righteous decision.
Cherokee Nation, December, 1829.