From the Connecticut Observer
So much attention has been excited in reference to the proposed removal of the Cherokees from Georgia, that every fact on the subject becomes interesting.
The resolution of Congress directs the committee to provide a place for them west of Arkansas Territory, from the obvious facts, that to place them on this side of the Mississippi, or in the State of Missouri or Arkansas Territory which lie immediately beyond, would involve them in the same difficulties as they now feel in Georgia. It is also to be remarked, that they are an agricultural people, since "there is not a family in the nation" that subsists by hunting. In 1819-20, the Vice-President, then Secretary of War, despatched Major Long, with an exploring party, to examine the tract of country, lying between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. The journal of the expedition, and extracts from the official reports, were published in 1823, and furnish us with unexceptionable testimony concerning the country, which is proposed as the future residence of the southern tribes.
On his return from the Rocky Mountains, Major Long passed along the Canadian River, which flows through the tract designated in the resolution.
After he has entered the United States territory, he observes in his journal, p. 199: "By our computation of distance; we had travelled more than one hundred and fifty miles along the bed of this river, without once having found it to contain running water. We had passed the mouths of many large tributaries, but they, like the river itself were beds of naked sand." For some weeks they had not found water enough to wash their clothes, which became offensive both to sight and smell. By scooping in the sand in the bed of the river, not more than a pint could be dipped up at a time."-p. 141.
"On the 4th," (Sept) he observes, "we met with nothing interesting, except the appearance of running water in the bed of the river. Since the 13th of the preceding month, we had travelled constantly along the river, and in all the distance passed in that time, which could not have been less than five hundred miles, we had seen running water in the river in one or two instances only. Of those, one in it had evidently been occasioned by recent rains, and had extended but a mile or two, when it disappeared." -p. 157
On the 6th, he says: "It would appear that all the water which falls in rains, or flows from springs in an extent of country far greater than Pennsylvania, is not sufficient to supply the evaporation of a surface of naked and heated sands." (p. 160). On the next page he adds: "We have little apprehension of giving too unfavorable an account of this portion of the country. Though the soil is in some places fertile, the want of timber, of navigable streams & of water for the necessities of life, render it an unfit residence for any but a nomad (wandering) population. The traveller who shall at any time have traversed its desolate sands, will, we think, join us in the wish that this region may forever remain the unmolested haunt of the native hunter, the bison, the prairie wolf, and the mammoth." -p. 161.
In the extracts from the official report, he says of the whole section lying between the Rocky Mountains and long. 94, 95,1-2. "The intervening space occupying an extent of near twelve degrees of longitude is a sterile, desolate plain, destitute of timber, scorched in summer by the reverberation of the rays of the sun: chilled in winter by the freezing west winds from the Rocky Mountains." -p. 385.
In page 389, he remarks. "From the minute accounts given in the narrative of the expedition, of the particular features of the region, it will be perceived to bear a manifest resemblance to the desert of Siberia."- He accordingly styles it, "The Great American Desert."
In concluding his report on the section in question, (p. 361) he thus expresses his ultimate opinion to the Secretary of War: "In regard to this extensive section of country, we do not hesitate in giving the opinion, that it is almost wholly unfit for cultivation; and of course uninhabitable by people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence. Although tracts of fertile land, considerably extensive, are occasionally to be met with, yet the scarcity of wood and water, almost uniformly prevalent, will prove an insuperable obstacle in the way of settling the country."