The committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives, in page 21 of their report say:
That the greatest portion, even of the poorest class of the Southern Indians, may, for some years yet, find the means of sustaining life, is probable; but, when the game is all gone, as it soon must be, and their physical as well as moral energies shall have undergone the farther decline, which the entire failure of the resources of the chace [sic] has never failed to mark in their downward career, the hideous features in their prospects will become more manifest.
Whoever really believes that the Cherokees subsist on game is most wretchedly deceived, and is grossly ignorant of existing facts. The Cherokees do not live upon the chase, but upon the fruits of the earth produced by their labour [sic]. We should like to see any person point to a single family in this nation who obtain their clothing and provisions by hunting. We know of no one. We do not wish to be understood as saying that they do not hunt- they do hunt some, probably, about as much as white people do in new countries, but they no more depend upon this occupation for living than new settlers do. Game has been nearly extinct for the last thirty years, and even previous to that, when the Cherokees depended upon the chase for subsistence, they were obliged to obtain their full supply of meat and skins out of what is now the limits of this nation. Cut off the lst vestige of game in these woods, and you cannot starve the Cherokees--they have plenty of corn, and domestic animals, and they raise their own cotton, and manufacture their own clothing.
The committee do not mean to exaggerate, either in the statement of facts, as they are believed to exist, or in the deductions which they make from them; as to the future prospects of the Indians.
The Committee have, nevertheless, greatly exaggerated--all their statements, of what they call facts, are nothing but unfounded assertions.
The intelligent observer of their character will confirm all that is predicted of their future condition, when he learns that the maxim, so well established in other places, "that an Indian cannot work, " has lost none of its universality in the practice of the Indians of the South; that there, too the same improvidence and thirst for spirituous liquors attend them, that have been the foes of their happiness elsewhere; that the condition of the common Indian is perceptibly declining, both in the means of subsistence, and the habits necessary to procure them; and that, upon the whole, the mass of the population of the Southern Indian tribes are a less respectable order of human beings now, than they were ten years ago.
The maxim of our enemies, "that an Indian cannot work," the committee suppose "well established" and it would most certainly be well established if they could but prove their naked assertions. We know of many Indians who not only work, but work hard. Who labors for the Cherokee and builds his house, clears his farm, makes his fences, attends to his hogs, cattle, and horses; who raises his corn, his cotton and manufactures his clothing? Can the committee tell? Yes, they have an answer at hand. He has no house, no farm, no hogs, cattle, no corn to save him from starvation, and clothing to cover him from nakedness. We know not what to say to such assertions. The above maxim has been received by many as truth, but not by the intelligent observers of their character, but by their enemies and such as have not had the means of knowing facts. But suppose it was once will founded and correctly applied, it has long since lost its universality. We invite any person who may be hesitating on this point to come and see and judge for himself- we are not afraid that the truth, the whole truth, should be known-we desire it-we invite "the most rigid scrutiny."
"That an Indian has an inherent thirst for spirituous liquor,"
is another maxim which the committee think is well applied to the Cherokees. On the charge of intemperance, we are very far from pleading not guilty- we have ourselves raised our voice against this crying sin. But if the charge is, that the Cherokees have greater thirst for spirits than whitemen [sic], we unhesitatingly deny it. It is not so-we speak from personal observation. Facts form the only proper criterion in this case, and what is the actual state of things? We know, most certainly know that among the whites of the surrounding counties intemperance and brutal intoxication (at which humanity may well shudder,) may be witnessed in every neighborhood. Go to their elections and courts and number those who are under the influence of inebriating drink, and then come into the nation, and visit the Indian elections, courts and the General Council and make a disinterested comparison, and we pledge ourselves that there is less intemperance exhibited here on these occasions than among the whites. It is an incontrovertible fact, for the truth of which we appeal to all honest eye-witnesses, that on these public occasions, particularly at the General Council, which continues four weeks, a drunken Indian is seldom to be seen. We are sorry that intemperance does exist, but is it not universal? There has been of late considerable reformation among the Cherokees, in common with other parts of the country.
Against the statement of the committee that "the condition of the common Indian is perceptibly declining," we must give our unbiased testimony, and appeal to facts repeatedly made public -the common Indian among the Cherokees is not declining, but rising.
The Cherokees are generally understood to have made further advances in civilization than the neighboring tribes, and a description of their real situation may make it of less importance to notice, in detail, the condition of the others. Upon this point, the committee feel sensibly the want of that statistical and accurate information without which they are aware that they cannot expect their representations to be received with entire confidence. To supply this deficiency, however, they have sought information from every proper source within their reach, and do not fear that the general correctness of their statements will be confirmed by the most rigid scrutiny.
Here then is the great mystery-the committee feel sensibly the want of STATISTICAL
and ACCURATE information! This accounts for their misrepresentations.--But was
it impossible to obtain correct statistical information? They thought so, we
presume, for they sought it "from every proper source." If they had
only applied for testimonies which disinterested persons would not consider
improper the information would most easily have been obtained. We could have
furnished them with a true copy of a statistical table taken in 1824, &
by inquiring at the Agency, we doubt not they could have found another taken
in 1810. By comparing these they would have formed a true foundation for facts
and accurate deductions. But no, such a course would not possibly answer-they
must seek information from somewhere else, not from documents, and resident
whitemen, but from the enemies of the Indians, who are looking with eager expectation
to their removal, that they may take possession of the spoil, obtained by means
the most unmanly and iniquitous.