Cherokee Phoenix


Published January, 7, 1829

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The following is from the annual report of the Secretary of War to the President of the United States.

While on the subject of Indian affairs, I should feel that I did not discharge my whole duty, were I to neglect to call the attention of the Government to the expediency, if not absolute necessity, of more clearly defining, by legislative enactments, the nature of the relations by which we are to stand allied to the Indian tribes; and especially, to prescribe what, as between them and ourselves, shall be the reciprocal rights, both of property and government, over the vast tracts of country, which they claim and inhabit.

At the commencement of our present government, these tribes, with few inconsiderable expectations, occupied a country in the interior, far beyond the range of our population, and our relations with them were the simple ones which exist between remote and independent nations, or they were rather relations of war; and most of our intercourse with them was carried on through the officers of the army, stationed along our frontier posts; and it was probably, to the posture in whom we then stood in regard to them, that the War Department was first indebted for the Superintendency of Indian affairs. Since that period, our white populations, in its rapid and irresistible progress to the West, has been sweeping past and around them: until now, a large proportion of these tribes are actually embosomed within the organized and settled parts of our States and Territories. In the mean time, we have been entering into treaties with them, not of peace merely, but of property, of intercourse and trade; and have actually contracted between them ' ourselves most of the relations which appertain to the municipal state, without, however, having fixed the boundaries of the authority by which these relations shall be controlled.

While some of our citizens, who are the advocates of primitive and imprescriptable rights in their broadest extent, contend that these tribes are independent nations, and have the sole and exclusive right to the property and government of the territories they occupy, others consider them as mere tenants at will, subject, like the buffalo of the parties, to be hunted from their country whenever it may suit our interest or convenience to take possession of it. These views of their rights and disabilities are equally extravagant and unjust: but the misfortune is, that the intermediate line has never been drawn by the Government. Nothing can be more clear, to one who has marked the progress of population and improvement, and is conversant with the principles of human action, than that these Indians will not be permitted to hold the reservations on which they live within the States, by their present tenure, for any considerable period. If, indeed, they were not disturbed in their possessions by us, it would be impossible for them long to subsist, as they have heretofore done, by the chase, as their game is already so much diminished, as to render it frequently necessary to furnish them with provisions, in order to save them from starvation. In their present destitute and deplorable condition, and which is constantly growing more helpless, it would seem to be not only the right, but the duty of the Government to take them under its paternal care; and to exercise, over their persons and property, the salutary rights and duties of guardianship.

The most prominent feature in the present policy of the Government, as connected with these people, is to be found in the efforts that are making to remove them beyond the limits of the States and organized Territories.

A very entensive tract of country, lying to the West and North of the Arkansas Territory, remarkable for salubrity of climate, fertility of soil, and profusion of game, has lately been set apart for the colonization of the Indians. Liberal pecuniary inducements have been offered by Congress to emigrants, and many have already embraced the offer. But the ultimate success of this project has been greatly endangered, and may yet be defeated, by the operation of another prominent measure of Government, which although suggested by the most humane motives, comes into direct conflict with the plan of colonization.

The annual appropriation of $10,000 to the purposes of educating Indian children, and teaching them the mechanic arts, has had the effect to almost every Indian reservation, in addition to the agents and interpreters, a considerable number of missionaries and teachers, with their families, who, having acquired, principally by the aid of this fund, very comfortable establishments, are unwilling to be deprived of them by the removal of the Indians; and thus we have found, that while the agents specially employed by the Government for this purpose are engaged in persuading, by profuse distributions of money and presents, the Indians to emigrate, another set of Government agents, are operating, more secretly, to be sure, but not with less zeal and effect to prevent such emigration.

These remarks are not intended as a personal reflection on the missionaries and much less on the teachers, pious and respectable patrons of these benevolent institutions, who, no doubt, are disposed to lend a ready support to every human measure which the Government may think proper to adopt in favor of these depressed people but are rather intended to show the natural and unavoidable tendency of the system itself to counteract the leading policy of the Government.

If the project of colonization be a wise one, and of this, I believe no one entertains a doubt, why not shape all our laws and treaties to the attainment of that object, and impart to them an efficiency that will be sure to effect it.

Let such of the emigrating Indians as choose it, continue, as heretofore, to themselves to the chase in a country where their toils will be amply rewarded. Let those who are willing to cultivate the arts of civilization be formed into a colony, consisting of distinct tribes or communities, but placed contiguous to each other, and connected by general laws, which shall reach the whole. Let the lands be apportioned among families and individuals in severalty, to be held by the same tenures by which we hold ours, with perhaps some temporary and wholesome restraints on the power of alienation. Assist them in forming and administering a code of laws adapted to a state of civilization. Let the $10,000 appropriation be applied within the new colony exclusively, to the same object for which it is now expended; and add to it, from time to time, so much of our other annual contributions as can be thus applied without a violation of public faith.

In regard to such Indians as shall remain within the States, and refuse to emigrate, let an arrangement be made with the proper authorities of the respective States in which they are situated, for partitioning out to them, in severalty, so much of the respective reservations as shall be amply sufficient for agricultural purposes. Set apart a tract, proportioned in size to the number of Indians, to remain in common as a refuge, and provision for such as may, by improvidence, waste their private property; and subject them all to the municipal laws of the State in which they reside. Let the remainder of the reservation be paid for by those who hold the paramount right, at such prices as shall be deemed, in reference to the uses which Indians are accustomed to make of lands reasonable; and the proceeds to be applied for the benefit of those of the tribe who emigrate after their establishment in the colony, or to be divided between those who emigrate and those who remain as justice may require.

It may, perhaps, be fairly doubted, whether the $10,000 appropriation (independently of its tendency to prevent emigration) produces, under the circumstances in which it is now expended, any useful results. These schools, it is true impart to a certain number of Indian youths so much information, and so far change their habits, as to inspire them with all the passions and desires, and particularly the passion for accumulating individual wealth, peculiar to a state of civilization: and then these half educated men are turned loose among their respective tribes without any honorable means of satisfying the desires and wants which have been thus artificially created. The lands of the tribe being common and unalienable, they have no motive to cultivate and improve them. There is no floating wealth to attract their ambition, and the only and usual means of gratifying their cupidity for money, is, by employing the advantages acquired by their education to appropriate to themselves more than their just share of the large contributions annually made by the Government: and in this way, they, with some few honorable exceptions, render, not only themselves, but the very arts they have acquired, obnoxious to the nation at large.

If, however, it should be deemed most expedient to continue to expend a portion of the $10,000 fund on the Indians remaining within the States, the missionaries and teachers should be located on the tracts proposed to be set apart of the common use of each tribe; from whence the information they supply, and the arts they teach, might be advantageously applied by the adjoining Indians to the improvement of their separate property; and where they might also take charge of those Indians, without furnishing them at the same time, appropriate subjects on which to employ them.

It is, in my opinion, worse than useless to impart education and the arts to the Indians, without furnishing them at the same time, appropriate subjects on which to employ them.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant.