Cherokee Phoenix

From the New York Observer

Published September, 16, 1829

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From the New York Observer


We invite the attention of our readers to the article on our last page relating to the Indians. The writer is evidently well acquainted with his subject and well able to do it justice. If the future number of the series should be what we anticipate, we shall transfer them regularly to our columns, that our readers may become thoroughly acquainted with the whole argument. It is a subject of immense interest, not only as connected with the welfare of the Indians, but in its bearing upon the character of our citizens and our government. Let not the Georgians, let not the government of the United States, dream that they can drive these poor people from their country, or lull them into the belief that it is not theirs, and that such iniquity can be hid. The eyes of the nation, the eyes of the civilized world are upon them. The Indian has a friend in the heart of every honest man, and if he is made to suffer, the voice of millions will utter the cry of indignation, and call down the vengeance of Heaven upon the oppressor.

We do not intend here to anticipate the argument of the essays, but the great points of the case are perfectly clear and they ought to be kept constantly in view. We say then:

1. It is clear that 250 years ago, the Indians were in the undisputed possession of the whole territory now included within the limits of the United States -- that they had the right of sovereignty -- and the power to defend their rights -- and every- thing else necessary to constitute a complete and perfect title to the country.

2. It is clear that the Cherokees and the other southern tribes have now all the rights which they ever had, except those which they have voluntarily surrendered.

The claim recently set up by the Georgians, that these tribes forfeited their country on account of the part which they took in the Revolutionary War, and that they have ever since been tenants at will, liable to be ordered off at a moment's warning, is too extravagant, too ridiculous, to require serious refutation. To say nothing of intrinsic absurdity, it is enough that the Indians never so understood the matter, and that the Georgians know that the Indians never understood it so. Whatever may be the language of any treaty, therefore, (and there is none which can be tortured into anything like this) it is impudent, it is knavish to urge such a claim.

3. It is clear that when the Indians were in power they treated the white man kindly.

Columbus relates in his first voyage, when his vessel was a wreck, and he was deserted by a part of his own crew, that an Indian Chief, upon hearing the information 'shed tears and despatched all the people of his town with large canoes to unload the ship; and from time to time sent his relations to the Admiral, to console him and entreat him not to be afflicted as his loss, for he would give him all he had' and Columbus adds 'they are a very loving race and without covetousness.' Such was the American Indian in 1492, such were the Indians who hailed the arrival of our pilgrim fathers in 1620, and similar to this was the reception of the first Georgians, when they landed in 1733 on the banks of the placid and beautiful Savannah. One word from an Indian then, might have blasted forever the hopes of the white man. But the Indian was generous and confiding, and he took the stranger to his bosom and cherished him as his own son.

4. It is clear that the Georgians are not determined to rid the Indians at all hazards.

Having been welcomed to their shores, and warmed at their fire, like the serpent in the fable, the white man of the south now brandishes the forked tongue, and bids his benefactor fly for his life. The Georgians want the Indian lands, and they will have them. They will get them by low trick, by bribery, by mocking treaty, by threats, by blustering if they can, and by massacre if they must. There is no mistake about it -- there can be none. The Georgians themselves do not pretend to disguise it -- the fly is in the web; and why should the spider by mealymouthed. No man can read the public prints of Georgia, or the public documents on the subject without being astonished that knavery can be so barefaced.

5. It is clear that the government of the United States, are determined to aid the Georgians in the accomplishment of their iniquitous purposes.

What other intrepretation can be put upon the ratification by the Senate of the United States, in 1825, of the pretended treaty with the Creeks, at a time when they had on their table documents which showed clearly that it was a piece of vile fraud from beginning to end, that the proper authorities of the Creek Nation had never consented to it! What other interpretation can be put upon the late letter of the Secretary of War to the Cherokees, in which he endeavors to persuade them that the claims of Georgia are righteous, and that Indians have no country and no rights, except such as they hold by the permission of their white master! What other interpretation can be put upon the whole history of the recent negotiations with the southern tribes!

6. It is clear that the voice of the American people must be heard on this subject.

It becomes us all to speak and to speak boldly. We owe it to the Indians -- the poor, abused Indians. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the memory of our fathers -- they will cry from their graves, if we do not speak. We owe it to gratitude, to justice, to humanity, to freedom -- all trampled upon, all violated. We owe it to our country and our children -- to avert from them the curses of Heaven.