From the Missionary Herald.
OPINIONS AND FEELINGS OF THE CHOCTAWS IN REGARD TO A REMOVAL.
It will be recollected that the number of this work for December last, (p. 377) contained a statement of the proceedings of a Choctaw general council, held in September, relative to a removal west of the Mississippi. At that council, Col. Ward, the agent of the United States' government for that nation, presented a letter from the Secretary of War recommending a removal, and stating that the President had not the power, in case the Choctaws should remain in their present country, to prevent the state of Mississippi from extending its laws over them. Col. Folsom the oldest of the three principal chiefs of the Choctaw Nation, made a verbal reply at the time, (p. 378 of last vol.) and promised a reply in writing, as soon as a full council of the chiefs and people could be held. This latter reply was written by Col. F. and an exact copy of it is inserted here. The few verbal inaccuracies will excite no surprise, when it is known that all the advantages for education, which the writer of it ever enjoyed, was an attendance at school during six months.
Letter from Col. Folsom to Col. Ward.
Choctaw Yokne, Nov. 7th, 1829.
To Col. William Ward,
Friend and Brother:- On the 17th day of September last you delivered unto us, while we were assembled in council, a talk from the Secretary of War. The Choctaw people in answer to that communication, express their own views in few words.
We are sorry to hear that the Secretary of War has the impression, that the white men who reside among us pervert our minds, so that we are unwilling to remove towards the land of the west. And we are sorry to hear that the President of the United States, has heard reports about us which are false, but which he presumes to be true. It is never so that reports are always true. We will mention what we consider to be the truth. None of the white men who are with us have the direction of us. We are simply a nation of red men. Therefore, were it our wish to remove towards the land of the west, there is not a white man among us, who could prevent us by his vicious counsels. We know of no white man residing in our nation who has attempted to pervert our minds, or lead us to reject the propositions of the general government. It is our established usage, when we sit in council, to transact our national business ourselves, although we are an ignorant people.
The Secretary of War says, 'How can the Indians expect to remain where they are, surrounded by white people. And should the state of Mississippi extend her laws over them, we know of no way in which we can prevent it.' And we say, how can there be any question or any doubt on the subject? It is our own country. It was the land of our forefathers, and as their children we call it ours, and we reside on it. And whenever the great white men have come to us, and held treaties with us, they have ever said, 'The country is yours.' The treaties are written for us by the white men themselves, and we have, as a nation, our own laws and are governed by them. And now, although white men have surrounded us, and settled on every side of us, here alone can we reside. For it was the land of our fathers, and it is now ours, as their children. And has not the American government always sustained and protected us, agreeable to the solemn treaties with this nation And should the people of Mississippi wish to extend their laws over us and distress us, such measures would be attended with misery and destruction to us. Will not the great American people, who are men of truth, and love justice, still love us Choctaw red men? Surely we think they will love us. And although there are new thoughts about red people, and new language held out to them, we cannot think that the American government will turn away from us and not even look on us.
We have no expectation that if we should remove to the west of the Mississippi, any treaties would be made with us, that could secure greater benefit to us and our children, than those which are already made. The red people are of the opinion, that, in a few years the Americans will also wish to possess the land west of the Mississippi. Should we remove, we should again soon be removed by white men. We have no wish to sell our country and remove to one that is not fertile and good, wherever it is situated. It is not our wish that a great man, although our friend, should visit us to counsel with us, about selling our beloved country and removing to another far off. We desire no such visit.
As the agent of the United States' government, you speak to us and tell us of another country west of the great river Mississippi, that is good, and where we and our children may have a long and quiet home and enjoy many blessings. In all this you would act as a faithful officer under your superior. But here is our home, our dwelling places, our fields, and our schools, and all our friends; and under us are the dust and the bones of our forefathers. This land is dearer to us than any other. Why talk to us about removing? We always hear such counsel with deep grief in our hearts.
During your residence in our nation as United States agent, you have seen what improvement we have made in those things which are for our good and the good of our children. And here it is, in this very land, that we wish to reside and make greater improvement till we become a happy people. Our hearts cleave to our own country. We have no wish to sell this our beloved country.
You will please accept my best wishes for your health and happiness, and for the peace and prosperity of the United States.
In behalf of the Choctaw people, I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Chief of the N. E. District of the Choctaw Nation.
Letter from Col. Folsom to a gentleman of Mississippi.
The gentleman to whom the following letter was addressed, at an interview with the President of the United States last fall, being about to pass through the Choctaw Country, offered to be the bearer of communications to that nation. He accordingly received documents, in which the President told the Choctaws that they could not live in the near vicinity of the whites, strongly recommended to them a removal west of the Mississippi, assured them that there they should have a country which should be their own, and secured to them while 'the grass should grow or the waters run.' It was also stated that the president did not talk to them with a 'forked tongue' but told them honestly that they must remove or become subject to the laws of Mississippi.
The gentleman to whom these documents were given, inclosed (sic) them in a letter of his own, and forwarded them to Col. Folsom; and offered to visit the Choctaws himself, and aid the chiefs in obtaining the consent of the people to a removal. The reply of Col. Folsom will show the feelings of his nation on these subjects.
Choctaw Nation, Dec. 14th 1829.
Dear Sir,-Your letter of the 24th ult. was received on the second instant while we were in council. Col. Garland, from the south district, and other leading men were present. The inclosed, the president's talk, was interpreted by me before the council.
You know, as a people, the Choctaws do not wish to move, to better their condition. You know the rapid improvement Choctaws have made for these last few years in the arts of industry and in civilized habits. And in every condition as a nation, their improvement cannot be disputed by yourself and other unprejudiced and candid minds. And greater part of our people have become to be herdsmen and farmers. This you know yourself. They raise corn, potatoes, pumpkins, beans, peas, and other kind of vegetables; and cotton for their own use and consumption. And they spin and weave, 'c. They raise every kind of stock such as horses, cattle, hogs, and poultry. This you know. And to say greater part of our people hunt-this is not the case. I will admit some of them still hunt. But at the same time they have plenty at home for their provision. And as to depending on hunting entirely for subsistence- this is not the case. You see the ignorant part of our people go among the whites at the cotton picking time. There the whites like to have them.* Well, some of them even they do well and bring off their earnings. But again, many of that class of people, they get drunk among the whites by the cotton farmer and kill one another. But here you will not look at the example of the vicious and ignorant part of our people for a sample of my nation. We can truly say as to soberness, we have it among us. This you know yourself.
Our great father Jackson tells you to tell us 'he never speaks with forked tongue.' This is all good. Thus is all what we Indians want. We want all the former treaty and engagement of those solemn treaties and talk should not get forked. If it did get forked here, where we have inherited this land from Jehovah, if it be the case, if we were to go to the west, when we get there, the talk can be forked again into its branched and the water of its living truth, may fail and dry away, and poor Choctaws perish.
You say 'if it is my wish, you would aid us in preparing the mind of the Indians for a moval (sic).'
I do hereby inform you, I have no wish to have my people remove to the west. I am entirely averse to it. I have no wish to bring calamity and destruction, nor will be an accessory to the downfall and deplorable destruction of my dear people. For if the Choctaw people remove at all it will be against their will, interest, and happiness, and every thing dear to them will close from them. Never can it be said, nor realized, that Choctaws were benefitted by their removal. But loss and sorrow forever to the Choctaw people; and great gain and much joy to the whites by our calamity.
I want you, when you come, to bring the treaties with you and explain more particularly the Treaty of Doak's Stand, Oct. 1820, and the Treaty of Washington, Jan. 1825.+
I am your friend and brother.
From the foregoing letters it is evident.
1. That the unwillingness of the Choctaws to sell their lands is not owing to the influence of white men, or to the authority and control of the chiefs, but to the attachment of the people of their country. The replies, contained in the letters of Col. Folsom, were ordered by a full council of the chiefs and people.
2. The Choctaws think the fact that their fathers have, from time immemorial, possessed their present country, and been independent in it, and the present generation have inherited it, and now own it, and have hitherto been acknowledged and treated as the independent owners of it by the government of the United States gives them a sufficient title to call it theirs, and to remain in the undisturbed enjoyment of it.
3. The Choctaws regard the faith of our government as pledged to protect them in the enjoyment of their country and all their present immunities.
4. If the Choctaws are obliged to remove, or to come under the jurisdiction of the state of Mississippi, they will place no confidence in any future promises and guarantees of the United States' government. If the past guarantees of government, contained in formal and solemn treaties made before the states (within whose nominal limits their nation is now embraced) were organized, will not protect them in the undisturbed enjoyment of their country, laws, and immunities, why should they believe that similar guarantees will secure to them their rights in the country proposed for them? If, not withstanding past treaties, new states have been formed around them on this side of the Mississippi, and the general government cannot protect the Choctaws from encroachment of those states, why may not new states be formed around them on the other side of the Mississippi, and the general treaties, find itself unable to protect the Indians from the encroachments of those States?
* Col. Leflore's district have past (sic) a law against the people of that district going among the whites, and it has had a happy effect and much good has been done to the people.
+ The two last treaties made between the Choctaws and the United States. Some of the more important provisions of these treaties were inserted and remarked upon at p. 380 in the number of this work for Dec. last. Ed.