Cherokee Phoenix

From the Southern Recorder

Published February, 11, 1832

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From the Southern Recorder.

In our last paper we made some plain remarks- such as Justice and the importance of the subject appeared to us to require,--on the act passed at the last session of our Legislature, for the survey and occupancy of the Cherokee country within the limits of Georgia. This act is amendatory of one passed at the preceding session, and to this last we have referred, to see what provision is there made for the Indians, whose lands the Governor is authorized to take possession of, whenever he thinks proper, without any kind of bargain or purchase The following section is all that we find in favor of the Cherokees:

Sec. 31. And be it further enacted, That the Indians and descendants, who reside upon said territory, and have made improvements thereon, shall be protected in the quiet and peaceable possession of such improvements, and of the lots or lots of land upon which the said improvements are made, until the General Assembly of this State shall enact to the contrary, or said Indians or their descendants shall voluntarily abandon such improvements; but no Indian or descendant of an Indian, who shall be entitled to the benefit of this section, shall be at liberty to rent, sell or convey his right of occupancy to any person or persons, unless it be to the government of this State, or of the United States, to and for the use of such drawers; and the persons drawing lots upon which Indian residences may be, shall not be allowed to disturb them in their occupancy of such improvements and lots: Provided, the benefits of this act shall not extend to those who have made new settlements in the gold region, within the present year, for the purpose of occupying and working the gold mines, but they shall be allowed to return to and occupy their former residences as others are provided for under this section: And Provided, no grant shall issue for any tract of tracts of land upon which said Indian residences may be, until said Indian or Indians, or their descendants, shall have abandoned the same in manner, and form, as herein pointed out; nor shall the drawer or drawers of any such lot or lots, be subject to pay taxes for the same until they are entitled to obtain a grant or grants for the same under the provisions aforesaid; and any person or persons, who may be the fortunate drawers of such lot or lots, upon which residences may be located, who shall by threats, menaces, or violence, remove or attempt to remove, any Indian or descendant of an Indian, therefrom, or who either in person, or by agency shall take or attempt to take possession of any lot of land, on which improvements be, shall forfeit their right to a grant or grants for the same, and such lot or lots shall revert to the State.

The Cherokee territory, with the exception of the gold region, (which is to be laid off in parcels of 40 acres) is to be surveyed in tracts of 160 acres. Suppose some of these tracts comprise the improvements of an Indian family without timber for fencing and fire wood; the Indians in such case will have to abandon their improvements, or purchase woodland from the fortunate drawer of an adjacent tract. Many of the Indians, and perhaps the greater part of those who are not mixed blood, have no improvements that deserve the name, and live by the chase or by keeping a few cattle. Is there any provision made in the bill for this numerous class of Aborigines? Again-the law provides that the drawer of a tract of land upon which an Indian is located, shall forfeit his right to a grant for the same, if he shall by threats, menaces, or violence, remove or attempt to remove such Indian therefrom. But is this effectual protection? We think it is very far from being so. Because neither the Indian who sustains the injury, nor anyone of his caste can be a witness against the transgressor. The chance of conviction and forfeiture is so uncertain, that many who hold the reversionary interest in the land, would prefer to run the risk of losing it, to waiting until the Indian in possession and his descendants, to the fourth and fifth generation might choose to relinquish it.

One survey of the country is to commence the 1st of April, and the occupancy is left discretionary with the Governor. The first is worse than useless, if the latter is not to follow almost immediately after, and such, we are justified in saying, is the intention of the Executive of this State, unless the arm of the General Government shall interpose to prevent it. Is it just and humane?-- Is it consistent with the high character for justice and magnanimity, which every State ought to maintain, to pursue such a course? We sincerely think it is not; we verily believe that the Legislature erred in passing such a law, and that the Executive ought to have arrested it by his veto. We can entertain no doubt but that it would be better to wait several years longer for the Cherokees land, than to get immediate possession of them in this objectionable manner. That we shall get them before long, if we will have a little patience, by a fair purchase from the Indians, there is every reason to expect-because, every year will increase the white and diminish the Indian population, until the latter will find it very much to their interest to sell. In the mean time, let us remain quiet, and leave to the President and Congress, who are entirely disposed to do us justice, the purchase of this territory, for the use of Georgia, agreeably to the contract existing between the Government of the United States and this State on this subject. These suggestions are addressed to the good sense of the sober, honest part of our people, of all parties. Whether correct or incorrect, they deserve a serious consideration; and that is all that we ask from _____.