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THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, November 1, 1877. SIR: I have the honor to submit the following summary of the operations of this department during the past year, together with such sog. gestions as seem to me worthy of consideration:
The report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which I here with present, contains an elaborate statement of the transactions of the branch of the public service under his supervision, as well as valuable suggestions concerning the policy to be pursued.
The year opened with a Sioux war, which resulted in the surrender of numerous and important hostile bands, while some of them under the leadership of Sitting Ball sought refuge on British territory. The Ogallalla and Brulé Sioux have recently been removed from the Spotted Tail and Red Cloud agencies in Nebraska, and are at present on their way to the vicinity of the Missouri River, in accordance with the provisions made by Congress to that end, and with what was believed to be an agreement with the Sioux themselves, well understood on both sides. The Sioux, however, were reluctant to carry out that understanding, and it was considered unsafe to attempt the movement while the Nez Percé war was going on and the apparent successes of Chief Joseph might bare encouraged a spirit of resistance among the more warlike tribes. Thus the removal was delayed, and it was deemed prudent to permit a delegation of Sioux chiefs to visit Washington for the purpose of laying their grievances and wishes before the President in person. The result of the council held here was in so far satisfactory, as the Sioux chiefs, after having rejoined their tribes, used their influence, apparently with success, in silencing all opposition to the removal. The wish expressed by the chiefs to be located on White River, in Dakota, will be complied with as soon as the season permits it, and liberal provision should be made to aid them in engaging in agricultural pursuits and the promotion of a higher order of civilization among them. The removal was undertaken
after consultation with General Crook, who in a high degree possesses the confidence and affection of these Indians, and it is to be hoped the difficulties of so long a march in an unfavorable season will be successfully overcome.
The presence of the Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, with a large number of followers, on British soil in the immediate vicinity of our northern frontier, threatened to become a constant source of disquietude on the bor. der, and was, therefore, a matter of grave concern both to this govern. ment and that of the Dominion of Canada. Early in August last a member of the Canadian Government visited Washington, and at bis suggestion, and upon consultation with him, two commissioners, General A. H. Terry, U. S. A., and A. G. Lawrence, esq., were sent to the encampment of Sitting Bull, with the following instructions, dated Sep. tember 6, 1877:
The President desires you to proceed at your earliest convenience to Fort Benton, and thence to a point on our northern frontier from which the present encampment of the Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, on British territory, is most easily accessible. At the frontier you will be met by a detachment of mounted Canadian police, detailed by the Government of the Dominion of Canada for your protection.
It is the object of your mission, undertaken at the suggestion of the Government of the Dominion, to ascertain what danger there may be of hostile incursions on the part of Sitting Bull and the bands under his command upon the territory of the United States, and, if possible, to effect such arrangements, not unacceptable to the Government of the Dominion, as may be best calculated to avert that danger. To this end you will put yourself in communication with Sitting Bull in such manner as under existing circumstances may seem to you most judicious. In doing so, you will keep the following facts in view: In the month of February last Sitting Bull and his bands engaged in armed hostilities against the United States, and, pursued by our military forces, crossed the boundary-line of the British Possessions for the purpose of escaping from that pursuit. At that time the fagitive Indians appeared to be well armed, but their ammunition was so nearly exhausted that they were no longer able to continue the struggle. Under such circumstances they took refuge on British soil, where the troops of the United States could not follow them without violating the territory of a friendly power. It is reported, and there is good reason for believing, that these hostile Indians have availed themselves of the protection and security thus enjoyed to replenish their stock of ammunition, and thus to enable themselves to resume their hostilities against the United States as soon as they may find it convenient to do so.
According to all recognized principles of international law, every government is bound to protect the territory of a neighboring friendly state against acts of armed nostility on the part of refugees who, for their protection from pursuit, have crossed the frontier. While the Government of Great Britain will be most mindfal of this obligation, the President recognizes the difficulties which, in dealing with a savage population, may attend its fulfillment, and he is therefore willing to do all in his power to prevent any interruptions of the relations of good neighborhood and to avert a disturbance of the peace of the border, even to the extent of entering into communication with an Indian chief who occupies the position of a fugitive enemy and criminal.
You are therefore instructed, in the name of the President, to inform Sitting Bull and the other chiefs of the bands of Indians recently escaped into the British Possessions, that they will be permitted peaceably to return to the United States and occupy such reservations as may be assigned to them, and that they will be treated in as friendly a spirit as were other hostile Indians who, after having been engaged with Sitting Ball and his followers in hostilities against the United States, surrendered to our military forces. This treatment, however, can be accorded only on condition that Sitting Ball and all the members of the Indian bands who take advantage of this offer of pardon and protection, when crossing the line from British territory to that of the United States, surrender to our military forces stationed at the frontier all their firearms and ammunition, as well as all their horses and ponies, the military commander permitting them the temporary use of such animals as may be necessary for the transportation of the aged and infirm among the Indians who may be unable to march on foot to the reservations. You will insist upon this condition to its full extent, and not make any promises beyond that of a pardon for the acts of hostility committed as stated above.
Should Sitting Ball and the other chiefs with him express their willingness to return to the United States on these terms, you will notify the commander of the United States forces at - of that fact, and instructions will be given for the reception of the Indians at the frontier. In case the Indians refuse to return to the United States upon such terms, you will then break off all communication with them, and the Government of Great Britain will no doubt take such measures as may be necessary to protect the territory of the United States against all hostile invasion.
The commissioners met Sitting Bull and other Sioux chiefs at Fort Walsh, on British territory, and communicated to them the conditions on mbich their return to the United States would be permitted. The Sioux chiefs refused to accept the terms offered, and declared their determination to remain on British soil, whereupon the commissioners, in pursuance of their instructions, withdrew. Immediately after their with- . drawal the Canadian authorities had a conference with the same Sioux chiefs, the results of which were communicated to the commissioners by Colonel McLeod, commanding the Mounted Police, as follows:
In answer to your note I beg leave to inform you that after the interview of the commissioners with the Indians I had a talk with the latter. I endeavored to impresapon them the importance of the answer they had just made; that although some of the speakers to the commissioners bad claimed to be British Indians, we denied the claim, and that the Queen's Government looked upon them all as American Indians, who bad taken refuge in onr country from their enemies. I pointed out to them that their only bope was the buffalo; that it would not be many years before that source of supply would cease, and that they could expect nothing whatever from the Queen's Gov. ernment as long as they behaved themselves. I warned them that their decision not only affected themselves but their children, and that they should think well over it before it was too late. I told them that they must not cross the line with a hostile intent; that if they did they would not only bave the Americans for their enemies, but also the police and the British Government, and urged upon them to carry my words to their campe, to tell all their young men what I had said, and warn them of the consequences of disobedience, pointing out to them that a few indiscreet young warriors might involve them all in most serious trouble. They unanimously adhered to the answer they bad given the commissioners, and promised to observe what I had told them. I do sot think there need be the least anxiety about any of these Indians crossing the line, at any rate not for some time to come.
The object of the commission, “to effect such arrangements as may be best calculated to avert the danger of hostile incursions on the part of Sitting Bull, and the bands under his command, upon the territory of the Cnited States," and to secure the peace of the border, bas, therefore, been
Pago. REPORT OF THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR...
III Indian Affairs, iii; Public Lands, xv; Railways, xxiv; Patents, xxxvi; Pen
sions, xxxviii; Education, xli; Geological and Geographical Survey of the
struction of the Interior Department Building, liii. General Land Office.....
1 Report of Commissioner, 1; Law Library, 3; Judicial Tribunal, 4; Repay
ment of Money for Lands Erroneously Sold, 6; Decisions in Land Cases,