Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 Bull 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 which 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 withdrawal 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 inforiu you that after the interview of the commissioners with the Indians I had a talk with the latter. I endeavored to impresupon 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 our country from their enemies. I pointed out to them that their only hope was the buffalo; that it would not be many years before that source of sopply would cease, and that they could expect nothing whatever from the Queen's Government 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 have the Americans for their enemies, but also the police and the British Government, and urged upon them to carry my words to their camps, 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 at I had told them. I do not 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 United States," and to secure the peace of the border, has, therefore, been

successfully accomplished. While Sitting Bulland the other Sioux chiefs with bim, in spite of the unusual effort made by this government, refused to place themselves under the control of the United States, the Canadian authorities have not failed to recognize the friendly spirit which prompted, on our part, so extraordinary a step as the opening of communication with a fugitive enemy on foreign soil in order to prevent any interruption of the relations of good neighborhood, and have, with the most commendable promptness, taken such measures as a high sense of their international obligations suggested. Unofficial information has reached us that Sitting Bull and his bands have been removed to a place more distant from the frontier, and it is expected that the Canadian authorities will be entirely successful in preventing hostile incarsions upon the territory of the United States, on the part of these Indiaus.

THE NEZ PERCÉS. The report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs contains an elaborate statement of the origin, progress, and termination of the Nez Percés war. There seems to be little reason to doubt that this bloody conflict might have been avoided by a more careful regard for the rights of an Indian tribe, whose former conduct had been uniformly peaceable and friendly. The outbreak of hostilities was marked by a number of murders and barbarous outrages on the part of the Indians; but the subsequent conduct of the struggle has become memorable by the extraordinary skill and energy displayed by Chief Joseph, as well as by an almost entire absence of those acts of savage cruelty wbich ordinarily render Indian warfare so horrible. If any of the perpetrators of the above-mentioned murders have survived, they ought to receive the punishment due to their crimes. It seems at least doubtful whether Chief Joseph can be charged with any responsibility for those atrocities, all of which are re. ported to have occurred in his absence. His general conduct certainly entitles him to the fullest benefit of the doubt, and to that consideration which is usually accorded to a prisoner of war after an honorable surrender. The captive Nez Percés were, immediately after the termination of the war, moved eastward by the military authorities, and will be held, as long as may be necessary, at a point within easy reach of supplies. The feeling excited among the settlers by the outrages committed at the outbreak of hostilities renders the return of the captives to their old reservation unadvisable. I recommend their settlement in the Indian Territory as soon as circumstances will permit. The defeat of Chief Joseph has undoubtedly had the effect of greatly discouraging the spirit of restlessness, which, during the summer, appeared among other Indian tribes, and of thus lessening the danger of further disturbance.

THE APACHES AND WARM SPRING INDIANS.

After the removal, in June, 1876, of 325 Chiricahua Apaches to San Carlos, the Chiricahua reserve was abolished, and the military com

mander of Arizona requested to treat as hostile all Indians found in that locality.

Raids by the renegades became frequent; many lives were taken, much property stolen or destroyed, and by February, 1877, the old reign of terror seemed to have returned to the southeastern portion of Arizona.

In March last it was definitely ascertained that not only were the renegades re-enforced by Indians from the Hot Springs reserve, in New Mexico, but also that that reserve was being used as a harbor of refuge for the outlaws. Accordingly, Agent Clum, under instructions from this office, proceeded with 103 San Carlos Indian police to the Hot Springs reserve, and, with the vigorous co-operation of the military commander of New Mexico, succeeded in removing, on the 1st of May, to the San Carlos reservation, 453 disarmed and dismounted Indians who were located on the Gila River.

All other Indians who had belonged to the Hot Springs agency were declared renegades, and the reserve was restored to the public domain.

Although active scouting for renegades was carried on in Southeast Arizona and Southwest New Mexico, raiding to a greater or less extent did not cease throughout the summer.

On the 2d of September a majority of the Hot Springs Indians and a portion of the Chiricahuas, numbering in all about 300, suddenly left the San Carlos reserve and struck a settlement in New Mexico, killing 8 persons and stealing some horses. In two engagements with the San Carlos police, 12 of the fugitives were killed and 43 captured. All avail . able troops in that Territory were promptly put into the field against them, and on the 13th of last month 3 chiefs with 187 Apaches surrendered at Fort Wingate, finding themselves unable to successfully carry on war in a country thoroughly occupied by United States soldiers and Indian scouts. These, with 51 who have since surrendered, have been taken to the old Hot Springs reservation, where their final disposition will be decided upon.

THE PONCAS.

Congress at its last session made provision for the removal of the Poncas from their former reservation on the Missouri River to the Indian Territory, resolved npon for the reason that it seemed desirable to get them out of the way of the much more numerous and powerful Sioux, with whom their relations were unfriendly. That removal was accordingly commenced in the early summer. The opposition it met with among the Poncas themselves and the hardships encountered on the march are set forth at length in the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The Poncas, about 700 in number, were taken to the Quapaw reservation, in the northeastern corner of the Indian Territory, with a view to permanent settlement. But the reluctance with which they had left their old homes, the strange aspect of a new country, an unusually large number of cases of disease and death among them, and

the fact that they were greatly annoyed by white adventurers hovering around the reservation, who stole many of their cattle and ponies and smuggled whisky into their encampments, engendered among them a spirit of discontent which threatened to become unmanageable. They urgently asked for permission to send a delegation of chiefs to Washing. ton to bring their complaints in person before the President, and it was reported by their agent that unlesss this request be granted there was great danger that they would run away to their old reserve on the Missouri River. To avoid such trouble, the permission asked for was given, and the delegation arrived here on November 7. They expressed the desire to be taken back to their old reservation on the Missouri, a request which could not be acceded to. But permission was granted them to select for themselves, among the lands at the disposal of the govern. ment in the Indian Territory, a tract at least equal in size to their old reservation, and they also received the assurance that they would be fully compensated in kind for the log-houses, furniture, and agricultural implements which, in obedience to the behests of the government, they had left behind on the Missouri.

The caise of the Poncas seems entitled to especial consideration at the hands of Congress. They have always been friendly to the wbites. It is said, and as far as I have been able to learn, truthfully, that no Ponca ever killed a white man. The orders of the government always met with obedient compliance at their hands. Their removal from their old homes on the Missouri River was to them a great hardship. They had been born and raised there. They had houses there in which they lived according to their ideas of comfort. Many of them had engaged in agriculture, and possessed cattle and agricultural implements. They were very reluctant to leave all this, but when Congress had resolved upon their removal, they finally overcame that reluctance and obeyed. Considering their constant good conduct, their obedient spirit, and the sacrifices they have made, they are certainly entitled to more than ordinary care at the hands of the government, and I urgently recommend that liberal provision be made to aid them in their new settlement.

INDIAN POLICY.

While thus some progress has been made in the adjustment of difficulties and the danger of disturbance on a large scale seems remote, it would be unwise to lose sight of the lesson taught by experience, that in these things appearances are sometimes deceptive, and that the general condition of our Indian affairs is by no means satisfactory. It is useless to disguise the fact that a perfect solution of the " Indian problem," that is to say, so complete an absorption of the Indians in our social and political system that they no longer appear as an incongruous and troublesome element, is, in our days at least, fraught with perplexities which cannot be solved by a mere stroke of legislation. We have to deal with a population whose character (and habits of life are

such as to present extraordinary difficulties to civilizing influences. This circumstance alone, however, does not in itself constitute the main difficulty we have to contend with. We are frequently reminded of the fact that the character of our Indians does not materially differ from that of the Indians in the British possessions on this continent, and that nevertheless peace and friendly relations are maintained there between the Indians and the whites. That is true. But the condition of things in the British possessions is in some very important respects essentially different from that which exists in the United States. In the British pos. sessions the bulk of the Indian population occupy an immense area almost untouched by settlements of whites. On that area the Indians may roam about in full freedom, without danger of collision, and the abundance of fish and game furnishes them comparatively ample sustenance. The line dividing the Indians and the whites can be easily

trolled by a well-organized body of police, who maintain peace and order. But in the United States we have no longer a dividing line. The " Indian frontier" has virtually disappeared. Our Indian population is scattered over a vast extent of country into wbich the agricultural settlers, as well as the adventurous element of our people in quest of rapid gain bave pushed their skirmishers in all possible directions. Wherever in the far West the enterprise of the whites advances, whites and Indians come into immediate contact and are “in one another's way. That contact is apt to bring on collisions, especially as the more reckless element of the wbites, which abounds in that part of the coqntry, holds the rights and lives of Indians in very light estimation, and can, in many localities at least, scarcely be said to be under the control of law, while in frequent instances also the Indian provokes retribution by following, without restraint, his savage propensities.

There are still other complications aggravating this condition of things. The early colonists on this continent saw in the Indian tribes surround. ing them a very formidable power, and naturally entered with them into formal treaty relations. That system has come by inheritance down to our days, when the Indians, under a radical change of circumstances, appear at the same time as “independent tribes," as “national wards," and as subjects. It is needless to recount the history of Indian treaties. As white settlements rapidly spread over the country treaties were, in a large number of instances, made only to be broken. When the advance of civilization found them as barriers in its way, they could not stand as fipalities, although they were usually called so. That in the frequent and rapid changes to which those treaties were subjected, the Indians sometimes suffered great injustice, no fair-minded man will deny.

In the course of time new difficulties supervened. As the Indians were crowded out of their hunting-grounds their sustenance became precarious, and upon the government devolved the duty to supply them with food and clothing. That duty was and is now performed on a contract system, and through Indian agencies located at a great dis

« PreviousContinue »