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Through the negotiations of the Peace Commissioners of 1867 and 1868, and the opening of the Pacific railway in 1869, the Indians of the plains had been cleanly split into two main groups which had their centres in the Sioux reserve in southwest Dakota and the old Indian Territory.

The advance of a new wave of population had followed along the road thus opened, pushing settlements into central Nebraska and Kansas. Through the latter state the Union Pacific, Eastern Division, better known as the Kansas Pacific, had been thrust west to Denver, where it arrived before 1870 was over. With this advance of civilized life upon the plains it became clear that the old Indian policy was gone for good, and that the idea of a permanent country, where the tribes, free from white contact, could continue their nomadic existence, had broken down. The old Indian policy had been based upon the permanence of this condition, but with the white advance troops for police had been added, while the loud bickerings between the military authorities, thus superimposed, and the Indian Office, which regarded itself as the rightful custodian of the problem, proved to be the overture to a new policy. Said Grant, in his first annual message in 1869: "No matter what ought to be the relations between such [civilized] settlements and the aborigines, the fact is they do not harmonize well, and one or the other has to give way in the end. A situation which looks to the extinction of a race is too horrible for a nation to adopt without entailing upon itself the wrath of all Christendom and engendering in the citizen a disregard for human life and the rights of others, dangerous to society. I see no substitute for such a system, except in placing all the Indians on large reservations, as rapidly as it can be done, and giving them absolute protection there."

The vexed question of civilian or military control had reached the bitterest stage of its discussion when Grant became President. For five years there had been general wars in which both departments seemed to be badly involved and for which responsibility was hard to place. There were many things to be said in favor of either method of control. Beginning with the establishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1832, the office had been run by the War Department for seventeen years. In this period the idea of a permanent Indian Country had been carried out; the frontier had been established in an unbroken line of reserves from Texas to Green Bay; and the migration across the plains had begun. But with the creation of the Interior Department in 1849 the Indian Bureau had been transferred to civilian hands. As yet the Indian war was so exceptional that it was easy to see the arguments in favor of a peace policy. It was desired, and honestly too, though the results make this conviction hard to hold, to treat the Indian well, to keep the peace, and to elevate the savages as rapidly as they would permit it. However the government failed in practice and in controlling the men of the frontier, there is no doubt about the sincerity of its general intent. Had there been no Oregon and no California, no mines and no railways, and no mixture of slavery and politics, the hope might not have failed of realization. Even as it was, the civilian bureau had little trouble with its charges for nearly fifteen years after its organization. In general the military power was called upon when disorder passed beyond the control of the agent; short of that time the agent remained in authority.

As a means of introducing civilization among the tribes the agents were more effective than army officers could be. They were, indeed, underpaid, appointed for political reasons, and often too weak to resist the allurements of immorality or dishonesty; but they were civilians. Their ideals were those of industry and peace. Their terms of service were often too short for them to learn the business, but they were not subject to the rapid shifting and transfer which made up a large part of army life. Army officers were better picked and trained than the agents, but their ambitions were military, and they were frequently unable to understand why breaches of formal discipline were not always matters of importance.

The strong arguments in favor of military control were founded largely on the permanency of tenure in the army. Political appointments were fewer, the average of personal character and devotion was higher. Army administration had fewer scandals than had that of the Indian Bureau. The partisan on either side in the sixties was prone to believe that his favorite branch of the service was honest and wise, while the other was inefficient, foolish, and corrupt. He failed to see that in the earliest phase of the policy, when there was no friction, and consequently little fighting, the problem was essentially civilian; that in the next period, when constant friction was provoking wars, it had become military; and that finally, when emigration and transportation had changed friction into overwhelming pressure, the wars would again cease. A large share of the disputes were due to the misunderstandings as to whether, in particular cases, the tribes should be under the bureau or the army. On the whole, even when the tribes were hostile, army control tended to increase the cost of management and the chance of injustice. There never was a time when a few thousand Indian police, with the ideals of police rather than those of soldiers, could not have done better than the army did. But the student, attacking the problem from afar, is as unable to solve it fully and justly as were its immediate custodians. He can at most steer in between the badly biassed "Century of Dishonor" of Mrs. Jackson, and the outrageous cry of the radical army and the frontier, that the Indian must go.

The demand of the army for the control of the Indians was never gratified. Around 1870 its friends were insistent that since the army had to bear the knocks of the Indian policy,--knocks, they claimed, generally due to mistakes of the bureau,--it ought to have the whole responsibility and the whole credit. The inertia which attaches to federal reforms held this one back, while the Indian problem itself changed in the seventies so as to make it unnecessary. Once the great wars of the sixties were done the tribes subsided into general peace. Their vigorous resistance was confined to the years when the last great wave of the white advance was surging over them. Then, confined to their reservations, they resumed the march to civilization.

From the commencement of his term, Grant was willing to aid in at once reducing the abuses of the Indian Bureau and maintaining a peace policy on the plains. The Peace Commission of 1867 had done good work, which would have been more effective had coöperation between the army and the bureau been possible. Congress now, in April, 1869, voted two millions to be used in maintaining peace on the plains, "among and with the several tribes ... to promote civilization among said Indians, bring them, where practicable, upon reservations, relieve their necessities, and encourage their efforts at self-support." The President was authorized at the same time to erect a board of not more than ten men, "eminent for their intelligence and philanthropy," who should, with the Secretary of the Interior, and without salary, exercise joint control over the expenditures of this or any money voted for the use of the Indian Department.

The Board of Indian Commissioners was designed to give greater wisdom to the administration of the Indian policy and to minimize peculation in the bureau. It represented, in substance, a triumph of the peace party over the army. "The gentlemen who wrote the reports of the Commissioners revelled in riotous imaginations and discarded facts," sneered a friend of military control; but there was, more or less, a distinct improvement in the management of the reservation tribes after 1869; although, as the exposures of the Indian ring showed, corruption was by no means stopped. One way in which the Commissioners and Grant sought to elevate the tone of agency control was through the religious, charitable, and missionary societies. These organizations, many of which had long maintained missionary schools among the more civilized tribes, were invited to nominate agents, teachers, and physicians for appointment by the bureau. On the whole these appointments were an improvement over the men whom political influence had heretofore brought to power. Fifteen years later the Commissioner and the board were again complaining of the character of the agents; but there was an increasing standard of criticism.

In its annual reports made to the Secretary of the Interior in 1869, and since, the board gave much credit to the new peace policy. In 1869 it looked forward with confidence "to success in the effort to civilize the nomadic tribes." In 1871 it described "the remarkable spectacle seen this fall, on the plains of western Nebraska and Kansas and eastern Colorado, of the warlike tribes of the Sioux of Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, hunting peacefully for buffalo without occasioning any serious alarm among the thousands of white settlers whose cabins skirt the borders of both sides of these plains." In 1872, "the advance of some of the tribes in civilization and Christianity has been rapid, the temper and inclination of all of them has greatly improved.... They show a more positive intention to comply with their own obligations, and to accept the advice of those in authority over them, and are in many cases disproving the assertion, that adult Indians cannot be induced to work." In 1906, in its _38th Annual Report_, there was still most marked improvement, "and for the last thirty years the legislation of Congress concerning Indians, their education, their allotment and settlement on lands of their own, their admission to citizenship, and the protection of their rights makes, upon the whole, a chapter of political history of which Americans may justly be proud."

The board of Indian Commissioners believed that most of the obvious improvement in the Indian condition was due to the substitution of a peace policy for a policy of something else. It made a mistake in assuming that there had ever been a policy of war. So far as the United States government had been concerned the aim had always been peace and humanity, and only when over-eager citizens had pushed into the Indian Country to stir up trouble had a war policy been administered. Even then it was distinctly temporary. The events of the sixties had involved such continuous friction and necessitated such severe repression that contemporaries might be pardoned for thinking that war was the policy rather than the cure. But the resistance of the tribes would generally have ceased by 1870, even without the new peace policy. Every mile of western railway lessened the Indians' capacity for resistance by increasing the government's ability to repress it. The Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, Atlantic and Pacific, Texas Pacific, and Southern Pacific, to say nothing of a multitude of private roads like the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy, the Denver and Rio Grande, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fé, and the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas, were the real forces which brought peace upon the plains. Yet the board was right in that its influence in bringing closer harmony between public opinion and the Indian Bureau, and in improving the tone of the bureau, had made the transformation of the savage into the citizen farmer more rapid.

Two years after the erection of the Board of Indian Commissioners Congress took another long step towards a better condition by ordering that no more treaties with the Indian tribes should be made by President and Senate. For more than two years before 1871 no treaty had been made and ratified, and now the policy was definitely changed. For ninety years the Indians had been treated as independent nations. Three hundred and seventy treaties had been concluded with various tribes, the United States only once repudiating any of them. In 1863, after the Sioux revolt, it abrogated all treaties with the tribes in insurrection; but with this exception, it had not applied to Indian relations the rule of international law that war terminates all existing treaties. The relation implied by the treaty had been anomalous. The tribes were at once independent and dependent. No foreign nation could treat with them; hence they were not free. No state could treat with them, and the Indian could not sue in United States courts; hence they were not Americans. The Supreme Court in the Cherokee cases had tried to define their unique status, but without great success. It was unfortunate for the Indians that the United States took their tribal existence seriously. The agreements had always a greater sanctity in appearance than in fact. Indians honestly unable to comprehend the meaning of the agreement, and often denying that they were in any wise bound by it, were held to fulfilment by the power of the United States. The United States often believed that treaty violation represented deliberate hostility of the tribes, when it signified only the unintelligence of the savage and his inclination to follow the laws of his own existence. Attempts to enforce treaties thus violated led constantly to wars whose justification the Indian could not see.

The act of March 3, 1871, prohibited the making of any Indian treaty in the future. Hereafter when agreements became necessary, they were to be made, much as they had been in the past, but Congress was the ratifying power and not the Senate. The fiction of an independence which had held the Indians to a standard which they could not understand was here abandoned; and quite as much to the point, perhaps, the predominance of the Senate in Indian affairs was superseded by control by Congress as a whole. In no other branch of internal administration would the Senate have been permitted to make binding agreements, but here the fiction had given it a dominance ever since the organization of the government.

In the thirty-five years following the abandonment of the Indian treaties the problems of management changed with the ascending civilization of the national wards. General Francis A. Walker, Indian Commissioner in 1872, had seen the dawn of the "the day of deliverance from the fear of Indian hostilities," while his successors in office saw his prophecy fulfilled. Five years later Carl Schurz, as Secretary of the Interior, gave his voice and his aid to the improvement of management and the drafting of a positive policy. His application of the merit system to Indian appointments, which was a startling innovation in national politics, worked a great change after the petty thievery which had flourished in the presidency of General Grant. Grant had indeed desired to do well, and conditions had appreciably bettered, yet his guileless trust had enabled practical politicians to continue their peculations in instances which ranged from humble agents up to the Cabinet itself. Schurz not only corrected much of this, but the first report of his Commissioner, E. A. Hayt, outlined the preliminaries to a well-founded civilization. Besides the continuance of concentration and education there were four policies which stood out in this report--economy in the administration of rations, that the Indians might not be pauperized; a special code of law for the Indian reserves; a well-organized Indian police to enforce the laws; and a division of reserve lands into farms which should be assigned to individual Indians in severalty. The administration of Secretary Schurz gave substance to all these policies.

The progress of Indian education and civilization began to be a real thing during Hayes's presidency. Most of the wars were over, permanency in residence could be relied on to a considerable degree, the Indians could better be counted, tabulated, and handled. In 1880, the last year of Schurz in the Interior Department, the Indian Office reported an Indian population of 256,127 for the United States, excluding Alaska. Of these, 138,642 were described as wearing citizen's dress, while 46,330 were able to read. Among them had been erected both boarding and day schools, 72 of the former and 321 of the latter. "Reports from the reservations" were "full of encouragement, showing an increased and more regular attendance of pupils and a growing interest in education on the part of parents." Interest in the problem of Indian education had been aroused in the East as well as among the tribes during the preceding year or two, because of the experiment with which the name of R. H. Pratt was closely connected. The non-resident boarding school, where the children could be taken away from the tribe and educated among whites, had become a factor in Carlisle, Hampton, and Forest Grove. Lieutenant Pratt had opened the first of these with 147 students in November, 1879. His design had been to give to the boys and girls the rudiments of education and training in farming and mechanic arts. His experience had already, in 1880, shown this to be entirely practicable. The boys, uniformed and drilled as soldiers, under their own sergeants and corporals, marched to the music of their own band. Both sexes had exhibited at the Cumberland County Agricultural Fair, where prizes were awarded to many of them for quilts, shirts, pantaloons, bread, harness, tinware, and penmanship. Many of the students had increased their knowledge of white customs by going out in the summers to work in the fields or kitchens of farmers in the East. Here, too, they had shown the capacity for education and development which their bitterest frontier enemies had denied. In 1906 there were twenty-five of these schools with more than 9000 students in attendance.

It was one thing, however, to take the brighter Indian children away from home and teach them the ways of white men, and quite another to persuade the main tribe to support itself by regular labor. The ration system was a pauperizing influence that removed the incentive to work. Trained mechanics, coming home from Carlisle, or Hampton, or Haskell, found no work ready for them, no customers for their trade, and no occupation but to sit around with their relatives and wait for rations. Too much can be made of the success of Indian education, but the progress was real, if not rapid or great. The Montana Crows, for instance, were, in 1904, encouraged into agricultural rivalry by a county fair. Their congenital love for gambling was converted into competition over pumpkins and live stock. In 1906 they had not been drawing rations for nearly two years. While their settling down was but a single incident in tribal education and not a general reform, it indicated at least a change in emphasis in Indian conditions since the warlike sixties. The brilliant green placard which announced their county fair for 1906 bears witness to this:--

 

                          "CROWS, WAKE UP!
          "Your Big Fair Will Take Place Early in October.
                    "Begin Planting for it Now.
                       "Plant a Good Garden.
                      "Put in Wheat and Oats.
  Get Your Horses, Cattle, Pigs, and Chickens in Shape to Bring to
                             the Fair.
   Cash Prizes and Badges will be awarded to Indians Making Best
                             Exhibits.
    "Get Busy. Tell Your Neighbor to Go Home and Get Busy, too.
  "_Committee._"

 

A great practical obstruction in the road of economic independence for the Indians was the absence of a legal system governing their relations, and more particularly securing to them individual ownership of land. Treated as independent nations by the United States, no attempt had been made to pass civil or even criminal laws for them, while the tribal organizations had been too primitive to do much of this on their own account. Individual attempts at progress were often checked by the fact that crime went unpunished in the Indian Country. An Indian police, embracing 815 officers and men, had existed in 1880, but the law respecting trespassers on Indian lands was inadequate, and Congress was slow in providing codes and courts for the reservations. The Secretary of the Interior erected agency courts on his own authority in 1883; Congress extended certain laws over the tribes in 1885; and a little later provided salaries for the officials of the agency courts.

An act passed in 1887 for the ownership of lands in severalty by Indians marked a great step towards solidifying Indian civilization. There had been no greater obstacle to this civilization than communal ownership of land. The tribal standard was one of hunting, with agriculture as an incidental and rather degrading feature. Few of the tribes had any recognition of individual ownership. The educated Indian and the savage alike were forced into economic stagnation by the system. Education could accomplish little in face of it. The changes of the seventies brought a growing recognition of the evil and repeated requests that Congress begin the breaking down of the tribal system through the substitution of Indian ownership.

In isolated cases and by special treaty provisions a few of the Indians had been permitted to acquire lands and be blended in the body of American citizens. But no general statute existed until the passage of the Dawes bill in February, 1887. In this year the Commissioner estimated that there were 243,299 Indians in the United States, occupying a total of 213,117 square miles of land, nearly a section apiece. By the Dawes bill the President was given authority to divide the reserves among the Indians located on them, distributing the lands on the basis of a quarter section or 160 acres to each head of a family, an eighth section to single adults and orphans, and a sixteenth to each dependent child. It was provided also that when the allotments had been made, tribal ownership should cease, and the title to each farm should rest in the individual Indian or his heirs. But to forestall the improvident sale of this land the owner was to be denied the power to mortgage or dispose of it for at least twenty-five years. The United States was to hold it in trust for him for this time.

Besides allowing the Indian to own his farm and thus take his step toward economic independence, the Dawes bill admitted him to citizenship. Once the lands had been allotted, the owners came within the full jurisdiction of the states or territories where they lived, and became amenable to and protected by the law as citizens of the United States.

The policy which had been recommended since the time of Schurz became the accepted policy of the United States in 1887. "I fail to comprehend the full import of the allotment act if it was not the purpose of the Congress which passed it and the Executive whose signature made it a law ultimately to dissolve all tribal relations and to place each adult Indian on the broad platform of American citizenship," wrote the Commissioner in 1887. For the next twenty years the reports of the office were filled with details of subdivision of reserves and the adjustment of the legal problems arising from the process. And in the twenty-first year the old Indian Country ceased to exist as such, coming into the Union as the state of Oklahoma.

The progress of allotment under the Dawes bill steadily broke down the reserves of the so-called Indian Territory. Except the five civilized tribes, Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles, the inhabitants who had been colonized there since the Civil War wanted to take advantage of the act. The civilized tribes preferred a different and more independent system for themselves, and retained their tribal identity until 1906. In the transition it was found that granting citizenship to the Indian in a way increased his danger by opening him to the attack of the liquor dealer and depriving him of some of the special protection of the Indian Office. To meet this danger, as the period of tribal extinction drew near, the Burke act of 1906 modified and continued the provisions of the Dawes bill. The new statute postponed citizenship until the expiration of the twenty-five-year period of trust, while giving complete jurisdiction over the allottee to the United States in the interim. In special cases the Secretary of the Interior was allowed to release from the period of guardianship and trusteeship individual Indians who were competent to manage their own affairs, but for the generality the period of twenty-five years was considered "not too long a time for most Indians to serve their apprenticeship in civic responsibilities."

Already the opening up to legal white settlement had begun. In the Dawes bill it was provided that after the lands had been allotted in severalty the undivided surplus might be bought by the United States and turned into the public domain for entry and settlement. Following this, large areas were purchased in 1888 and 1889, to be settled in 1890. The territory of Oklahoma, created in this year in the western end of Indian Territory, and "No Man's Land," north of Texas, marked the political beginning of the end of Indian Territory. It took nearly twenty years to complete it, through delays in the process of allotment and sale; but in these two decades the work was done thoroughly, the five civilized tribes divided their own lands and abandoned tribal government, and in November, 1908, the state of Oklahoma was admitted by President Roosevelt.

The Indian relations, which were most belligerent in the sixties, had changed completely in the ensuing forty years. In part the change was due to a greater and more definite desire at Washington for peace, but chiefly it was environmental, due to the progress of settlement and transportation which overwhelmed the tribes, destroying their capacity to resist and embedding them firmly in the white population. Oklahoma marked the total abandonment of Monroe's policy of an Indian Country.

 

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